Austria’s oldest transport and logistics company, Gebrüder Weiss GmbH, which is a family-run business to this day, has its origins in a courier service that operated across the Alps from Lake Constance to Milan. In fact, evidence of these ‘messengers of Milan’ traversing the infamous Via Mala has been found dating all the way back to 1474. Now active on an international scale with 150 branches worldwide and more than 7100 employees, the company has certainly found the key to sustainable growth.
The company is also an active proponent of ecological and economic sustainability, with several initiatives in place to make sure these are not just empty words. The gigantic roofs on the logistics halls of many of its branches have already been fitted with photovoltaic systems or solar panels, and the use of solar energy is gradually being rolled out further. In addition, the group has had its own wind farm in northern Germany since 2011. In 2018 alone, it impressively produced around 32 gigawatts of green energy. Gebrüder Weiss itself obtains 50% of this energy – 16 gigawatts correspond to the average annual electricity consumption of around 3,800 Austrian households.
The company is also a founding member of Austria’s council for sustainable logistics (CNL) and is taking part in the MAN eTruck field trials. A MAN TGM 26.360 E with a swap body configuration has been in use at the Gebrüder Weiss branch in Maria-Lanzendorf, near Vienna, since the middle of September 2018.
MAN eTGM generating strong interest
At first, the 26-tonne truck was used for transporting standard grouped and ungrouped shipments that the haulage company delivers in and around the Austrian capital every day. “We operated like that for around two and a half months – it’s how we originally wanted to use the vehicle,” recalls Kurt Eckl.
But the fleet manager, who was also responsible for the eTruck project, hadn’t included his customers in this plan – a growing number of whom were aware of the electric truck and wanted to book it exclusively. “The first of the enquiries came from Vöslauer, so since the start of the year the eTGM has been transporting mineral water and other beverages. Plans can always change, which is why we’re flexible here at Gebrüder Weiss,” explains Kurt Eckl with a wink.
Every weekday at 5:45 a.m., driver Milenko Stankovic starts his shift by disconnecting the charging cable from the eTruck and embarks on the 18-mile trip to Bad Vöslau, usually transporting empty containers or pallets from the previous day. The enjoyment he gets from his trip down the motorway is clear to see: “I was really curious when I heard that we were getting an electric truck. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like at all, but I ended up being very pleasantly surprised,” he says, describing his first impressions of his new vehicle. Before this, he drove a conventional MAN truck so he is well-placed to compare the two. “My first go with the vehicle at MAN in Steyr gave me a huge amount of respect for it. The power... and that acceleration.” Alongside his normal job working at Gebrüder Weiss, which he has done for 14 years now, the ‘test driver’ is throwing himself into his new task. He regularly documents every aspect of his ‘electric baby’, from its top range to its mileage and the various display indicators, sharing all this information with the responsible MAN Service Crew at the MAN branch in Leopoldsdorf. “It suits me just fine!” says Milenko Stankovic as he turns into Vöslauer yard’s with no noise apart from the rolling tyres and the ‘tickety-tick’ of the indicator.
Making short journeys sustainably
Vöslauer Mineralwasser GmbH bottles more than three million hectolitres of mineral water and soft drinks per year – equivalent to around 300 million bottles or 500,000 pallets – and already has experience with ‘alternative’ transport solutions from its logistics service provider. “Even up to ten years ago, we were using the ‘OCC’ for long-distance deliveries to Tyrol and Vorarlberg,” says Reinhard Deimel, Supply Chain Manager at Vöslauer.
The ‘Orange Combi Cargo’ block train is another string to Gebrüder Weiss’s sustainability bow and runs daily between Vienna and Western Austria. Since going into operation in 2008, the OCC has helped the company to shift some 150,000 truck-loads of goods from the road onto the railway. This equates to CO2 savings of around 9000 tonnes per year and plays a significant role in overall emissions savings.
Even by using up to 25 tonnes less of CO2 per year, the eTGM cannot quite compete with this low-emissions mammoth, but its lack of emissions on a local scale has clear benefits at a regional level. This is why Reinhard Deimel was keen to find out more about the fully electric newcomer joining his orange fleet. “Unfortunately, the railway is not feasible for us for medium-distance routes. The MAN eTruck is a positive force here, because it at least allows us to make our short-distance trips more sustainable in order to compensate for this.”
Winning over the sceptics
After the first few months of field trials, Kurt Eckl had a similar view. “Admittedly, we always had another truck in reserve to begin with in case the eTruck failed. But it never needed to be used. Our fears that nobody would want it were unfounded. It’s been a hit – and not just with our customers: many of my drivers would start using one straight away too.”
The MAN eTGM is now fully integrated into Gebrüder Weiss and the project manager is highly satisfied. “I think that MAN prepared everything excellently. If these vehicles could be further developed and produced in series with a slightly greater range, then they would be perfect for deliveries in urban areas.”