Blue haze: a damaged tipper body is welded together.

Truck Services day & night: Serious cases and quick fixes.

The Gress & Zapp truck workshop is still busy fixing vehicles when others have shut up shop – in keeping with the Knorr-Bremse TruckServices motto: Keep it running.

Evenings can get lonely in Saxony-Anhalt. At the wheel of his truck, Erwin doesn't seem to mind. When Bernburg Castle appears on the right hand side of the short stretch from the motorway junction near Ilberstedt, he has almost reached his destination. The next morning he is due to pick up a load of special cement from Schwenk with his silo trailer. A quick stop at Gress & Zapp (G&Z) to have the chambers cleaned, then he's off for the night. Even after sunset, the G&Z premises are hardly a haven of rural peace and tranquility. Three of the four washing bays are occupied. The high-pressure hoses create dense white clouds of vapor. The fourth bay awaits Erwin and his trailer. Time for a coffee. On the way he nods briefly to Works Manager Uwe Möller, who disappears into the commercial vehicle workshop.

Specialist operation for serious cases

Möller has almost hit his target for the day as well. Now he just has to check in with the master technician who is working the late shift about how to proceed with the damaged truck tomorrow. "Guidance and steering are completely wrecked," he says. "Even if we have all the parts in stock, it's going to take a while." The cooling unit of the trailer hums away in the adjacent hall. This is where G&Z puts the serious cases. "The trailer wasn't damaged. Someone's picking up the cooling unit tomorrow. We'll take a closer look at the tractor unit then."

Happy to take care of regulation jobs late in the evening

Otherwise, the workshop hall for normal jobs – the "quick fixes", as Head of Operations Heinz Zapp calls them – is full. MAN, Scania and MAN trucks occupy most of the six pits. G&Z is an authorized workshop for the three brands, as it is for the biggest trailer manufacturers, so a lot of maintenance and warranty jobs come up here in Bernburg. Then there are the statutory inspections for various vehicle approvals. Zapp: "Generally these are all regulation jobs that we are happy to take care of later in the evening in order to get the vehicles back on the road as quickly as possible. At the end of the day all vehicle operators want the same thing: their vehicle fleet up and running."

Truck workshop with long hours and an extensive parts warehouse

Zapp knows what he’s talking about. Until recently he was head of a haulage business with over 100 vehicles. "In that position you know exactly which truck workshops you like to visit and which you don’t." Now he keeps this in mind when designing the service that G&Z offers: you can always reach someone from 6:30 a.m. until 11 p.m. on weekdays, and until 2 p.m. on Saturdays. The extensive parts warehouse is a key service feature that also benefits the nearby G&Z workshops. So are tire changes, general inspections, standard maintenance work and even extensive straightening and welding work. "Vehicle operators come here because they get what they need," says Zapp. "That could be anything from a proper tarpaulin repair to free coffee for their drivers."

The dirt has got to go: engine repairs start with a brush before new parts are installed.

Compressed air system in practice: where's that hiss coming from?

Space for the serious cases: the workshop hall for more complex repairs.

Mechanics in their element: under the driver's cab is where the real fun begins.

Working on the wheel end: the special tools must be nearby.

Authorized workshop and Alltrucks partner

To ensure it is properly equipped to handle vehicles from other manufacturers, G&Z joined the Alltrucks multi-brand workshop concept in November. Zapp: "The Alltrucks tester, for example, allows us to quickly get an overview of the vehicles via the on-board computer." While this system does not extend to the finest details of the on-board electronics like the manufacturers' own testers, it certainly helps when planning upcoming work. "We have to train our people anyway."

Knorr-Bremse TruckServices offers training support with its own team of trainers

Training is not an easy topic for the boss of the specialist business. Zapp grins: "If none of my 40 or so workshop staff are on holiday or sick, they'll always be taking some training." Although the introduction of online courses has improved the situation, it still takes a huge effort. At the same time, Zapp is well aware: there's no specialist work without the corresponding training. This is where Knorr-Bremse TruckServices, with its own team of trainers, comes in. They organize classroom courses at nearby parts wholesalers, using complete brake system models. Working together with the trainer, participants can discuss potential causes of leaks, get to know how various parts interact and work hands-on with the relevant equipment.

Late shift at the truck workshop

Things have calmed down in the workshop hall. The first colleagues from the late shift have left. Sometimes three vehicles are parked one behind the other on the long pits. Not all of them appear on the work sheets of the colleagues who are still working. The tractor unit that lacks power when accelerating is left over from the early shift. Works Manager Uwe Möller: “Maybe we only have to exchange one control unit here. But it could also be a more complicated job." The troublesome gearbox will also be a job for tomorrow. Möller: "Then we should have one of our master technicians within earshot."

Special tools from Knorr-Bremse

While Stephan Klickermann, one of the mechanics that evening, makes his way to the Kögel three-axle trailer, his colleague Karl-Heinz Rochau turns his attention to the clutch actuator of one of the tractor units. When the vehicle came in it soon became clear that the rubber sleeve was torn and the inside of the actuator was covered in dirt. Rochau's job is to change it. Meanwhile, Klickermann tackles the third brake of the trailer. Next to him is his box of special Knorr-Bremse tools, opened out and neatly arranged. According to his colleague from the morning shift, the discs on the rear axle may also need to be replaced. "We'll see when the rest is disassembled," says the mechanic.

15,000 items in stock

Manuel Neuhold, who manages the workshop warehouse at G&Z, has prepared the parts to be used in the jobs scheduled for the late shift. Marked with job slips, they lie on the counter where the parts are issued. "We store a total of 15,000 items," says Neuhold, "so as well as replacing a worn out footboard, for example, we can also carry out more complex engine repairs using our own stock. Anything not in stock comes through our wholesalers in a matter of hours if it's really urgent. The mechanics can access the warehouse at any time to retrieve parts themselves," explains Neuhold. "However, not everyone knows the ins and outs of the storage system, the scanners and the order assignments as we do, because that's precisely how we spend our working day. So we prepare whatever we can, and in the morning we take care of anything else that has been booked out late in the day."

Industrially refurbished EconX components

Around 10 p.m. Klickermann discovers that one of the trailer brakes not only needs the disc changed, but also the entire caliper. "It must have taken quite a hit," he says and disappears into the warehouse. Without hesitation, he reaches for one of the industrially refurbished brake calipers on the shelf. Warehouse Manager Neuhold had commented on these shortly before leaving for the night: "The Knorr-Bremse EconX® calipers are simply excellent value for money." A brand new vehicle involved in an accident like this would often be fitted with completely new brakes. But since Knorr-Bremse officially brought its industrially refurbished brakes onto the market around two years ago, EconX components have been a top seller. The clutch actuator fitted during this late shift is also from the EconX series.

The truck workshop only stops from 11 p.m. to 6.30 a.m.

A few sandwiches, lots of water and coffee and two test drives later – one of them with the new clutch actuator – the lights go out in the workshop. It's just after 11 p.m. Rochau checks the roller shutter once last time. Now the last white clouds on the washing bays have dispersed, only to reappear seven hours later. At around 6 a.m. the noise level begins to rise on the G&Z site again. The first colleagues from the early shift show up. Erwin, who spent the night in his driver's cabin at the Schwenk parking lot a few hundred meters away, peels off his sleeping bag. Time to load the truck, get some breakfast and hit the road. The first time he has to brake hard on the motorway, Erwin has the feeling his vehicle is pulling slightly to the right. That's something the guys at G&Z can take a closer look at the next time he takes it in for cleaning.

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