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From the origins of commercial vehicle construction

Everything started with a Büssing ten-tonne truck

Without the advance of HGVs, the Nagel-Group’s success story would never have been written. A look back at the technical development of the “horseless carriage” – from its invention up to the formation of our company.

22nd May 1935: Brothers Kurt and Rudolf Nagel found themselves at the administrative court of Halle in Westphalia early one morning, to record their joint company “Gebrüder Nagel” (Nagel Brothers) in the register of companies. Two days later they registered their transport enterprise at the Town Hall in their home town of Versmold. And then they bought a ten-tonne Büssing truck for themselves – the first vehicle in the company’s history – and off they went.

At first Kurt and Rudolf Nagel both drove the vehicle; but they soon re- placed it with an 18-tonne truck made by Krupp, which would enable them to carry a greater payload. And shortly before World War II broke out, the “Nagel Brothers” acquired another vehicle, a used MAN truck with 11-tonne trailer, driven by two newly appointed drivers.

Büssing, Krupp and MAN were the first makes of vehicle on which the success of the Nagel-Group today is based. Let’s cast a quick look back at the history of these early heavy goods vehicles, with whose help transport has been fundamentally revolutionised.

Cities require supplies

Germany at the end of the 19th century: A purely agricultural country developed into an industrial nation over the course of just a few decades. Flight from the land on the one hand, and the industrial revolution on the other, led to the formation of large towns and industrial metropolises. The population of the newly created conurbations were counted in their millions. And they all had to be supplied with all life’s daily necessities. Added to this, consumption habits were beginning to change towards the end of the 19th century.

“Colonial” goods, in other words food and raw materials from all corners of the world, came to enjoy ever greater popularity. They entered European ports by ship in large quantities. But transporting these goods to the millions of consumers was still extremely extremely difficult. There was in fact only one option for their onward transport: goods were taken to the country by train, and transported painstakingly by horse and cart from large stations to town and villages.

Horse power instead of horse and cart

In the last years of the 19th century, the history of the HGV began. The first prototypes were seen initially in France, and then in Germany. In Germany the first HGV with an internal combustion engine was designed as a kind of horseless carriage by Wilhelm Maybach, and built by Gottlieb Daimler. With a payload of 1.5 tonnes and 4 HP, the vehicle could reach a top speed of maximum 12 km/h. Today we would regard this kind of vehicle as a small van, but at the time it was revolutionary.

Although this sort of vehicle was not suitable for mass production, technical progress quickly broke fresh ground. Carl Benz, the “father of the automobile”, presented the first of his own HGVs in 1900. And only three years later (1903), Heinrich Büssing founded his own “Special factory for motorised trucks” in Brunswick. In the same year he brought out the first trucks of his own make, which would go on to become such a famous name.

World war hastens commercial vehicle building

In the following “golden years” of the German Empire, numerous pioneers in the vehicle industry concentrated on developing heavy goods vehicles. But the decisive trigger for series production of HGVs was the First World War (1914-1918). Motorised commercial vehicles played a decisive role in the strategic plans of the army command on all fronts. It was mainly the “Regular 3-tonne trucks” which were built, with a payload of 3 tonnes and a maximum speed of 30 km/h. During the First World War, Büssing in Brunswick focused completely on this type of vehicle. Towards the end of the war, the German army command alone had around 25,000 trucks available to it.

Due to defeat, and subsequent rising inflation, the German HGV market to a large extent collapsed after 1918. There was a shortage of everything: iron, petrol and rubber tyres. Tens of thousands of vehicles in production could not be completed. And thousands of trucks went to the victorious powers as reparation. It would be a few more years before the German commercial vehicle market was able to recover. Technical innovations contributed their part to this: in 1922 Büssing patented an articulated lorry with attached semi-trailer. And at IAA 1924 in Frankfurt, the first three diesel- powered HGVs were exhibited. In 1925 pneumatic tyres were approved for a three-axle HGV up to 15 tonnes overall weight - Büssing subsequently developed its own three-axle HGV with huge pneumatic tyres in cooperation with Continental.

Increasing volume of goods

The upturn in the truck business continued for only a few years, however, as the market collapsed extensively in the wake of the global economic crisis at the end of the 1920s. But over the next few years, partly as a result of the renewed militarization of Germany, and the expansion of the road network, commercial vehicles blossomed again. The large HGVs were now up to 150 HP, and could also be fully laden on the new roads. More elements of the transport of goods were in the meantime being handled by HGVs. And it was at this time of economic growth that the Nagel brothers founded their freight forwarding enterprise. But then four years later, in 1939, Germany started the Second World War. Kurt and Rudolf Nagel, with their vehicles, were called up for war service. So that marked the temporary ending of the still young company.

Nagel-Group from the 1950s to 2010s

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