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Local or long-distance routes? These are different worlds for HGV drivers

Variety for drivers

Thousands of HGV drivers are on the roads for the Nagel-Group every day. But their working days can be quite different - depending on whether their jobs are in local or long-distance transport.

They share one passion: a love of driving. They know the exhilarating feeling of having sole responsibility for steering a 40-tonne truck safely down the highways and byways. Or when the driver realises that over 400 HP is just waiting to be unleashed when he puts his right foot down.... This special feeling can also occur when you’re cruising along at night on empty motorways in the south of France, or driving towards the sunrise in Sweden.

Almost every driver has stories like this to tell - even if their daily routine can often be quite different. Because one HGV driver has long since not been like any other. Whether you drive long-distance or local routes makes a substantial difference, and also has an effect on your private life.

Customer trust built up

Maik Mäkel’s working day starts in the early morning hours. The 40-year old has been working for the Nagel-Group for over eight years, and transports goods from the Borgholzhausen site. Mäkel has himself experienced the variety of driving experiences which an HGV driver can have. He has worked for the Nagel-Group on long-distance routes as well as in transshipment transport (where trailers are swapped halfway). He has not only driven his vehicle on German roads, but also been out and about throughout Europe. At present, Mäkel first drives to Lingen every morning. His tour starts with driving food from a major discount chain from Borgholzhausen to Emsland. Mäkel himself decided on local routes.

What this means to him is fixed routes and times. One of the advantages of this is that the 40-year old is always driving to the same customers on his tours, and so can build up trusting relationships. “You get to know one another,” he says. “Which makes lots of things easier.” The driver gets to know “his” customers’ special requirements, and can adapt to them. And the customers have a fixed point of contact. For them, the driver is the face of the Nagel-Group. When Mäkel has delivered the goods, he makes contact with the dispatcher. The question then is: what can he take back with him from there? Currently he often drives from there to a major confectionery manufacturer’s, and transports their goods on his way back to Borgholzhausen. When the goods have been unloaded, Mäkel again contacts dispatch, and asks about the next tour.

His working day ends around midday. When other workers are going to the canteen with their colleagues, Mail Mäkel is picking up his daughter from school. He then helps the eight-year old with her homework. And in the evening he even has time to go to the gym. Although he is regularly on the move during his working day, he still feels the need for a physical workout. Despite mainly being seated for his job, he cannot complain about a lack of exercise. Using a step-counter on his wrist, he has found out that every day he walks around six kilometres. Loading and unloading, as well as stowing the goods securely, also ensure he keeps moving. “I think it’s good that I’m moving about regularly at work.” For Maik Mäkel, local transport routes are exactly the right thing: after work he still has plenty of time for his family and for sports activities. And he sleeps in his own bed every night.

The charm of being on the road

For Frank Fischer, driving local routes is not an option. The 53-year old loves long-distance - with all his heart and soul. “Even as a child I wanted to be a truck driver, and drive such a great big machine,” he says. But for Frank Fischer it has to be long-distance. He loves being on the road, driving long distances and seeing new places. “Every day I discover some new corner of Germany,” he says. He wouldn’t be interested in the narrow scope of local routes. “I need that bit of uncertainty which is the real appeal for me.” What’s the traffic like? Are there any roadworks or diversions? He constantly has to get to grips with changing circumstances and overcome new challenges. And the fact that whilst he’s on the road he’s “his own boss” also contributes to the appeal of the job for him. I don’t have to keep checking my email every ten minutes, I just log in when I’ve done the job.”

The working week often starts for him on a Sunday night, He sets off from Borgholzhausen towards southern Germany. The bulk cargo in his trailer might then take Frank Fischer to the southernmost branches of the Nagel-Group. He often drives to the branches in Deißlingen, Reichenbach and Bad Grönenbach. After four hours’ driving, Frank Fischer takes a 45-minute break. “I have two or three favourite service stations that I like to get to.” Then he settles down behind the wheel for a maximum of another four and half hours to get to his destination. At the end of the day he has brought the goods to the relevant Nagel-Group branch. From there they will be distributed to their final destinations. And then he’s off-duty.

Making the work-life balance possible

The next morning he’s off again. Fischer takes goods from southern Germany back homewards again. In dispatch, staff try to load his truck to capacity on the return journey. Once the 53-year old has completed his tour, he has got back to his branch, and can spend the next night in his own home. “It is important that drivers can combine their jobs with their private lives, and have a good work-life balance,” says Sven Neumann, who is responsible for HR planning in Borgholzhausen. It is very important to him to listen sympathetically to drivers’ concerns, and to be aware of their individual needs. “We want to be close to our drivers.” As far as possible, taking organizational and economic considerations into account, drivers are used as they themselves prefer. For Sven Neumann, there are basically three different types of HGV driver. Whilst some of them like long-distance driving, others prefer shuttle services and local routes. The third group favours a single-shift long distance route. “The Nagel-Group can offer a wide range of options for all the key elements of commercial transport of goods,” explains Neumann.

As well as local and long-distance transport, there are other distinctions between what HGV drivers do. Some of the Nagel-Group’s staff, for instance, are employed primarily in transshipment. This involves two drivers meeting somewhere in the middle of the Borgholzhausen to Nuremberg route. At a motorway service station they swap semi-trailers and each then drives back with the other’s load. This avoids any risk of travelling empty. For Sven Neumann it is important that the areas of work assigned to drivers fit in with their home lives. Only then will employees experience long-term job satisfaction.

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