The KAHL Unternehmensgruppe has since the takeover by Andreas and Rainer KAHL in 2005 quickly changed from a transport company into a logistics service provider, where process management is more important than wheels. A successful operation, because KAHL came through the crisis without many problems and the outlook for the coming years is good. Is there a formula for this success? Yes, because as well as using the latest technology Andreas and Rainer Kahl manage to get hold of the best and most experienced employees – from driver to management – for their company. In February two Nooteboom Manoovr 3+7 semi low-loaders were delivered to two very happy drivers.
Kahl Schwerlast – On the move with the latest technology
The history of KAHL Unternehmensgruppe
Andreas: ‘My father and uncle, Hans and Helmut KAHL, started a branch of Konrad Kahl & Söhne in Duisburg in 1953. The brothers were only 23 and 17 years of age and the fleet consisted of two old GMC trucks from the surplus stock of the American army. In 1956 Hans u. Helmut Kahl oHG was founded and became what is now KAHL Schwerlast GmbH, the core of KAHL Unternehmensgruppe. After 1970 KAHL began to specialise more and more in the transport of steel and concrete elements. With more than 30 self-steering dollies KAHL were the best-known company in the region for the transport of concrete beams. Before 1980 we already had modular trailers, which suddenly gave us much more load capacity and flexibility. A highlight was the arrival of the first MAN 4-axle tractor in 1981, which we developed and manufactured in our own workshop and was equipped with a 420 hp industrial engine and a vessel bridge.’
Changes after 2005
Andreas: ‘In 2004 I founded KAHL Schwerlast GmbH together with my brother Rainer and took over the entire company in the process. To grow further we are always on the look-out for people with experience. In 2006 KAHL + Jansen Schwerlast was founded. Ferdinand Jansen brought new customers with him and thanks to the input of Ferdinand we acquired customers in the automotive sector and the wind industry. A few years later, in 2009, Pieper Schwertransporte became part of the KAHL Unternehmensgruppe. Marcus Pieper, the son of the founder of the well-known transport company Pieper, brought us a wealth of experience, new markets and new customers. In 2011 KAHL + Jansen GmbH International Logistics and Engineering was born. A new activity – the transport of transformers and industrial moves – was created by taking over rolling equipment, the assembly department and around 20 employees from Westfracht in Essen. Udo Gärtner is in charge of these activities and his experience also brought the KAHL Unternehmensgruppe new customers, techniques and markets. We are proud of the achievements of all our employees, but Ferdinand, Marcus and Udo helped to change the vision at KAHL Schwerlast. We used to think in trucks and trailers, now we think in systems and processes.’
Why the Nooteboom Manoovr?
Marcus: ‘With the Manoovr Nooteboom has taken a huge step forwards. The quality is perfect, to the smallest detail. But perhaps the deciding factor was the excellent bending strength. To pass over bridges we find that we often have to extend our vehicles, because with a larger wheelbase the load on the bridges decreases. With a relatively short load, such as a transformer weighing more than 100 tonnes, the main beam of the semi-trailer is loaded to the limit. The Manoovr is extremely robust and bends much less than other comparable semi-trailers from other makes. In the period from 1981 to 1997 KAHL has bought various Nooteboom semi-trailers. We certainly have no complaints about the quality, because the last trailer from 1997 is still being used almost daily. We were less enthusiastic about the conservation. But we have scrutinised the current conservation method used for the Manoovr and we have every confidence in it. Another aspect is the way we work together. Nooteboom is a pleasant partner to work with and we appreciate the efforts of Nooteboom to organise everything down to the smallest detail.
Future developments at KAHL Schwerlast
Andreas: ‘We are both active in our branch association, the BSK e.V. (Bundesfachgruppe Schwertransporte und Kranarbeiten) so we are involved in improving the conditions for our industry, including legislation. We concentrate on the transport of the largest and heaviest loads, using low-loaders with 2 to 20 axles, but we also offer our customers a full logistics package and consequently certification has become more and more important. We are now working all the time on extending permits and acquiring new certificates. We are aware of the fact that developments in the world are accelerating all the time. The world of 30 years ago doesn’t exist anymore. In those days we had a European market that was quite stable. Nowadays disappointing figures concerning the growth in China can directly influence investments in Germany. Within a period of ten years we have changed from a transport business to a logistics service provider. Our customers involve us in their projects at a much earlier stage. We can deliver heavy loads anywhere in the world. We are working on process optimisation so that we can offer our customers options that our colleagues are far from being able to offer.’
