The Transport Ambassadors are flying the logistics flag

Reading time: approx. 6 minutes
Text: Joachim Geiger
Photos: Transportbotschafter, Daniel Koebe

What does a Transport Ambassador actually do? Neither the Federal Foreign Office nor Wikipedia has an answer to this question. Perhaps it’s best asking someone who already has this title on their business card, such as Jens Thiermann, Chair of the Die Transportbotschafter (The Transport Ambassadors) e. V. association.

Jens Thiermann, from Erkrath near Düsseldorf, prefers to appear professional when he is on the road as a Transport Ambassador on an official mission. His company vehicle is a Daimler kitted out with a wide range of accessories. To be more precise, it’s a 2019 Freightliner Cascadia built by the Swabians in Colorado Springs for the US market. It goes without saying that the approx. 560 h.p. truck has been approved for driving in the EU. The US truck dealer Klekamp from Lower Saxony shortened the trailer rolling on BPW axles in its metal workshop so that the articulated truck does not exceed the permitted length of 16.50 metres. The fact that the magnificent truck with the deep-drawn side skirts on the tractor unit and trailer draws admiring glances is just what Jens Thiermann needs – after all, he’s in the publicity business. As founder and long-standing director of the Timocom freight exchange, the Rhinelander is not just a dyed-in-the-wool logistics expert. The 59-year-old is also Chair of the non-profit Die Transportbotschafter e. V. association, whose purpose he describes as follows: ‘We want to promote the social reputation of the transport and logistics sector in Germany and draw attention to its concerns.’

Jens Thiermann’s company vehicle is a 2019 Freightliner Cascadia, which was extensively modified by the US truck dealer Klekamp before being granted permission for use on EU roads. The truck is unique: the deep-drawn side skirts on the tractor and trailer ensure perfect underrun protection and good aerodynamics.

Following everyday trucker life in the Freightliner

The Transport Ambassadors’ central message is that everybody depends on logistics nowadays. Jens Thiermann and his 12-strong team of media experts share this idea across many channels. The Freightliner Cascadia plays an important, eye-catching role. The design of the blue-green foiled trailer shows a crowd of stylised portraits on the long sides, above which the Transport Ambassadors’ motto is written in large letters: ‘Everybody needs logistics’. The truck is predominantly used where there is the prospect of a large stage – at job fairs, sports events and events in the logistics sector, for example. Jens Thiermann is then always available to talk shop or discuss logistics. He gladly offers his guests a seat on the leather armchairs in the rear of the spacious cab.

Thiermann himself regularly uses his company vehicle for study trips in the field of logistics: what does everyday life look like for professional drivers on the road and in rest areas today? What about the chemistry between driver and shipping agent? What happens when you’re on the goods-in ramp? These sorts of questions are always on the Transport Ambassador’s mind. Once a week, he climbs behind the wheel and drives a full load of freight to find the answers. He recently had to deliver a load of oats to a Dutch customer. As oats were trickling off the pallet on the ramp, Thiermann had to empty almost the entire load to find the damaged packaging. Nevertheless, he was still able to draw a positive conclusion from the tour. ‘The staff were extremely friendly. Now and again, I was invited to the canteen for coffee.’ Other truckers have also told Thiermann that drivers are treated better by their European neighbours than in Germany. Is that really the case? Over the next few months, the Transport Ambassador will gradually explore the border regions around Germany in his truck to get to the bottom of the matter. He can definitely use this experience – as is well known, logistics is a broad field. But how do you explain what logistics is to outsiders? Glancing at Jens Thiermann’s résumé could offer us some insight. The forwarder and IT entrepreneur has already written logistics history with his freight exchange.

»Everyone can do the simple things. I’ve always done what others don’t do.«

Jens Thiermann, Chair of the Die Transportbotschafter e. V. association

»Everyone can do the simple things. I’ve always done what others don’t do.«

Jens Thiermann, Chair of the Die Transportbotschafter e. V. association

As Chair of the Die Transportbotschafter e. V. association, Jens Thiermann is committed to the interests of logistics.

From classic logistics specialist to IT entrepreneur

‘Everyone can do the simple things. I’ve always done what others don’t do,’ says Thiermann describing his personal motto. In 1986, as a young forwarding merchant, he and a colleague founded the Timotrans forwarding company, which specialised in transports to the former Yugoslavia. They were renowned for their professionalism and having a good understanding of the mentality of Eastern European carriers. At that time, the world of logistics was still largely analogous – a telephone receiver, pen, pad and forwarding address book were dispatchers’ most important tools. In the mid 1990s, it was time to transition from being a classic logistics specialist to a logistics IT entrepreneur. ‘I had a feeling that I needed to change something,’ says Thiermann describing this phase of his professional life. He founded the digital freight exchange Timocom in 1997. The system works like a bulletin board that brings together a transport order and a truck with spare loading capacity. In the early days, the infrastructure set-up was still modest with only two dozen computers and modems from a discount store. Nevertheless, business picked up speed. The freight exchange soon had a firm foothold, especially among dispatchers, since it made everyday business easier. The fact that Timocom offers the service at a fixed monthly price is another success factor.

Digitisation is picking up speed with the freight exchange

Initially, the main focus was on full loads under tarpaulin heading to Eastern Europe. But their portfolio extended with every new customer gained. In the 2000s, more and more users also used the freight exchange for the domestic German and European market. At some point, the first offers for partial loads appeared on the system, quickly followed by the first tankers. A good two decades after the freight exchange was launched, an air of Silicon Valley is wafting through the office complex at the company’s Erkrath headquarters, which were built to meet the latest energy and environmental standards. Economic experts rank the company among the best medium-sized employers in Germany. Timocom employs over 500 people from around 35 nations who manage over 750,000 freight and loading space offers every day. There’s no end in sight for this success story. However, Jens Thiermann passed on his company to the next generation in April 2019. His eldest son Tim (30) and Logistics Manager Sebastian Lehnen (36) want to further develop Timocom into a system provider to digitally control and process transports in commercial vehicle traffic.

Transport Ambassadors explain how logistics works

As a Transport Ambassador, Jens Thiermann is now on a different side – he’s no longer right at the heart of it all, but still fairly close by. He gives a compelling explanation for his commitment: ‘It’s time to give something back to the industry after more than 20 successful years,’ says Thiermann. Among other things, his media team produces articles on topics such as safety, environment and sustainability. The team explains how logistics ensures clean cities, how Black Friday pushes logistics to the max and how apples from Chile make it onto supermarket shelves at home. Their self-produced video, showing where the current Düsseldorf EC home shirts have been before they reach the ice hockey players, is well worth a watch.
The Transport Ambassadors are also working on new fields. ‘We are currently in the discovery phase,’ says Thiermann. A petition – ‘More appreciation in logistics’ – has recently been on the agenda, with which the Transport Ambassadors want to draw attention to the situation of logistics employees. Supporters can sign the petition on the association’s website. In addition, there are two further actions: ‘Hand in Hand Across the Country’ is intended to promote cooperation between car and truck drivers. In contrast, ‘Caution: Blind Spot’ makes young road users’ safety a priority. The Transport Ambassadors don’t have to look hard for the perfect object of interest for this project: Jens Thiermann’s company vehicle is always ready for action.
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