Business goes on 365 days a year.
The box of the exhaust system on Horst Tillack’s Antos 1843 is still warm when he begins his shift at eight o’clock in the morning. His night-shift colleague parked the truck at Achse GmbH in Frankfurt an der Oder an hour earlier. “It’s a non-stop business, seven days a week, 365 days a year.” Every day, the 60 year-old and the other drivers numbering around 80 transport a million litres of milk to the dairy from the region’s farms. 20 trucks are always on the road.
“Our customers rely on us collecting the milk on time,” says Annegret Ricklinkat, managing partner at Achse GmbH.
On the road with 24,000 litres of milk.
Tillack opens the cover of the receiving compartment – a stainless steel box on the co-driver’s side of his Antos. The pumps, hoses and valves for loading and unloading the milk are installed here. And a computer which provides him with the data for his tour. He will transport 24,000 litres of milk from two farms to the Sachsenmilch dairy in Leppersdorf near Dresden. He takes his seat at the wheel and presses the starting button of the six-cylinder in-line engine.
The route to federal road no. 5 passes by the company’s own workshop. The site used to form part of a nationalised enterprise back in the days of the GDR. Following German reunification, individual areas were privatised. Achse GmbH, specialised in transporting milk, was one of the companies that arose at this time. “We really didn’t know what we were in for at the time,” says Ricklinkat with a grin. She has been managing the company for 15 years now – with a great record of success.
Milk as a quality product ‒ comprehensive checks are mandatory.
Tillack has reached stop no. 1, an agricultural cooperative: 1400 cows, up to 40,000 litres of milk a day. There is little room for manoeuvre. “That’s no problem with the Antos – it’s extremely agile.” In the shed, cows are standing in a circle around the fully automatic milking plant. The milk is stored in stainless steel tanks. Tillack connects the hose and opens the tap. Up to 950 litres per minute flow into the tanks of the truck and trailer. “The load needs to be distributed as evenly as possible in the chambers, otherwise the liquid will start to rock from side to side.” He places two small bottles in the sampling attachment. “A sample of all the milk that I collect today goes into the larger bottle.”
This has to be examined and released by the dairy. The contents of the smaller bottle are sent to a neutral laboratory. The results provide the basis for quality assessment and, in turn, payment of the farmers.
Excellent road holding, superior handling.
Carrying over 17 tonnes of milk, Tillack sets off for the second farm, with the sample in the refrigerator on the engine tunnel. He passes over a railway crossing. “Did you notice anything? Me neither!” The frame of the Antos and its precise steering provide for extremely good road holding and superior handling. “And the axles are air-sprung. The suspension for the cab and the seat is also great.” At the farm, Tillack manoeuvres the truck into a position that requires only a short length of hose. “The narrow cab on the Antos provides you with a good overall view.” Then it’s off to the dairy. The Euro VI engine’s 2100 Nm of torque pull the load along effortlessly. Tillack pulls up and takes the overall specimen in his hand. He uses a pipette to apply drops to a test strip – no antibiotics in the milk! “We’re lab technicians and food inspectors as well – all part of the job.”
Spick and span ‒ a clean appearance is a must for milk trucks.
The dairy's giant towers are visible from afar. Over four millions of milk are delivered here daily. A number of milk trucks are waiting to unload their deliveries. After 20 minutes, the more than 23,000 litres from Horst Tillack's truck have flowed into the giant dairy tanks. The delivery serves as a raw material for cheese, butter, yoghurt – and for drinking milk, of course.
Then it's back to Frankfurt. Before his colleague takes over on the night shift, Tillack will wash the truck. “After all, we transport foods. And the sight of a dirty milk lorry is enough to spoil people's appetite.”