22 August 2017 21:58
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Andy turns off the radio: "I need total concentration here." Immediately there's a beeping sound from the right-hand A pillar, then a yellow warning triangle lights up. "There's something coming," says Andy, and instead of turning off the roundabout to the right he brakes to a halt. Then a couple of seconds later a cyclist appears in the bottom right corner of the windscreen. The cyclist rides quickly straight over the junction that Andy just wanted to turn into.
“I need total concentration here.”
Bicycle bells, car horns and forever pedestrians appearing out of nowhere. There's a lot going on in Münster this afternoon, as usual. "I used to get nervous in the mornings when I knew I was going to be driving here in the afternoon," says Andy. The triangle above the little speaker that the warning tone came from has gone out again. Andy checks the side mirror again and turns right – out of here at last. But he's still not really relaxed. He keeps taking one hand from the wheel and wiping it on his working trousers. The situation demands his full concentration.
Andy has been driving for Peterburs Autokrane & Transporte in Rheda-Wiedenbrück for 16 years. His home patch is the area between Beckum and Gütersloh. "I was born and brought up here. I used to ride my moped on these roads," he says with a smile. His brother works for Peterburs too, and his father used to drive for the company.
The gravel in his orange dump semitrailer brings the tractor/trailer combination weight up to 40 tonnes. His destination is a construction site inside Münster. What makes this university town special: there are not only plenty of cars on the road, but there are many cyclists too. No other form of transport is more popular here.
Andy's trips often take him into city centres. Apart from Münster, he regularly transports paving stones, for example to Osnabrück, Gütersloh or Hanover. "Trips like that can be stressful in a truck," says Andy. "You follow the sat nav instructions, and you don't know what's waiting round the next corner. It's a good thing I've got support on board." Because: Peterburs is equipping its new trucks with the Mercedes-Benz Safety Pack. This means Andy has the new Active Brake Assist 4 at his disposal, the first truck emergency braking system that can also reduce the risk of accidents with pedestrians crossing the road. The package also includes Proximity Control with Stop-&-Go function, Roll Control Assist and a driver's airbag.
Other special equipment that helps to avoid urban accidents is Sideguard Assist. That's installed in Andy's Actros too. The system can alert the driver's attention to pedestrians and cyclists to the right of the tractor/trailer combination. "That makes life much easier. "Especially in places like Münster," says Andy.
Andy and his workmates not only have to be good truck drivers, but they must also be familiar with low loaders and cranes. "Loading and unloading and working responsibly – that's all part of the job for us," says Andy. "The company expects a lot of us. But that's why we get the best vehicles. The Safety Pack and Sideguard Assist are included, of course."
There are 52 Actros driving for Peterburs, carrying all sorts of bulk and pourable materials, in East Westphalia, the Ruhr area and the Emsland region. The company not only gives its drivers the very best trucks. Also, several times a year the staff are invited to activities that help drivers to keep fit: company races, cycle trips, nutrition advice – the idea is that there is something for everyone.
“Sideguard Assist warns. It does not intervene in the braking process.”
Jean-Luc Merck, Mercedes-Benz professional coach
Andy too has used the opportunity and he's participating in driver coaching in Selm, provided by Mercedes-Benz ProfiTraining. There, a specialist from Wörth shows him what the new systems in his truck can do. Braking with Active Brake Assist 4, the Sideguard Assist signals. What does the system do? What does the driver do? "The important thing to know is that Sideguard Assist only warns and does not intervene in the braking process," says professional coach Jean-Luc Merck, who has just got into the passenger seat of the Actros. And: "The Safety Pack assistance systems cannot overrule the laws of physics."
But at the moment Andy still has to contend with the pitfalls of Münster urban area. "There's another roundabout coming up there. Looks tricky. And just look at the traffic!" It's not just that there are cars, vans and buses driving here – over on the right of the road the cyclists have their strip too. Andy is directly in front of the roundabout. There is not much room between the lane and the kerb – the town planners did not always allow for trucks going through the town centre. And the cyclists? They lift their bikes over the kerb and ride on the right of the truck, right into the danger zone. Andy can't swerve to avoid them. If he were to go further over to the left, he'd completely block the other lane. There's beeping and flashing in the cab. Sideguard Assist is warning him. Andy says: "I've been driving a truck for 17 years. The amount of traffic has steadily increased in this time. And to add to that, people are less considerate than they used to be."
Andy waits for the cyclists to enter the roundabout and then follows them carefully. "They often don't know how little we can see when we're sitting in a truck. Otherwise they wouldn't ride so close to me. And particularly not at a roundabout, where I'm bound to turn off to the right some time. I'd never forgive myself if I overlooked someone here."
His children Jennifer, Caroline and Marvin have all at some time sat in the driver's seat of the Actros. "I walked up and down on the right-hand side. They were amazed what they saw of me: i.e. nothing at all." The three often ride bicycles and Andy can cope with that. "But I worry all the same. Every day I see how dangerous it can be. So it's all the more important that there's now Sideguard Assist for trucks."
The stressful part of the trip is now over. Andy has got to the construction site and he unloads. He can take the out-of-town route back. "Going back through the city centre, I can do without that," he says, leaning back into his seat and relaxing.
Photos: Sebastian Vollmert
Video: Martin Schneider-Lau