Marcus: ‘Our huge G2 K600 girder bridge with its load capacity of 600 tonnes can handle extremely heavy generators, transformers and other loads such as engines or turbines. In Europe it has become increasingly important to distribute the weight along the surface as precisely as possible. In the configuration with 2 x 24 axle lines we can restrict the axle loads to 12 tonnes. The heaviest towing vehicles are our Mercedes-Benz Titan 4165 8×6 tractors, with a capacity of 1.000 tonnes gross weight. ’
A passion for abnormal transport?
Andreas: ‘I grew up between trucks. Regrooving tyres, paint spraying and parking the trucks in a neat row: that was my youth. We loved it. Perhaps there are easier ways of earning money, but we never gave that any thought. This is my trade and Marcus feels exactly the same.’
Andreas: ‘Yes, there are a few. The first one: our drivers are specialist in their work. They must not only be able to carry out small repairs but they must also negotiate with the customer. They often have the responsibility for a load that’s worth millions of Euro’s. But in several European countries they are almost treated as criminals if they commit a minor infringement. Abnormal transport is an important link in the European economy and we would like to get the recognition for it that we deserve. The second one: trips that we used to do in one night now often take 3 to 5 nights. This is caused by longer routes due to a lack of maintenance of the bridges and an overstretched police force. We are campaigning to make it simpler to apply for exemptions and to privatise transport escorting. The ‘Hilfspolizei’ scheme is a step in the right direction.
Andreas: ‘The German economy is dependent on industrial companies that export a large part of the production. The goods are getting larger and heavier. And for us it’s getting more difficult all the time to transport heavy loads, even to an inland waterway port, over the road. The German government – and governments in the rest of Europe too – must understand the importance of the work we do. Abnormal transport is not a huge sector but it is a sector that’s extremely important for the functioning of our industrial companies and energy sector.’
The Nooteboom Manoovr is due to its specifications – low, light, manoeuvrable and strong – ideal for the conditions on the German roads. KAHL Schwerlast prefers to keep the combination of tractor, semi-trailer and driver together whenever possible. Holger Rybka: ‘With the Manoovr they gave all the details plenty of thought. Compared with modular trailers I am more flexible and need much less time for loading and unloading. And that’s important because in our business delays always generate problems and extra costs for our company.’”
Experiences of Holger Rybka
Driver Holger Rybka of KAHL Schwerlast used the first 3+7 Manoovr with Multidolly towards the end of last year. At the start of this year two new Manoovr semi low-loaders with Multidolly, type MPL-150-37(VV), were delivered. These semi low-loaders, each with 10 pendle axle lines, are double extendible and can take a gross weight of 150 tonnes at 80 km/hour. The Manoovr is with its easy operation and high load capacity an excellent alternative for complex modular trailers. KAHL nearly always has a fixed combination of tractor, semi-trailer and driver. For these two combinations Holger Rybka and Peter Nass are the designated drivers. Due to his practical experience with the Manoovr, Holger can – maybe even better than a sales representative of Nooteboom – sum up all the advantages of the Manoovr.
Holger: ‘The steering, especially of the Interdolly, functions perfectly. Empty we are 26.5 metres long and can usually take to the motorways without escort. The load capacity is around 100 tonnes, but even more important is the excellent bending strength. This Manoovr is so strong that with an extended load floor we can load 20 tonnes more than a similar semi-trailer of another make.
We use the adjustable fifth-wheel weight regularly when we need more traction, e.g. at a wind park. Down to the last detail the Manoovr is intuitive, maintenance-friendly and solidly built. The operation is simple and well-thought out and compared with a complex modular trailer we save a lot of time when we change the configuration. In Germany we have to extend the trailer more often now so that we don’t put too much strain on the bridges. With this MPL-150-37, when extended, I can load up to 60 tonnes on the dividing bolster and that’s a big advantage. To put it briefly: I am very happy with my new Manoovr.’