06 April 2019 05:03
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“You could dance in here.”
– Michael Nienhaus
Duisburg and the Ruhr region are still renowned for their heavy industry. So there are still “tough” jobs that need doing. “Sitting on a lattice girder 120 metres in the air was always a lot of fun,” says Michael Nienhaus. Until a few years ago, he was working as an industrial scaffolding builder – and regularly saw the world from dizzy heights.
But there is no talk of that now. However, even after his training to become an EU professional driver, Michael still sits high up: behind the wheel of his Actros 1853 with GigaSpace L-cab, the biggest cab variant for his truck. He is still doing a tough job: for Köppen GmbH, a family-run company based in Duisburg-Meiderich with a fleet of 50 trucks, he transports tankers with raw materials for the chemical industry which are used to produce anything from foam to construction adhesive for boat manufacturing. That’s why he often has hazardous goods on-board.
“That means a particular responsibility,” says Michael. “I have to behave without fault and take particular note of others.” Many car drivers don’t know that the orange sign at the front of the truck indicates hazardous goods, the 39-year old says. “For them I am just a moving obstacle.” Despite that Michael still feels less stressed than in his previous profession. “My wife often says that nowadays I come home in a much better mood.”
And what contributes to that? Michael travels in a cab with SoloStar Concept. In this cab the co-driver’s seat is replaced by a living area with an easy chair on the back wall. On the whole, there is a lot of space between the seats in the GigaSpace L-cab which has a head clearance of 2.13 m. “You could dance in here,” Michael laughs. The truck looks good from the outside too – the Actros Racing Edition has smart decals in the blue of Köppen, Michael’s employer.
Michael’s tours often take him to the big North Sea ports. With freight for overseas customers and usually with a container for the way back to the Rhine and Ruhr. He is particularly impressed by the “Rotterdam World Gateway” terminal where many processes are automated. “You’re given a slot of an hour and you have to be finished in that time.”
He can remember exactly his first drive into Europe’s largest container port in the dark: “With all the lights it was fascinating. And you drive in for about 45 minutes and at some point you start thinking that the port will never end.” On the whole Michael prefers driving at night – because it’s more relaxed. For example on tours close to Lake Balaton in Hungary which he has to do every now and again. “For that, we are on the road from Sunday evening until Thursday morning with three trucks, so that we can drive through the nights.”
Most recently Michael has been doing day tours. That’s no problem, he says. After all, sleeping at home is the nicest. “My family is my most important means of switching off.” Added to that: his children are impressed by the truck. “We live on an industrial estate so I can park the truck at my front door on the weekends. Then our six-year old twins appear and want to get in.” He has already taken his 14-year old son on a tour. “Even in the breaks, I could hardly get him to get out of the truck.”
Photos: Michael Neuhaus