Training the best new drivers with the new Mercedes-Benz Actros as a driving school vehicle

Published: Monday, June 15, 2020

There’s a shortage of skilled truck drivers across the world and motivating people to seriously consider becoming professional truck drivers must have the right environment and tools.

The importance of driving schools is well and truly in the spotlight in this context says leading global truck manufacturer Daimler Trucks, after all, they are exactly where potential new drivers can be convinced to take their first practical lesson and subsequently get into a career behind the wheel.

And to do that, they don’t just need motivated and motivating trainers but also ground-breaking training trucks. That’s why the Verkehrsakademie Münsterland (VAM) driver training school in Ibbenbüren has put its faith in the new Mercedes-Benz Actros. Since January, trainees can practice their inter-city, motorway and night-time drives behind the wheel of the top model from Mercedes-Benz Trucks.

Depending on whether the lesson concerns driving licence classes C or CE, the driving school’s Actros 2545 is configured either as a rigid vehicle or as a drawbar combination. An additional centre seat allows the driving instructor to sit close to the learner – something of particular importance during the first few lessons. In front of the centre seat, the footwell houses a full set of instructor pedals – just like on the co-driver’s side – to ensure the instructor can intervene where necessary.

Plus, budding drivers and participants in advanced training courses can also learn how to use all of the assistance systems which are available for the new Actros: from the new MirrorCam to the extended Predictive Powertrain Control cruise control and transmission management system, as well as the equally new Active Drive Assist which enables partially autonomous driving.

Learners are enthusiastic about getting to grips with the assistance systems

“As soon as the participants have become familiar with these systems, they’re generally very excited about them and quickly see the advantage of using them,” says Daniel Autmaring, Junior Manager at Verkehrsakademie Münsterland.

“Especially the younger generation tends to be tech-savvy and willing to try out the assistance systems with enthusiasm. Plus, they also feel very much at home when they get into the newly designed cab of the new Actros with its two digital cockpit displays. That’s why the new Actros training vehicle has a lot of potential to attract young hopefuls sustainably into a driving career – a job which now offers talented beginners very good perspectives.”

Daniel Wichmann is an especially good example of this. The 25-year-old completed both his CE-class driving licence and his professional driver qualification with VAM.

Today, he works as a driver for the affiliated transport company and also coordinates the maintenance of the driving school’s fleet of seven trucks – all of which are from Mercedes-Benz. Wichmann was the first employee to recently participate in a company-internal advanced training course on the new Actros, headed up by one of the company’s experienced driver trainers.

As part of this, the young driver was particularly enthusiastic about Active Drive Assist, for example. The system enables partially-automated driving in all speed ranges. One of its capabilities is to bring the truck back into its lane in certain circumstances by means of a corrective steering intervention and can thus offer the driver a greater level of safety.

“Assistance technologies like Active Drive Assist help my colleagues and me to do our job even better. But as to whether this type of system will one day replace us drivers… I can’t see that happening. We are and will remain completely responsible for what the vehicle is doing,” said Daniel Wichmann.
Only the best-qualified drivers can sustainably deliver top-level service

Around 150 budding drivers train with the school each year and then there are also around ten times more who take part in their advanced training courses. The explicit aim behind these: to create professional drivers for the transport sector and to keep the standards constantly high. After all, only companies with the best-qualified men and women behind the wheel will be in a position to offer sustainably high-quality service, says Philipp Stegemann, Commercial Director at VAM.

From the Atego to the Actros and even the Arocs, VAM has consistently put its trust in trucks with a three-pointed star for many years now: on one hand because of the sheer presence of these vehicles within transport companies, and on the other because of their sophisticated technology and high level of reliability.

“With the new Actros, we now have another excellent instrument at our disposal. The numerous new or further improved assistance systems facilitate the daily work of drivers. And they are proof that the new Actros is equipped with tomorrow’s technology today already,” said Stegemann.

According to the 31-year-old, MirrorCam is also a prime example of this. On the new Actros, it has replaced the outside mirrors with small cameras on the left and right of the roof frame. That offers the driver a greater field of vision through the side windows.

From the outset, trainees experience how much help that can be when driving up to junctions and roundabouts, when maneuvering or when driving around tight bends. The camera images are relayed in real time to two monitors on the A-pillars and, just like a regular mirror system, are split up into main mirror and wide-angle views.

Among the tasks of the instructors is explaining to future drivers the distance lines shown in the MirrorCam display and demonstrating how they can help better gauge the distance to vehicles and objects behind the truck.

Verkehrsakademie Münsterland: Growing since 2008

From driving instructors to employed professional drivers like Daniel Wichmann, Verkehrsakademie Münsterland has around 40 employees.

Founded in 2008, the company has since continued to grow. Besides offering driver training for all classes of vehicle, ranging from light motorcycles to heavy-duty trucks, VAM also offers a range of advanced training courses.

In the commercial vehicle sector alone, the program includes partial qualifications for goods transport, load securing and hazardous goods. But the target groups include more than just the drivers themselves. Even specialist staff and managers – for example fleet managers or driver trainers – from SMEs within the transport sector take part in the training courses.

The teachers and instructors at the training school predominantly train customers from the Münsterland region, but also regularly deliver courses to people in regions which are further afield. The company has access to approved training rooms in all German states.

The new Actros is “International Truck of the Year 2020”

The new Actros doesn’t just impress customers during daily operations, but is also well liked by specialist international juries. For example, the new Actros was voted “International Truck of the Year 2020” by Europe’s leading commercial vehicle journalists from 24 countries.

The committee of Europe’s most prestigious accolade highlighted in particular the advances made in terms of safety and assistance systems as well as in the field of connectivity.

New features in the Actros include Active Drive Assist which enables semi-automated driving in all speed ranges, the improved Active Brake Assist 5 emergency brake assistance system, the fully digital human-machine interface in the form of the new Multimedia Cockpit, and the Predictive Powertrain Control intelligent cruise control and transmission management system. Source—Photos & text: