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ELECTRIC VANS driven to protect nature

 

Georg Fischer is the fourth generation of his family to run this freight forwarder on Norderney. For the past few months he has been transporting suitcases and parcels across the island, now also in his fully-electric vans from MAN – not least to set a good example in this health resort.

It’s misty and still dark as the large truck drives into the courtyard. The early ferry brought it to Norderney from the mainland. It’s just before seven o’clock in the morning, but several men are already using small pallet trucks to move pallets back and forth in the forwarding hall. The articulated truck reverses up to the loading ramp. “The ferry dictates our working hours”, says Georg Fischer, as little puffs of condensed breath form in the air. He’s wearing a hooded sweatshirt and a quilted jacket. It’s quite cool for a late summer morning. Georg Fischer and his employees are the early risers on Norderney. While most holidaymakers are still asleep, they’re unloading the items the large articulated trucks bring from the mainland: food, care products and drinks. Almost everything that ends up on the hotel tables and on the shelves in the island’s shops is handled by Georg Fischer’s team.

Delivery service covering Borkum to Wangerooge

Once the tailboard at the depot has lowered, the men roll their pallet trucks into the long trailer and start unloading. Piece by piece they manoeuvre the pallets into the hall, which is as large as a basketball court. The goods will subsequently be distributed onto vans specifically customised for the island, because large trucks are prohibited from the narrow roads of Norderney. Georg Fischer is the fourth generation of his family to run the freight forwarding company “Johan Fischer”. The trade jargon refers to him as a “receiving forwarding agent” for Norderney and the other East Frisian islands. It isn’t viable for logistics companies to distribute goods from Germany and around the world to the islands from Borkum to Wangerooge. It would be too costly to coordinate each individual pallet delivery with the ferry timetables. There’s also the consideration that the time a truck spends on the ferry is time lost to other journeys. Yet the distribution service along the North Sea coast represents core business for Georg Fischer. He operates a large warehouse in the town of Norden, where the other freight forwarders unload their goods. He then uses his own vehicles to take them across on the ferries. He also transports groceries and care products on behalf of independent chains. He collects the goods from their central warehouses near Hanover and Bremen and transports them to their outlets on the islands. He also collaborates with a builder's merchant on Norderney. His fleet is specifically customised for island use and enables him to transport everything required by the construction sector to the construction sites on Norderney – roof battens, gravel and much more.

Georg Fischer has been a MAN customer for many years. He now has 35 MAN vehicles in his fleet – from large tractor units to the three brand new fully-electric vans that he leased a few months ago. “I’m totally satisfied with the quality of my MAN vehicles, the workmanship, their reliability – nothing squeaks or creaks”, he says. He wants to use the eTGE to set an example. “Norderney is a health and spa resort. I wanted to be one of the first to drive electric here.” He laughs. “Although I do have diesel in my blood.” He believes that Norderney is known throughout Germany and that its holidaymakers are also very nature-loving. “If we set a good example here then that has far-reaching consequences.”

“I’m totally satisfied with the quality of my MAN vehicles, the workmanship, their reliability – nothing squeaks or creaks.”

Georg Fischer
Freight forwarder on Norderney

A leap of faith

There’s tradition behind MAN and Georg Fischer; just as there is for the freight forwarding company itself. Next year it will have existed for 125 years. He lives for the family business, as did his father and grandfather. His uncle and his father managed its operations for a long time until his father became ill in the mid 1990s. “I took a leap of faith at that time – after all I wasn’t born as a managing director. And then I had to suddenly assume responsibility for 85 employees.” Dealing fairly with colleagues and still making clear decisions when things are going badly is something that has to be learned. The same applies to taking holidays, because the work in a freight forwarders never actually stops. Georg Fischer has managed the company well. He is now also an investor in a ready-mixed concrete plant and a mineral oil trading company. “That has enabled us to diversify in recent years. I believe it was a good decision.” Yet his strength remains the service he provides: “We try hard to be really good and make it difficult for others to gain a foothold in our niche.” He sees this service as also being friendly with customers and especially with holidaymakers. “My colleagues sometimes complain about the number of tourists during the peak season. But then I make it clear that none of us would have jobs if they weren’t here.”

A great team

The atmosphere in the large hall is good. The men are laughing a lot and are soon on familiar terms. Sven Große-Hohnacker became a new member of the team a few weeks ago. He’s a sporty, fit individual who can get things done. Große-Hohnacker used to work as a banker for 13 years here on his home island of Norderney. “But I simply got bored with that”, he says. “The work here in the freight forwarding company is much more varied.” This afternoon he’s driving an eTGE to take suitcases to the hotels. Many train passengers check in their luggage before the journey, which means they don’t have to carry it themselves. The freight forwarder is also happy to provide this distribution service. As he steps into the van, a colleague smirks and calls out “I see you’re out and about in the Greta Thunberg vehicle again?” Sven Große-Hohnacker waves him away. “So what, I enjoy it”, he replies and climbs in. Soon after that he’s travelling through the spa resort quietly and without local exhaust emissions. He takes the suitcases from the vehicle and places them in the corridors of the guest houses and at the reception desks in the hotels. “What on earth are you doing with those suitcases”, a woman asks, “aren’t you still working at the bank?” Sven Große-Hohnacker looks pleased. “Not any more, I’ve joined the freight forwarding company.”

Just like Sven Große-Hohnacker, Georg Fischer also appreciates the eTGE – despite his weak spot for powerful diesel engines. “You soon get used to it. An e-van like this has no gearbox and delivers full power to the axle. That’s really useful.” He also believes that the range of 130 kilometres is ideal for the island. Sometimes it’s even sufficient for two full working days. There’s just one thing that remains challenging on Norderney: unlike at home, many guests are so relaxed on holiday that they often pay little attention to traffic. The quiet eTGE can occasionally be overlooked. But Georg Fischer has come up with a potential solution: “We’ve seriously considered whether we should attach bells to the exterior mirrors. Because we certainly wouldn’t want to scare holidaymakers with the horn.”

Text   Tim Schröder
Photos   Roman Pawlowski (Fotos) / Beat Schwiersch (Video)

#Sustainability#Electromobility#Van#eTGE#ExperienceReport#CorporateResponsibility

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