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Safe way to the stadium: Training for coach drivers

With no tolerance for compromising safety, the drivers of MAN-made coaches servicing Germany’s professional football league (Bundesliga) work with MAN ProfiDrive® experts. Christian Schulz, a driver for the Borussia Dortmund club, participates in these training sessions on a regular basis.

What is so special about these drivers’ training session?

Christian Schulz: Where else could I practice extreme scenarios with such a large vehicle? Only training grounds, such as the ADAC area here in Northern Bavaria’s Schlüsselfeld, can provide a hazard-free environment to do so. And the outcome is very clear indeed: if you start skidding on an icy road, you have encountered that sensation before. And you know how to react.

Is it not a strange feeling for all of you to go back to school, as it were?

Christian Schulz: Well certainly, it is a bit strange. Yet very important because the trainers explain all about the latest vehicle technology that I should know about as a coach driver. And no worries, it is never boring. After theoretical instruction, we move on to practical exercises on the track, like doing slaloms with our coaches and full braking action on slippery surface.

This sounds like fun, yet how serious is it?

Christian Schulz: We are professionals behind the wheel, just like Formula 1 drivers. They also train to improve their performance, just like we do. Except that we don’t care about any lap times but rather about absolute safety.

How exactly is a training course with the MAN ProfiDrive® experts organised?

Christian Schulz: Initially, we’ll go through the basics. Not in a bone-dry fashion, but rather like physics applied to everyday life. Just one short example: how can I properly calculate the brake path? I know it sounds simple, but driving improves greatly once that process is ingrained. Theoretical knowledge is then put to the practice. We train full braking stops, for instance, which coach drivers never execute in their daily routines. The ProfiDrive® trainers always call for a correct and proper sitting position. Lounging too deep on the seat or steering with outstretched arms will impede a properly quick reaction to any obstacles.

Well, you do get around a lot, when driving to away games. How many kilometres do you bank in a year?

Christian Schulz: I would estimate the average at about 60,000 kilometres, although it also depends on which championships we play in and how successful we are.

And up to which distances will the BVB team cover in your coach?

Christian Schulz: While we will cover distances of up to 300 kilometres to game locations via coach, the team will take a plane to places further away. The team coach will always head out earlier, however, to carry everything needed by the team during the event – ranging from jerseys to football shoes and training equipment.

How about the atmosphere among drivers, when you get together outside of the games? Is there also a sense of competitiveness; does the current positioning in the Bundesliga league make a difference?

Christian Schulz: There is always a big round of hellos whenever we meet. And a couple of smart remarks on the last day of play, that is part of the game. Otherwise, we all are colleagues and good ones, at that, for we support each other. And here, during our training sessions, we have time for some personal exchanges, while otherwise time is so short and strictly clocked whilst in the stadium.

The MAN-made coach for Borussia Dortmund on the training track

As a driver for Germany’s premier football league club Borussia Dortmund for more than four years, Christian “Schulle” Schulz shuttles his team through Germany and Europe to away games. In this interview, the 45-year-old reflects on his daily routine as a BVB driver and why safety-training courses are absolutely essential in his job.

Honestly, Christian, isn’t it sufficient to simply complete a drivers’ safety training just once?

Christian Schulz: Actually, I don’t share that opinion, because a lot is suppressed and forgotten in daily routine. You can’t master what you don’t train on a regular basis – a truth also applicable to our football professionals.

Christian Schulz, the driver for the Borussia Dortmund club in front of the MAN-made team coach

Images © Bernd Jaufmann

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