Interviewed 

A MAN on heavy duty

Large-scale haulage requires thorough planning. At Bohnet GmbH, this task is performed by Kevin Knaub. He not only meticulously maps out the routes, but also takes to the steering wheel himself during the nightly journeys.

At Dresden’s river port, a content Kevin Knaub sighs a breath of relief. Strenuous and partially nerve-wrecking days lie behind him, yet his load, a Siemens turbine, has now safely reached its destination. Transporting the 190-tonne turbine from Görlitz to Dresden required three days and involved the deployment of two MAN tractor units – including a new MAN TGX 41.640 with a D38 engine.

Mr Knaub, one of the first large obstacles was a motorway bridge, which allowed for just barely fitting your freight underneath. What would have happened in case of not passing through?

Whew! Fortunately, I have not experienced anything like that in my 16 years as a driver. We probably would have had to summon a mobile crane to lift the load over the bridge. Such a massive planning error would have been expensive, however, as well as resulting in quite an image loss for us.

You have spent six months on planning the tour to Dresden. Was that a record?

Actually, no. Even though the drive to Dresden is always quite challenging due to tight conditions, we’ve already had even more demanding tours. So far, our longest transport was a distillation column. The entire platoon had a length of about 90 metres and moved via road and ship from Eschweiler via the Netherlands to Ludwigshafen. Planning that took almost a year.

What are the preparations for a heavy-duty transport?

Once we receive confirmation for an assignment, we see about getting the necessary permits from public authorities, inspect the transport cargo on customer premises and trace the authorised route. We use laser and yardstick to check all curve radii and the height of traffic lights and power cables and document and photograph every critical point. And if the curve radius proves insufficient at any given point, we make sure that the edge of the road is gravelled and fortified by steel plates.

Planning or driving – what is your preference?

I do enjoy doing both, yet I find driving to be more enjoyable. There are corners that evoke headshaking by everyone, accompanied by: “Out of the question.” And then we go ahead and make it possible. That’s what defines this job for me.

Not everybody is amused when you are underway with your massive haulage …

Very true, as we are always somewhat considered a traffic hindrance. Many don’t understand why we drive so slowly in some places. Some bridges, for example, must be crossed by our transport at merely five kilometres an hour, for the vibrations could otherwise damage the structure. Alas, most people don’t know that.

Yet you also experience positive feedback. While en route to Dresden, local residents waved enthusiastically while you manoeuvred through narrow hamlets. Do you enjoy that response?

Indeed, very much. While we were underway with that distillation column, we even had some 3,000 spectators in a village. There was a tight bend in that place and once we finally made it through that spot, all these people started clapping. You find yourself fighting for an hour in one corner and suddenly thousands of people applaud you. In that moment, I found myself with goose bumps. That was an extraordinarily touching experience.

You don’t work alone, but rather in a team. How important is the cooperation with colleagues in your job?

There are no lone fighters in this line of work. I might have learned how to approach an obstacle up to a distance of merely five centimetres, but I depend on the eyes of my colleagues for the rest. And when one of the crew says it doesn’t fit, that’s how it is. With no room for debate. We are all equals, consult with each other before, during and after the tour. It would not work any other way, and I could never do it alone.

You have been driving the new MAN TGX D38 since April. How does the vehicle support you in your challenging tasks?

It does so by rendering the necessary performance. In terms of comfort, the vehicle is also completely aligned with the needs of drivers: There is lots of room, with large beds and solid frames. It is essential that we be well rested, as we must drive with total concentration and focus all night long and may never make a single mistake. Our cargo is simply too expensive for error.

Do you sometimes long for simply driving a truck – without the heavy load, the obstacles and the jitters?

I drive heavy transports because I wish to do so. My father already had this job and I lost my heart to this line of work. Obviously, we are on the road a lot and dedicate time that we could otherwise spend with our families. Yet I could not imagine driving the same route every day. I do enjoy the challenge.

Underway with a road giant

MAN TGX transports a Siemens turbine from Görlitz to Dresden

Geared up to go

The trek starts moving around 8 in the evening. Employees of the Bohnet Gmbh company are about to transport a Siemens turbine from Görlitz to Dresden. Three long nights of tricky situations await the team – for the cargo is oversized in both length and weight. Photo © Jörg Gläscher

MAN TGX Trailer

The trailer is 55 metres long and has an overall weight of 334 tonnes. After a break at the rest stop Oberlausitz, the team and its hulking load once again return to the motorway.

The heavy-duty transport approaches a bridge

Close Call

On the motorway, the heavy-duty transport approaches a bridge and must slow down. The men on the platform vehicle are certain: The container is too tall. There is only one option to solve this problem.

Georg Scheider from Bohnet GmbH

Low-rider

Georg Scheider from Bohnet GmbH arrives at once to assist in lowering the vehicle hydraulically. Ultimately, only a hand’s width of space remains between freight and bridge, but the task has been accomplished!

Kevin Knaub has learned to approach obstacles up to five centimetres

Precision work

Just mere centimetres to the lamp post. While driver Kevin Knaub has learned to approach obstacles up to five centimetres, his colleagues are needed when it gets even tighter. They guide him through even the most narrow of bends.

Working with a platform vehicle, the crew clears the way

The advance team

Working with a platform vehicle, the crew clears the way. During the long night drives, they are in perpetual motion to hurry ahead, dismount signage and rotate traffic signals out of collision range with quick and experienced movements. In total, a staff of eight escorts and secures the heavy-duty transport.

Kevin Knaub

Full-blooded pro

Kevin Knaub has worked for Bohnet GmbH for a decade. He not only sits behind the wheel of the MAN TGX D38, but also provides route planning. It took him six months to prepare the tour from Görlitz to Dresden.

After three days the MAN TGX arrives just in time in Dresden´s river port

Mission accomplished!

And successfully so: After three night drives, the Bohnet team arrives just in time at Dresden’s river port, from where the Siemens turbine will commence its ship journey to Saudi Arabia.

Images © Jörg Gläscher