19 November 2021 12:50
Stay in touch with the community much more simply. Simply download the appropriate app:
The slag is still smouldering and there’s a smell of dust and steel in the air. The landfill site on the Haardter Berg in Siegen is an inhospitable place; even more so than usual on this cold, wet and overcast Thursday morning. Luisa Kettling drives her Actros Edition 2 over the rough terrain and zigzags her way up to the unloading point. At the top she positions the tipper with an air of well-trained routine. Then 25 tonnes of blast furnace slag slides out of the tipper body. Always in full control, Luisa lets her trailer combination be slowly pushed forward by the load. After it has stopped she leaves the cab, dons her safety shoes and wades to the rear of the vehicle through ankle-high mud and sludge: a powerful blow with the hammer is needed to get the last of the slag out of the tipper.
Between the huge wheeled loaders and the tipper trucks, the Actros Edition 2 almost appears small. And with its sparkling mirror-like stainless steel highlights it almost seems a bit out of place – like wearing a tux in a muddy trench. But looks can be deceiving. Luisa knows every pothole and everyone who works here. Several times a day, the 24-year-old driver transports slag and rock from the stainless-steel works in Witten or the furnaces in Duisburg. On the return journey, she takes recycled material or rock back with her. There are no empty journeys. “Duisburg, Siegen, Witten – that’s the triangle I drive every day,” says Luisa. “But it never gets boring.”
Luisa has been driving a truck for five years. Her alarm clock rings at the latest at 3:30 a.m. From five in the morning she is sitting behind the wheel of her truck. “To get to Duisburg in the mornings to load up, we have to be ahead of the rush hour,” says Luisa. She doesn’t mind – she is following a family tradition. Her grandfather used to drive a truck, and her father still does. Luisa has known the profession for as long as she can remember – the good aspects and also the less attractive elements.
Back on the A45, Luisa starts a conversation. “My dad used to be in long-distance haulage. As a daddy’s girl, I always wanted to go along with him. And the journeys on which I was actually able to join him are among the most pleasant memories I have,” she recalls. Regardless of this interest, during her schooling she did a work placement as a book seller. “I love reading.” But her final choice of job landed elsewhere: “In a truck, you’re just so much more independent. So that’s why I trained to become a professional driver.” She then worked for four years in long-distance haulage, as well as lots with steel and scrap metal, and in the meantime she even transported foodstuffs for a supermarket.
Just over a year ago she came into contact with Elmar List. In Drolshagen near Olpe, the 61-year-old haulier runs a thriving business with two tipper trucks serving recyclers in the steel business. He loads 100 tonnes per day in Witten alone. There is plenty of demand. “The customers keep asking me to expand the business and take on more drivers,” says the businessman. But for the sake of his health he keeps his workload down and only drives himself if it’s really necessary. “Luisa came just at the right time,” he says. There is real praise in his voice. The boss thinks a lot of his two young drivers who are both under 30 and with good qualifications. “You can rely on them,” he says emphatically. “They know how to deal with customers well and they take good care of the trucks.” Every week the Actros is cleaned by hand, otherwise the slag would harden on.
It is not by chance that Luisa drives the Actros Edition 2. Her boss is a true Mercedes fan. The special model from a limited production run of 400 units is full of extras and loving details. “Actually, it’s a bit silly sending a truck like this out as a tipper to the landfill site,” says Elmar List. But equipping his staff with such high-quality equipment is his way of showing his appreciation for them. And it certainly gets noticed: “The Edition 2 is simply a brilliant place to work,” says Luisa. She was able to pick up her Actros herself at the plant in Wörth.
The equipment underneath the high-quality outer shell makes Luisa’s job even more pleasant. Thanks to Predictive Powertrain Control she takes brows and dips smoothly and economically. That’s a big advantage in the Sauerland region. What’s new for me is the MirrorCam. “I have to admit, at first, I was a little sceptical. I didn’t really fancy giving up my normal mirrors,” she says. But thankfully, her reservations didn’t even last the week. “I can see much more, especially in rain like this.” And there’s plenty of that in the Sauerland region. Oh well, at least it’s rinsing off the slag today.
Photos and video: Michael Neuhaus