Transport operations to Great Britain – how Georg Wittwer is planning for what comes after Brexit
Economics & Logistics
Transport operations to Great Britain are one of the main business pillars of the Wittwer haulage company. In the face of Brexit, Georg Wittwer has geared the business up for flexibility: either business quickly runs as smoothly as for the non-EU states of Norway and Switzerland. Or in future his fleet of Actros trucks will travel to Italy more often.
This Wednesday morning when Stefan Sprenger rolls onto the “Spirit of Britain” in his Actros is a peculiar one. It is made known on this day that the “Spirit of Britain”, which has been going back and forth across the English Channel between Dover and Calais since 2011, will soon sail under the Cypriot ensign.
The ship's owner P&O ferries, a shipping company steeped in tradition, announced the news the previous evening in readiness for Brexit. On this grey morning at the end of January 2018, it was still unclear as to how Brexit would be implemented. And that despite the official date of departure from the EU at the time being only 2 months away. Reason enough for disquiet in London, Brussels and Berlin alike. Not to mention in Eschenlohe, Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
Stefan Sprenger’s employer, Wittwer Transport GmbH, operates from the town – and a considerable share of its operations involves deliveries to and from the British Isles. “Every day, around 25 of our trucks are on the road throughout Great Britain,” says Georg Wittwer, Managing Director of the family-run business with a fleet of around 160 trucks. These transport tasks make up approximately 20 percent of the company's total turnover.
“A no-deal Brexit would lead to considerable economic and social problems for the EU and Great Britain,” says Wittwer. That's why, in the end, a solution will surely be found that allows goods to be exchanged in future for the most part without a problem.
The entrepreneur’s prognosis: once the excitement surrounding Brexit has dissipated, deliveries to and from Britain will be declared in advance by customs agents – as is the case for Norway and Switzerland. “The driver will be handed a document at the loading site which they will then show at the border and, at the end of the day, the actual procedure there will hardly change.”
“Only a strong and united Europe can hold its position with regard to global competition in future.”
– Georg Wittwer, Managing Director and owner of Wittwer Transport GmbH, Eschenlohe
Precautionary measures in good time.
And what if there are serious obstacles for trade, for example permanently long waiting times at ports such as Calais and a mass of paperwork for every shipment?
The 54-year old is prepared for this too. He will continue to expand in another area which is important to the company now: “We will increase our focus on transporting shipments for the recycling industry to and from Italy.” The haulage company has had customers there for decades and has premises in Verona in order to offer them the best possible service.
For Stefan Sprenger all this seems a long way off. He has parked his Actros on the upper of the two decks reserved for trucks. The “Spirit of Britain” has space for 180 trucks and about 1060 passenger cars. Sprenger gets himself a coffee in the commercial drivers' lounge and makes himself comfortable in an armchair. Despite the wind that continues to pick up, the crossing is smooth. Just less than 90 minutes later, the White Cliffs of Dover appear in the mist.
“We've been involved in business with Great Britain since the eighties,” says Georg Wittwer, who is the second generation of the family to manage the company founded in 1974. “The first trips we made were for a haulage company from the Allgäu region of Germany. And as time progressed, we built up our own customer base.” The destinations are as diverse as the freight itself. In addition to London and the surrounding areas, freight goes to Bristol, Manchester, Liverpool or Glasgow. The trucks are loaded with parts for the automotive industry, rolls of newspaper paper, foodstuffs for wholesalers or grouped goods.
Stefan Sprenger has shopping trolleys in his semitrailer today. His destination is a journey of four and a half hours from Dover to the East Midlands. From there, he will drive a further 30 miles north to Sheffield in order to load scrap aluminium to be sent to a recycling plant in Italy. This is a typical tour – the Wittwer trucks have been operating mostly at full capacity for years. The company’s drivers are thus a prime example of just how closely Great Britain and the continent are economically linked.
Georg Wittwer can hardly influence decisions made in London and Brussels concerning the future of Europe. In his company in Eschenlohe, however, he has things well and truly under control. In order for everything to continue running smoothly, he also started to renew his fleet in 2018 – and in doing so, he decided to change to a fleet consisting only of Actros trucks. “From efficiency to safety and assistance systems: the Actros is simply the best product around.” Plus, there’s no match for the comprehensive Mercedes-Benz service network. This is of great importance for a company with drivers on the road all over Europe.
As too is the popularity of the Actros among the drivers who all have trucks equipped with the GigaSpace cab. “If only sleeping at home was as relaxing as in here,” says Stefan Sprenger, who, in the meantime has driven off the “Spirit of Britain” in Dover and has joined the motorway in the direction of London. By the way, his comfortable cab bed is decorated with a Union Jack pillow. Let’s hope that’s a good omen.
Photos: Ralf Kreuels, Matthias Aletsee