MÜHLEN, Germany — Here in the state of Lower Saxony, down a two-lane road, on the outskirts of a tiny town surrounded by old farms and modern windmills, a place too small to be listed on most highway maps, is the headquarters of a trucking company with deep ties to the agriculture and livestock industries. It also has the capacity and sophistication to serve automotive and chemical shippers and has a hand now in the burgeoning e-commerce market.
The story of Paul Schockemöhle Logistics is one that many trucking executives in the United States would recognize.
It begins in 1966 with a young man looking for something to do and choosing to haul eggs from local farms to processing plants and distribution centers.
That man was Paul Schockemöhle who along with his brothers, Alvin and Werner, also carried on a family tradition of raising horses. They have had so much success in the world of competitive riding that the name Schockemöhle has become a global brand and Paul, in particular, is far more famous as a horse breeder than a trucking executive. (Read more about his horse breeding career here.)
In a recent meeting with Transport Topics, two top executives talked about the journey of Paul Schockemöhle Logistics over five decades from a single farmhouse here to become a multinational transportation and logistics powerhouse with a fleet of 600 trucks and revenue of between 100 and 120 million euros a year.
Not only does the route taken by Paul Schockemöhle Logistics mirror the path taken by many trucking companies in America, the company has faced many of the same issues in terms of finding truck drivers, taking advantage of new technology and dealing with an ever-changing regulatory environment, based on comments by CEO Karsten Bley and Chief Sales and Technology Officer Andre Maruska in an interview in late September.
In discussing the business, Bley points to a description on the company’s website. “We see ourselves not only as a logistics company and transport company,” the firm states. “Above all, we see ourselves as a traditional family business which justifies its success from the trusting and constructive cooperation of its employees.”
An open Paul Schockemöhle Logistics trailer with a model dinosaur. (Paul Schockemohle Logistics)
Although Paul Schockemöhle owns the company, he has from the beginning relied upon a team of professional managers to run the operations.
“[Paul] has nothing to do with the business directly,” Bley said, “but he is always asking the right questions.”
More than a decade after its founding, the company had become a full-fledged trucking firm and in 1978 adopted the name Spedition Paul Schockemöhle. In 1984, the company moved out of the farmhouse and into its first office with a storage facility and maintenance shop in Mühlen.
Over the next 30 years, the company steadily expanded to other parts of Germany, hauling food and building materials, then auto parts and chemicals and now providing specialized logistics for tires and on-demand, final-mile delivery of garden sheds and other products for the home and garden that are purchased online.
After the reunification of East and West Germany in 1989, the company established new operations in eastern Germany and later Poland. The company struck its first merger deal with Wilfried Lehmann GmbH & Co. to expand into freight forwarding and logistics in Dessau and later took over a warehousing business in Damme.
In 2003, the company opened PS Truck Wash in Holdorf to provide tank washing and vehicle maintenance services.
Paul Schockemöhle Logistics
The purchase of Damme Schacht in 2005 laid the foundation for providing logistics services that went beyond transportation and storage activities. The company subsequently opened a branch in Mannheim, acquired a company in southern Germany that handled a lot of cross-border freight and established its first integrated logistics facility in Holdorf to handle automotive and tire logistics.
Bley said the company was the first in Germany to provide just-in-time delivery of auto parts for Daimler-Benz with much of that business conducted at night.
“We deliver from 200 suppliers every day,” he said.
In 2013, the company opened a specialized recycling facility in Steinfeld and purchased PSL Vechta to provide beverage logistics.
Bley said the company’s success in the market is dependent upon its ability to provide quality and reliable service and that means providing shippers with more data on the status and condition of goods in transit.
To achieve that, Maruska has led an effort to install telematics systems on all the company’s trucks and to use that data to help shippers better manage inventories. It also helps the company to keep tabs on the work that drivers do.
“Driving is only part of the job,” Maruska pointed out. “We have a worksheet for each customer.”
By producing a monthly report on the performance of each truck in the fleet, Maruska said the company has been able to provide incentives for drivers to reduce fuel consumption and improve service.
A flatbed is loaded. (Paul Schockemöhle Logistics)
While all the trucks in the fleet are diesel-powered, Bley said the company is testing the use of liquefied natural gas and he is closely watching development of plans by companies in the United States, such as Tesla, to build battery-powered trucks. The company also is working with trailer suppliers, including Krone and Schmitz Cargobull, both of which are located in the Munsterland region in north central Germany, to develop more products in response to new delivery requirements.
“We hope to see bigger trucks,” Bley said. Because there’s no indication that government regulations will be changed to allow longer trailers, he said, the company is working with manufacturers to build taller trailers. The company also is testing solar-powered cooling systems for its refrigerated trailers.
A big push for Paul Schockemöhle Logistics, and other trucking companies in Europe, is to provide business-to-consumer delivery for goods purchased online.
“Amazon pushes us a lot,” Bley said. “We try to find answers.”
Last year, the company began to deliver garden houses made in Estonia using trucks with specialized lifts.
“We need drivers that want to do that,” Bley noted, adding that 5-7% of the company’s trucks are idle because of a lack of drivers.
Paul Schockemöhle Logistics
To address the shortage, the company has expanded an in-house training program and has looked at the potential for hiring workers from outside of Germany.
Although the company gets calls daily from brokers offering to supply truck drivers from Eastern European countries and the Middle East, Bley said he is skeptical that they can provide a solution. Many of the applicants, he said, lack proper training and nearly all must overcome language difficulties to have success on the job and to adjust to life in a foreign country.
“We’re looking at relay networks to help drivers get home more often,” Bley said. And the company also is looking at using rail intermodal service to ease pressure on trucks from seasonal swings in shipping demand, he added.
All things considered, Bley said business is good and, much like his counterparts in the United States, he is optimistic about the future for trucking and logistics service providers as shippers continue to outsource more of their transportation needs.