Think XXL: clear road ahead for long trucks

As of January 2017, regular operations of long trucks has been authorised on specific routes. On the road with Matthias Lesse, a driver for the company Logistik in XXL.

Matthias Lesse in the cargo area of the long truck
Truck driver Matthias Lesse in the cargo area of the long truck

Whether called EuroCombi, long truck, gigaliner, super lorry, megaliner or monster truck – the new dimension of road transport has many names. Back in 2012, when field trials with the large-goods vehicles were kicked off in Germany, professional driver Matthias Lesse immediately stepped forward to operate his company’s new vehicle featuring a length of 25.25 metres. “I was truly curious about experiencing the ride with a vehicle that was 6.5 metres longer,” says the Magdeburg native. “And it was great. Even though drivers soon forget about the actual difference.”

As Matthias Lesse enters the acceleration ramp to the A9 motorway at the Kreuz Neufahrn intersection this morning, the trailer rig in the right-hand lane flashes its headlight to signal that the Logistik in XXL company’s long truck can enter the road. While passing, the colleague smiles and gives a thumbs up. Lesse returns the greeting. “Just four years ago, I still made for a rather exotic appearance, and other drivers would even take pictures of my extended truck. Today, far fewer people will notice.”

Matthias Lesse has been covering the Karlsfeld–Brunswick route with his long truck for four years. In contrast to conventional trucks, which reach a length of up to 18.75 metres with their trailers, the oversize vehicles can extend to 25.25 metres. As with their “smaller siblings”, however, the permissible total weight may not exceed 40 tonnes, or 44 tonnes in combined transport.

Today, Matthias Lesse and his long truck carry TGX and TGS cabs from the MAN manufacturing plant in Karlsfeld, near Munich, to Brunswick, where the cabs are awaited for container shipment to MAN assembly plants overseas. Essentially, driving operations do not differ much from “normal” driving, explains Lesse: “Here, I receive support from different safety systems, such as the lane guard system and adaptive cruise control, that avoid rear-impact collisions, as well as standards such as the electronic stability programme ESP, the antilock braking system ABS and the integrated traction control system ASR.” A rear-view backup camera is required for manoeuvring, “yet I have become so familiarised with the vehicle that I almost never need it,” says Lesse.

When Thomas Furtmair, who oversees incoming goods and shipping at MAN Truck & Bus, looks back and summarises his experiences after four years, his conclusion is primarily a positive one: “We can now transport eight cabs with one shipment, instead of just five,” observes Furtmair, “so obviously an increase of 40% in freight volume as compared with a conventional rig offers quite an advantage. Two long trucks can carry the same load as three conventional truck trailers,” he summarises. Indeed, the larger transport volume has resulted in significantly reduced CO2 emissions and represents fuel savings of up to 27% as opposed to standard equipment. “These figures are actually higher than we expected,” says Furtmair. “In addition, the costs for drivers and road tolls turned out decidedly lower.”

Furtmair’s assessments are explicitly endorsed by a report issued by Germany’s Federal Highway Research Institute (BASt), which provides an important basis for wide-ranging approval of standard operations. “The long-term authorisation of long trucks on suitable routes is beneficial for the environment and has a positive impact on Germany as a logistics location,” notes Alexander Dorinda, Germany’s Federal Minister of Transport and Digital Infrastructure. So – thumbs up for a new dimension of road transport!

Forklift with MAN driver’s cab

Plenty of space

The long truck accommodates an increase of 40% in load capacity. It thereby offers room for eight TGX or TGS cabs – a conventional truck can carry only five.

Matthias Lesse in the fully loaded long truck

Already routine

Driving a gigaliner is no longer a novelty for Matthias Lesse. He has been part of the long truck field trials since their onset in 2012.

Matthias Lesse closes the tarpaulin of his trailer

Safely secured

Once again, Matthias Lesse checks all the tension belts he used to secure his freight. After closing up his trailer, the journey to Brunswick can begin.

Long truck on the motorway

Starting signal for standard operations

As of 1 January 2017, Germany’s Federal Ministry of Transport has authorised standard operation of long trucks on defined routes. This network currently comprises 11,600 kilometres.

Long train on the motorway slip road

Agile despite oversize dimensions

Due to the semi-trailer coupling, the first axle of the long truck’s rear section automatically steers as well, thereby supporting the cornering movement. Thus, the turning circle is merely about 20 to 30 centimetres larger than for a conventional truck.

Long truck in the parking site of a service area

Compelling in the long run

The field trial with long trucks rendered straightforward efficiency gains, as their deployment resulted in average fuel savings of 15% to 25%.

Images © Max Kratzer

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