Hauling turbine components in Mammoet’s Actros SLT

Matt Wood heads to Denmark to check out Mercedes Benz heavy hauler, the Actros SLT V8


Denmark has been at the cutting edge of wind energy for nearly four decades now.

In fact it’s pretty hard to find anywhere in the Scandinavian country that doesn’t have a wind turbine spinning in the background.

Geographically, Denmark ticks most of the wind resource boxes as it has plenty of wind, is relatively flat and is surrounded by fairly shallow water.

It’s little wonder that over 30 per cent of Denmark’s energy is generated by wind these days and at times this figure can get closer to 50 per cent.

Danish-based wind turbine manufacturers Siemens and Vestos both provide a significant part of the world’s wind energy hardware.

But the sheer size and scale of turbine components creates a massive transport and logistics challenge, and that’s where specialised heavy haulage companies like Dutch-based Mammoet come into the picture.

Mammoet has a global reach as a specialist heavy lift provider with offices on every continent.

While the company works in most facets of the industrial and energy sector, the Danish arm of Mammoet Wind is being kept busy transporting wind turbine components from factory to wind farms across Europe or to ports for shipping. 

The 45 truck Mammoet fleet in Denmark consists of Volvos and MANs but for the really heavy stuff Mammoet has been using the 653hp Mercedes Benz Actros SLT V8 as its principal heavy hauler.

I recently spent a day riding shotgun in a Mammoet Actros SLT hauling turbine nacelles from the Siemens plant in the small town of Brande to the port of Esbjerg on the North Sea coast of the Danish mainland just over 100km away.

The whole rig grossed 148 tonnes as we rolled out of the factory driveway. The 8×4 SLT was towing a purpose built 7 axle rows-of-eight Nicolas low loader with self-tracking axles which took the combination out to a length of 36m. We were 4.5m high and 4.25m wide and all of a sudden those narrow Danish country roads seemed that bit narrower.

The big selling point for the SLT in heavy haulage is the VIAB turbo clutch that fills with oil and acts as a fluid coupling between the engine and the 16-speed Powershift automated transmission (AMT).

The turbo clutch provides peak torque to the driveline from a virtual standstill in first gear and it also acts as a wear-free retarder. But perhaps more impressive are the low speed manoeuvring capabilities that the VIAB unit can offer with little strain on driveline components.

At the wheel of our SLT was veteran heavy haulage driver Ole Kristofferson, whose entire 32-year career has been spent hauling big, heavy and oversized loads.

Kristofferson is a self-confessed Volvo fan but he did concede that the VIAB unit was a huge advantage for the big Benz.

“I like the (Volvo) I-shift for the lighter loads but the Mercedes is good for the heavy ones,” Kristofferson remarked as we casually rolled out of town.

Our oversize pilot Maria gives a running commentary of the road over the radio from her van behind us.

The Benz made the job look deceptively easy as Kristofferson negotiated various obstacles with a coffee cup clutched in one hand.

Some roundabouts had to be driven over with very little clearance but the VIAB clutch operates when the transmission is in first gear, making a slow crawl with a heavy load extremely easy.

A load this size is limited to a maximum speed of 60km/h in Denmark and the big 16-litre V8 barely makes a rumble as we cruise through the countryside.

The retardation of the driveline does come in handy when pulling up all those wheels and all that weight.

The Port of Esbjerg really shows the scale of the Danish wind industry with massive pieces of hardware scattered around the port area. As we unload our nacelle, a docked ship used for installing turbines at sea takes on its load of turbine components.

The Actros SLT has been carving out a name for itself in European heavy haulage with a new Euro 6 model hitting the road this year.

However, in Australia the SLT looks destined to flex its eight-wheel drive muscle in mining applications as well as other possible niche areas.

The big Actros may have a windy heritage but it may be heading for a dusty future here in Australia.

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