It is early afternoon in the port of Kiel. At the truck parking lot, Roland Lehbrunner has just woken up. For the last few nights he and fellow driver, Janos Szilagyi, have been hauling two 22-metre-long silos from Sigharting at the Austrian border, all the way through Germany. Now they are looking forward to getting on the ferry that will take them to Gothenburg and the next leg of their eleven-day journey.
“This is the first time ever that I have taken a truck on a ferry. It’s something new, which is what I really love about trucking,” Roland Lehbrunner says. “Most jobs involve routine, but, for me, it’s totally different. I might be transporting construction material down to Salzburg, or giant machine parts up to northern Germany. Different roads, different loads.”
This is the first time ever that I have taken a truck on a ferry. It’s something new, which is what I really love about trucking.
The alternate and challenging nature of hauling special transport is what led him to take up truck driving nearly a decade ago. By then, he was working full time as a carpenter for an Austrian company which also transported its products across the country by truck. One day, there was a big, really important order that needed to be delivered, but no-one was available to take the load. “Why not, I’ll give it a go,” Roland thought, before taking on his very first trucking assignment. Today, he has been working as a professional driver for the Austrian company Prangl for seven years. During this time, he has hauled some really extreme assignments, like a 160-tonne paper processing machine from central Austria to Budapest, Hungary, and a six-metre-wide load of shipping parts through narrow mountainous terrain that really put his patience and concentration to the test.
Although both Roland and his employer specialise in oversized loads, this current assignment is unique for them, due to the long driving distance between Austria and central Sweden, as well as the dimensions of the load. Roland explains that he is prepared for the unusual but also that every single assignment he takes on is different.
“It can be different in terms of the load, size, weight, length, distance, weather, or what you may face when you are out on the road. Even if you think you have planned for everything, something unexpected is bound to happen. You just need to keep your cool and keep your head,” he says.
After experiencing heavy rainfall during the first night shift between Sigharting in Austria and the German town of Magdeburg, Roland and Janos were delayed by road-blocks in Germany. After a two-day standstill in a parking lot, they were finally allowed to drive and now they are both relieved to have reached Kiel and to continue onwards to Sweden.
As the two trucks drive onto the ferry, the staff guide them in slowly so that they can park without scraping against the wall or other vehicles. Given the size of the load, each truck needs four times the standard truck space and Roland is grateful for the help they receive. After an early dinner, he decides to go to sleep, so that he is fresh and prepared for the next day, when he and his Volvo FH16 will be driving the 220 kilometres between Gothenburg and the final destination of Grums.
“I prefer the day shifts as they give me a chance to appreciate the landscape I am driving through, especially when there are beautiful hills and mountains. I have never been to Sweden, so I am really excited to see it!” Roland says as he drives off the ferry in Gothenburg. At a parking lot similar to the one in Kiel, he examines his truck, checking the hydraulics, the electronics, the load and the fastenings before driving on.
“When it comes to the things that you can actually control, it is vital that you really examine your truck. Otherwise you shouldn’t drive the vehicle,” he says.
On their route towards Grums, Roland and Janos are being escorted by a team of Swedish transport leaders. The whole convoy sets off around 9 am in heavy rain and a fair bit of wind. The wind in particular is a little unnerving, especially since Roland needs to cross several high bridges. All together, the wind, the rain, the heavy load and the hilly landscape force the convoy to drive extra slowly.
“Under these circumstances, it is great to be able to rely on the truck steering system and automatic gearing system. This gives you peace of mind, so that you can focus on your journey without worrying,” Roland says.
Even though the weather conditions are harsh, he is very pleased with the Swedish roads, which he considers to be among the best he has ever driven on. The convoy travels without any setbacks and at three in the afternoon they finally see their end destination, the Swedish company BillerudKorsnäs’ large factory in Gruvön, appear on the horizon.
I got into the trucking business because I wanted a new challenge and now I enjoy a new challenge on a daily basis.
In 2019, this will be home to the world’s largest sustainable paper packaging machine, but, right now, the factory that will house the machine is under construction. Roland’s large load is to be delivered to this part of the site, and lifted into the factory with the help of a mobile crane.
“When we loaded our trucks in Sigharting, it actually took us six hours to get the silos onto the trailers and we needed both a forklift truck and a mobile crane. I hope that this will be faster, because now I really want to get home to my wife and kids,” Roland says.
All in all, he is pleased with the assignment and believes that the sheer distance of the journey is what will stay with him the most. He is currently some 2,200 kilometres away from his family’s home in the small city of Haag, Austria, and, by the time he gets back, he will have been travelling for eleven days. Parts of the route have been testing, but Roland says he would not have it otherwise.
“I got into the trucking business because I wanted new challenges and now I enjoy them on a daily basis,” he says, smiling.
BillerudKorsnäs is a leading supplier of renewable packaging materials and solutions with more than 150 years of expertise in the industry.
Its new cartonboard machine is described as the biggest investment in the company’s history, and one of the largest machines of its kind in the world. The 350-metre-long machine will be housed in a 400-metre-long and 60-metre-wide factory that is currently under construction.
The two trucks from Prangl: 1 Volvo FH16, 6 x 4, built 2017, with Volvo D16 550hp engine, Volvo I-Shift with crawler gears and Volvo Dynamic Steering.
1 Volvo FH16, 6 x 4, built 2013, with Volvo D16 750hp engine and Volvo I-Shift.
Trailers: Three-axle Faymonville extendable low-bed trailers with hydraulic axles and separate manual steering. Low-bed length used on this mission: 22.9 metres.
The load: Large bins, measurements: 22 m length x 3.8 m width x 3.8 m width, weight: ~5,000 kg each.
Total transport measurements: 35 m length x 3.8 m width x 4.15 m height, weight: 38,000 kg.
Founded in: 1965.
Owner: Mag. Christian Prangl.
Amount of total equipment: 3,400 (mobile cranes, truck & trailers, area work platforms, tele handlers, etc.).
Number of trucks and trailers: 330, whereof Volvo trucks: 90.
Number of employees: 650.
Main loads: Oversized and heavy-duty cargo, cargo for power plants and for wind energy, machine parts, oversized concrete and steel constrution parts, machinery cargo, railways, simber beams, industrial cargo.