On the road in an Actros with haulier Georg Hegelmann
Business & Logistics
The Hegelmann Group is one of the major players in European express logistics. RoadStars joins the company’s founder, Georg Hegelmann, on one of his trips.
The smartphone on the dashboard of the Actros is flashing. Georg Hegelmann ignores it: whoever it is will have to wait until the next stop. And there is no shortage of people who want something from him: quotes, information, advice – Georg Hegelmann is in great demand. But these days all he wants to do is drive a truck. As he did in the old days.
The 59-year-old is one of the founders of the Hegelmann Group, based in Karlsdorf-Neuthard near Karlsruhe. When he established the company in 1998, there was only him, his brother and a second-hand truck. “It was a lot of work, coming all at once,” he recalls. “We did the dispatch and the bookkeeping in our living room.”
Today the logistics operator has 19 locations and a total workforce of 2 500 throughout Europe. 2 000 trucks doing standard, special and non-stop express runs are deployed on behalf of the company. In 2017 the company generated 300 million euros in sales revenues.
Back in the driver’s cab.
These days Georg Hegelmann does not usually hit the road in a truck himself. The company founder is making an exception for RoadStars this time. “Besides, it gives me a chance get in here again for a change. I love it!” He carries on driving the Actros 1845 in arctic white up the Autopista del Mediterráneo.
Normally Hegelmann works at his office at the company headquarters in Karlsdorf- Neuthard. While his son Siegfried and his nephew Anton have since taken over the management of the company, he says: “There is a lot left to do for me,” nodding at his mobile phone, which has just received yet another incoming email.
In the last four years in particular, the group of companies has opened even more locations throughout Europe, recruited additional drivers, and invested heavily in the fleet. In the last two years alone, the company has purchased 1 000 Actros, with another 500 to be added this year. Georg Hegelmann smiles and says: “If we hadn’t had that recent growth spurt, I would have retired from the company by now. That had been my plan, really.”
He is now driving on the A9 motorway, on a downhill run. Using the lever on the steering column, he activates the retarder to slow down the Actros. Even now he wants to travel as economically as possible. “Using an anticipatory driving style, you hardly ever need to use the foot brake anymore.”
“Using an anticipatory driving style, you hardly ever need to use the foot brake anymore.”
– The company's founder, Georg Hegelmann
Just outside Perpignan he pulls into a service area to reply to emails and make some calls before he arrives at the logistics centre in Perpignan, where he will have to deal with his new load.
There is still time for some history: Georg Hegelmann has brought along a few photographs. A group picture with his brothers and the bookkeeping team, from the year 2002 along with the first drivers they hired. He still knows all of their faces. “Luckily most of them are still with us.” He himself came to Karlsruhe in 1990 as a Russian of German extraction, from Kazakhstan. During the Soviet era, he had worked as a driver. “Trips from Uzbekistan to Moscow meant a journey of around 5 000 kilometres – one way. Today the network of motorways is much better developed.”
“We can be on site with our trucks just about anywhere and at any time. That’s where our strength lies.”
– The company's founder, Georg Hegelmann
The company he went to work for in Germany was restructured, and he lost his job. “That’s when I asked myself: what do I do now?” It did not take him long to come up with an answer. “I sat the exam for the transport industry, and I have been self-employed ever since.”
During the weeks of intensive learning, he met another driver who had contacts with a freight agent, and in this way he was able to generate the first orders. “We made plenty of mistakes to begin with, but at some point things started to run smoothly.” A second truck was added. The company moved out of the living room and into an office building in Bruchsal. The first location outside Germany was in Portugal, followed by one in Poland. More and more branches throughout Europe came next.
Remaining as flexible as possible.
Today the Hegelmann Group operates an extremely efficient network. “We work in the ad-hoc business with our entire fleet, and our aim is to remain as flexible as possible. We avoid specialisation in one particular sector or relying on recurring contracts,” explains the senior boss. Having a presence throughout Europe with vehicles, drivers and infrastructure is the company’s big trump card. “We can be on site with our trucks just about anywhere and at any time. That’s where our strength lies.” The daily business includes particularly time-critical transport runs for various branches of industry, including the automotive and food sectors.
Just before we enter the roundabout leading to the logistics centre, we spot another Hegelmann Actros pulled up on the parking lane alongside the feeder road. “The driver is bound to be at the supermarket”, says Hegelmann, laughs and points to a discount store next door. He knows what a truck driver needs on a trip like this – it is what he used to do, after all.
20 years after being first established, the Hegelmann Group is represented throughout Europe. 19 locations, more than 2000 trucks and 2500 employees ensure that the logistics service provider based in Karlsdorf-Neuthard has the flexibility to respond to the need for time-critical transportation on behalf of this industry segment as well as the automotive and food sectors.
Photos: Sebastian Vollmert
Video: Martin Schneider-Lau