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Production Sites

More Rail and Ship: Logistics Reduces Road Traffic

Logistics is increasingly opting for rail and sea transport for the delivery of production materials to the Wolfsburg site.

Stop-and-go traffic and traffic jams – everyone has been frustrated by them at one time
or another. By reducing the number of truck journeys for Volkswagen, the logistics
divisions for the Wolfsburg plant and the Volkswagen brand want to work together to help reduce the amount of traffic on the roads and CO₂ emissions. That’s why more than ever, they are now opting for rail and sea transport for the delivery of materials to the main plant.

"Wherever possible, and when it’s worthwhile for the business, we are moving away from transport exclusively by truck"

“Wherever possible, and when it’s worthwhile for the business, we are moving away from transport exclusively by truck. Instead we are combining road, rail, sea and barge transport for maximum benefit,” explain Lars Kleist and Florian Bencinic from Transport Planning in Wolfsburg and Markus Wargenau from Logistics Planning for the Volkswagen brand. Together, they give three example for alternative transport concepts to the main plant.

Example 1

In one pilot project, the plant and brand logistics teams are testing how tires can be brought from Portugal to Germany with as little road transport as possible. How? Volkswagen buys tires from a supplier in Lousado and transports them for 35 kilometers over land to the harbor in Porto. There, the semi-trailers are loaded onto a huge special ship for the transport of movable goods, known as a Ro-Ro ship. After arriving in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, a tractor unit drives on board and takes the parts in the semi-trailer the remaining 500 kilometers to Wolfsburg. Previously, the tires were transported all the way to Wolfsburg by truck. The bottom line: only 510 kilometers by road instead of 2,400.

Only when they reach Rotterdam, are tires from Portugal unloaded and transported the rest of the way by road. The harbor of the Dutch city is one of the biggest sea ports in the world, and the biggest deep water port in Europe.  

“We are now investigating whether the goods could be unloaded at a German port like Emden, Cuxhaven or Bremerhaven instead of Rotterdam, to save additional kilometers on the road. This also depends on the tides,” says Markus Wargenau, and remarks happily, “We are already in contact with the plants in Palmela, Portugal and Pamplona, Spain to investigate if we can expand these improvements to reduce traffic on the roads via the ports in Porto or Santander.” In all these cases, the sea route takes longer, but it also pays off economically. Florian Bencinic explains, “Sea freight is cheaper than road transport, after all.”      

From there, they are transported to Wolfsburg by truck for the remaining five kilometers,” explain Lars Kleist. The bottom line: only five kilometers by road instead of 300.

Example 2

Parts from Mexico, like headliners or lights, are transported by sea to Bremerhaven. Previously, the parts were then delivered to Wolfsburg by road. Not anymore: “In Bremerhaven, the containers with the components are now loaded onto a barge and shipped to the freight center in Fallersleben via the Mittelland canal.

Only once they reach the container terminal in Fallersleben are parts from Mexico unloaded for road transport. From left: Sebastian Krause (Managing Director of the Wolfsburg freight center), Florian Bencinic (Transport Planner at Wolfsburg), Lars Kleist (Head of Transport Planning at Wolfsburg) and Markus Wargenau (Logistics Planner for the Volkswagen brand).

Example 3

In Malacky, Slovakia, 35 kilometers away from Bratislava, there is a trans-shipment center for purchased parts from the local region, such as radar sensors, loading floors and exhaust silencers. Previously, these parts were brought to Wolfsburg exclusively by truck, meaning a 750-kilometer journey across roads and highways in Slovakia, Austria and Germany. Now that has changed, as the biggest chunk of the journey is now made by rail. The parts are now transported by truck from Malacky to the railway station in Bratislava. There, the semi-trailers are loaded onto trains and transported to Braunschweig. For the last 30 kilometers to the plant in Wolfsburg, the parts are transported by road again. The bottom line: only 65 kilometers by road instead of 750.

Semi-trailers with purchased parts from Bratislava first hit the road at Braunschweig port. From left: Jens Hohls (Managing Director of Braunschweig container terminal), Markus Wargenau (Logistics Planner for the Volkswagen brand), Florian Bencinic (Transport Planner at Wolfsburg), Lars Kleist (Head of Transport Planning at Wolfsburg), Gerhard Oswald (Managing Director of the service provider RailRunner) and Christian Gielke (Project Manager at RailRunner).