A bridge closes the gap

A bridge closes the gap

First check out the situation in peace. Surrounded by the only slowly receding darkness, Markus Meckelholt examines the waiting self-driving combination in the headlights. "My biggest job so far," is how he sums up the day ahead. A 430-ton bridge is being moved today in Plaidt, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany.

A coffee to wake you up, a roll to fortify you. In addition, a final chat with colleague Joe Schönfeld. No sign of tension in the well-rehearsed Schares duo. It is quite hectic around it. Representatives of the project initiator, the press, local politicians and neighboring companies want to be present at this important moment for the region. A new rail overpass was completed on site within six months. The aim now is to drive into the still gaping hole. This is Markus Meckelholt's job.

The new passion

In the days before, the Schares team had assembled the side-by-side combination with a total of 24 axle lines. A mast rises up on top of it, which was installed to take up the bridge. Meckelholt has already been working for Schares for six years. So far it has been active in the classic heavy transport. But in the meantime the passion for self-driving projects has taken hold of him. Aware of the pitfalls of the task at hand. "I always have to compensate for the slight slope with the SPMT. Hence the motto: just drive nice and slow and keep an eye on everything."

"…Trains will be running here again on Monday"

Concentrated and with the necessary coolness he steers the combination forward centimeter by centimeter. His colleague Joe Schönfeld is at his side with a watchful eye and helpful tips. "The center of gravity of the load is quite low and the whole thing is not very top-heavy," Meckelholt describes the accompanying circumstances, which he keeps under control at all times. Braking and acceleration forces must always be kept particularly in mind in SPMT projects. For the cargo usually does not forgive a mistake. In addition, the time frame is also tight for this shift. Markus Meckelholt also knows this. "Trains will be running here again on Monday."

Precise inlet

In the meantime, the approximately 100 meter long path has almost been completed. Markus Meckelholt positions the bridge thanks to stroke. Precision steering to the millimeter over the final position. Here, the recesses still have to be cleared before the bridge can be lowered over the iron quivers on the concrete foundations. With a load capacity of 60 tons, the structure will provide safe passage for decades to come.

The day ends for Markus Meckelholt, but the next mission is already imminent. "There are even several bridge elements waiting in the wings at a project near Cologne, Germany. And the time window is even smaller" He puts the remote control of the SPMT aside and lights a cigarette. Just don't get rattled.

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