Regular meetings for professional drivers

Reading time: approx. 4 minutes
Text: Juliane Gringer 
Photos: Andrea Möller, Uwe Hesebeck

Truck drivers from across Germany meet at the regular long-distance drivers' meetings held by the police to discuss ideas and find out what is new. Chief police commissioner Andrea Möller is on the ball in Winsen (Luhe) - she is committed to gaining more appreciation for vehicle drivers and better working conditions.

On the first Wednesday of every month, truckers from across Germany meet together at the Ostetal Süd motorway service area on the A1: attending a police invitation to a regular long-distance drivers’ meeting. But there are no beer glasses raised on this evening. Instead, they share information about issues on the roads: Loading safety, hazardous goods, social regulations – a first aid course was even held recently, in cooperation with the DocStop union. The events here in Winsen an der Luhe are organised by Head Police Commissioner Andrea Möller. “We speak to our guests about the things that are affecting them, provide input and answer their questions,” she explains. “The event takes place during their rest time. If it wasn’t worth it, they would just go to sleep.”

Working together and learning from one another

Most Truck drivers are more sceptical towards the police. “If we stop trucks during road checks, we generally always find something. So of course that is unpleasant,” explains Andrea Möller. “But we do see ourselves as partners. We want to show the drivers that we understand the challenges they face and that we want to work together with them, constructively. They also have a chance to tell us what bothers them about us.” The long-distance drivers’ regular meeting is the perfect opportunity for this. Truck driver Ralf Kramer Just, who attends regularly, agrees. “I learn things here, I can ask the police questions or for their advice. I also meet colleagues and we can share experiences in a social environment. We complain about all the things that annoy us and laugh together about the things we have to do as drivers.”

It’s very informal

Ralf Kramer Just regularly asks his scheduling department to plan his journeys accordingly so he can attend. He has already been able to learn a lot from the regular evening meetings: “We are not always immediately aware if the regulations have changed. We catch up with that at the meetings and Andrea is always a helpful contact person.” Truckers and police are on first-name terms with each other here. Kramer Just, who has been driving for 18 years, has asked for guidance about load securing in the past and it was only at the meeting that he found out that, thanks to a new rule, he may slightly exceed his time at the wheel if he wants to drive home instead of staying overnight at a motorway station. Sometimes he also gains greater insight into his profession: “One evening, for example, they explained to us how much organisation goes into a Heavy haulage – I wasn’t aware of that, but I found it very interesting.”

Meeting dates are published on four channels

The truckers mainly learn about the locations and meeting times via an e-mail distribution list, websites about transport prevention, word of mouth or social media. Andrea Möller is also networked with the Pro Fahrer-Image e.V. union, which campaigns for more appreciation for professional drivers. She also operates a Facebook account, in which she convenes meetings all across Germany. . “Many plan their journeys in a way that lets them spend their break at the motorway service area,” says Möller. “We also have regulars here who work in Hamburg through the day and then carpool to us as a group.” Or if somebody just happens to be taking a break, Andrea Möller asks them whether they want to just join in. “After ten minutes maximum, they are on board.”

Plenty of time to share ideas

There is always plenty of time to share ideas: they complain about continuous stress, the often bad treatment on ramps and the rude comments if a truck happens to be in the way somewhere.They listen to the challenges associated with the profession every day. “The truck drivers are not happy about the way they have to do their work and how they are treated. One truck driver told me that his profession is as the national doormat. If somebody says that about such an important job, then something is going very wrong. Because the reality is: the drivers are instructed by their loading stations and scheduling departments, they hardly have any access to an appropriate infrastructure for hygiene and care – yet at the same time they are supposed to perform more and more.”

Training, socialising and appreciation

There are snacks and drinks at the meeting. “Many drivers hardly use the motorway service areas any more because parking places are rare and food has become more expensive for them,” explains Andrea Möller. “So they would rather warm up a tin of soup in their trucks.” The meeting offers training, an opportunity to socialise and appreciation all at once. Driver Danny Bucher, who drives across all of Germany and the border regions of neighbouring countries for car manufacturers and is also a regular guest at the meetings, says the same thing, “These evenings are always mini training sessions for me. For example, during the first aid course, I found out that instead of mouth to mouth resuscitation, these days they only recommend cardiac. As heavy haulage drivers we regularly refresh our knowledge, but I didn’t know that before.” The meetings provide him with information and personal contact to colleagues and the police. “Both help me and that makes my daily working life a bit easier.”

“I think trucks are just great!”

That is precisely what Andrea Möller aims to achieve with her efforts. Her job is a calling for her. She explains,”I knew even when I was a small child that I wanted to protect and serve on the police force – simply because I wanted to help.” After a school placement with the police, she joined the motorway police in Winsen in 1996, without having any prior connection to trucks. But she was extremely fascinated – and still is. “Other people like fast sports cars, I just think trucks are great,” she explains. “I particularly like the heavy haulage sector, I also drive to the Nürburgring and I love beautiful, specially modified vehicles.” She gets a lot of positive feedback from the drivers in her work: “What they give me is priceless. Even if just one truck driver sits there in the evening and says, ‘Wow, yet another a great evening, thanks for listening!’ then I’ve done my job properly and that makes me happy.”

Talking with one another – instead of about one another

The format for the regular truck drivers’ meetings is about 20 years old. Chief police commissioner Rainer Bernickel from North Rhine-Westphalia came up with the idea in 2002 and offered the first meeting on the A1 at the Münsterland Ost motorway service area. Many police stations have followed his example since then and established further locations across all of Germany. “The idea behind the project was and still is to talk to the truck drivers: talking with them instead of about them,” explains Andrea Möller. “The drivers are grateful if we as police listen to them. We also know what’s going on on the roads and we meet here on an equal footing.”

You can find more stories from truck drivers here.
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