Interview with Wolfgang Draaf, working at the Federal Association Group for Heavy Transports and Crane Works e. V. since 1984, and since 2015 its chief executive.
Mr. Draaf, please give us a brief assessment of the situation of the heavy lift industry in Germany in 2017.
From the sheer numbers, it was a good year for the heavy lift industry. Due to the good economic development, the number of transports has still increased in 2017. Especially the orders within wind power and concrete logistics are to be highlighted. In addition, we are a very innovative industry that is constantly evolving to create companies that fill new niches.
That sounds like a but, right?
It’s a big BUT. More and more heavy-duty transports mean more and more approval procedures. One could expect that the processes will be changed to cope better with the increasing number of inquiries. A development in this direction, however, is currently not foreseeable.
Processing times are prolonged and serious consequences for all involved arise. The shipper is stuck with the goods temporarily and cannot meet agreed delivery dates, the carrier is without permission, the trucks useless in the yard and the customer’s construction times are jeopardized.
The new administrative regulation, which has been in force since the middle of the year, does not solve the problem. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Overall, the whole approval process is out of date and too complicated. What we need is a modern IT and at the same time more employees in the relevant departments at the authorities. The Administrative Procedure Act requires swift procedures. However, these are far behind in the current development.
What expectations do you have for the coming year and beyond?
A forecast for the coming year is not easy. Much depends, for example, on the further expansion of wind energy – an important sector for our members. There are factors like political decisions that we cannot influence. In the past, companies have invested a lot of money in their fleets and specialized equipment for transporting related components. A break in the expansion of wind turbines would have a negative impact.
In addition to the mentioned barriers in paper form, there is the well-known problem with the infrastructure. Through dilapidated roads and bridges, longer distances must be considered. Route changes at short notice, which in turn influence the approval process, are no longer a rarity. The federal government has reacted and provided money for the renovation. However, we must be realistic at this point and cannot expect an upgraded infrastructure before 2035. Until then, costly detours must be accepted. Currently we are talking about a factor of 2.5 in terms of distance and time.
Do you also see a need for action on the part of the heavy lift industry?
All in all, companies do a great job of mastering the current challenges. Be it the development and deployment of new equipment or the response to the growing globalization of the business. When it comes to digitizing their processes, which are important for communicating with customers and authorities, I see most companies in full demand.
The only allegation, if I may call it that, is the restrained appearance of the industry. We should be more self-confident to make ourselves heard. After all, we are the crucial link between production and the implementation of important projects and infrastructure projects. Starting with the transport of concrete parts for a pedestrian bridge to huge transformers for power plants.