9:45 p.m., Neubeckum. David Wandel’s team is at the company premises of Balcke-Dürr, a manufacturer of power station components in Neubeckum in Westphalia, discussing the final details of a police escort and relevant safety measures with police officers. Wandel is in charge of the transport division at Wasel GmbH. The heavy-duty haulage experts from Bergheim are taking four heat exchangers in a convoy to the transfer site in Hiltrup on the Dortmund-Ems canal close to Münster for a notable Swiss project haulage company. They are accompanied by Michael Neuhaus, an old hand at photographing heavy-duty haulage operations. The focus tonight is on two Arocs 4163 for loads up to 250 tonnes.
With big escort.
22 p.m., departure. The two biggest elements of the delivery destined for a Polish power station weigh 138.8 and 96.7 tonnes. The two Arocs 4163, driven by Sascha Prüfer and David Schmitz, are just right for these two elements which were loaded onto a 16- and a 12-axle plateau trailer in Neubeckum using two overhead cranes the day before.
The two escort vehicles, four trucks, a tool and gear truck and five police patrol cars slowly set off. Neuhaus hurries off in the reporter vehicle in order to reach the first roundabout before the others. He knows: “In order to get a good picture in the dark he needs to find a position where the convoy comes to a standstill – roundabouts are ideal for this.”
That was where, in the afternoon, the Wasel team had prepared the dirt shoulders of the road using steel sheets. That way, the vehicles can come off the road, if necessary, with one or several tyres without damaging the grass verge. Road signs have also been moved out of the way: “I would rather invest time before a transport operation than during one,” says Wandel who is coordinating the convoy from his lead vehicle using a two-way radio. It is precisely this meticulous planning which Wasel is known for throughout the industry. “Whenever a new route has to be checked, I drive along it up to three times until the authorities give us the green light,” says David Wandel.
In the meantime the convoy has reached the roundabout. Neuhaus looks through the viewfinder. Everything is perfect. Now the road is getting narrower. Shining like a spaceship, the huge heat exchanger glides towards the roundabout on a plateau trailer. The first Arocs with the 138.8 tonne heat exchanger should have to stop in a moment to manoeuvre. But it doesn’t. All four vehicles drive safely and quickly around the roundabout. Now Neuhaus needs to work his magic with the camera if he is going to bag any decent pictures at all. The glittering convoy is already disappearing into the darkness. A Starlight Express – with emphasis on the word “express”.
Video at RoadStars.