Nordic Power.
Transport Magazine

Nordic Power.

Mountains and the coast alternate continuously: short-radius distribution on the Lofoten Islands.

ServiceNord Engros AS supplies restaurants and canteens in northern Norway with everything they need. The company’s boss is sure of one thing: for transport operations in the polar region, Actros trucks with the top-of-the-range engine are best.

What do the chef of an exclusive restaurant on the Lofoten Islands, the barman of a nightclub for students in Tromsø and the lady running the snack-bar on the E10 main road near Narvik all have in common? They all live in the northern-most part of Europe in a region reputed for extremes. And they’re all fans of the sheer range of products available from ServiceNord Engros AS.

This wholesaler has a warehouse in Harstad, around 250 kilometres north of the polar circle, from which it fulfils virtually any requests from its customers: fruit and veg, fish and meat, eggs and dairy; basics such as flour, pasta and rice; and even frozen produce, preserves, soft drinks, wine and beer. And let’s not forget things like sweets and hygiene products. “You can buy pretty much anything from us and if we don’t have it in stock, we’ll make sure we get it to you as soon as possible,” says Jørn Johansen, Managing Director and Owner of ServiceNord.

The delivery region covers an area almost as big as England, albeit with a population of just half a million inhabitants. Although ServiceNord isn’t the biggest supplier in this region, the firm has still managed to secure itself a steadfast position supplying the polar region of Norway. “We go one step further for our customers than the competition,” Jørn Johansen says, explaining his recipe for success.

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Broad product range: the product offering at Jørn Johansen’s ServiceNord warehouse in Harstad leaves nothing to be desired.

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“Our recipe for success: we go one step further for our customers than the competition.”

Jørn Johansen, Managing Director and Owner of ServiceNord Engros AS

The broad range of products doesn’t just keep price-sensitive customers happy, but also especially pleases more demanding clients. The company has a really strong desire to help its customers: “Our speciality is that customers can still submit orders fairly last-minute, just before the truck leaves,”explains Johansen. “And if it’s a special request, we’ll make sure we sort it out and then deliver the goods.”

Heavy-duty short-radius distribution in the north is actually more like a special type of long-distance haulage. Drivers cover around 800 kilometres per day and sometimes even deliver to 20 customers or more in each shift.

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Flexible service: customers can place orders around the clock via ServiceNord’s website – and if required, even shortly before the truck is due to depart.

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ServiceNord’s own heavy-duty trucks are constantly on the road, delivering orders punctually to where they need to be. Traditionally, you’re likely to see a large number of Swedish-produced trucks on the long-distance routes of the north. But ServiceNord has a host of Actros trucks in its fleet. Jørn Johansen: “They’re almost never in the workshop, and the drivers really appreciate the comfort in the spacious SoloStar Concept.”

These are important aspects to consider, as ice and snow in winter, as well as some unpaved roads in the summer represent a major challenge not only for the trucks but also for their drivers. Often, the drivers from ServiceNord have to spend their nights in the cab in the lonely north before they can set back out on the return journey to Harstad. In the winter, the tours involve tackling extreme temperatures below zero as well as several months of darkness. Then there are bridges and mountain passes which are often impassable and subsequently require drivers to make massive detours.

In summer, too, the terrain puts its strain on the trucks: motorways and arterial routes are a rarity here – the country is criss-crossed with winding, bumpy roads over hundreds of kilometres long which connect the rocky isles and cross the mighty fjords.

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A regular stop: the fishing and port town of Svolvær on the east coast of the island Austvågøya is home to a number of ServiceNord customers and is also especially well-loved among tourists.

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A regular stop: the fishing and port town of Svolvær on the east coast of the island Austvågøya is home to a number of ServiceNord customers and is also especially well-loved among tourists.

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A regular stop: the fishing and port town of Svolvær on the east coast of the island Austvågøya is home to a number of ServiceNord customers and is also especially well-loved among tourists.

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A regular stop: the fishing and port town of Svolvær on the east coast of the island Austvågøya is home to a number of ServiceNord customers and is also especially well-loved among tourists.

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Due to the extreme requirements, Jørn Johansen decided to only provide his drivers with the top-of-the-range engine variant. In his eyes, the top model – the Actros 2563 with 460 kW and 3,000 Nm maximum torque – is exactly the right vehicle for this region: “This Actros can get up and down the many hills here with ease. And at the end of the day, that pays off.”

The distribution team at ServiceNord creates the routes in such a way that a high average speed is important. Over the course of the day, compared to a less-powerful truck, the drivers save around half an hour with the top-of-the-range engine and can therefore fit in another delivery while still remaining within the legally applicable driving times. And in some cases, it even means they manage to get back home.

“We tried in the past to use trucks with less-powerful engines,” recalls Jørn Johansen. “But in our mountainous region, we saw that not only did the average speed diminish, but the fuel consumption went sky high because the drivers often had to keep their foot flat to the floor.”

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Stig André Madsen confirms. Over the past years, the driver has become somewhat of an Actros fan. Madsen drives fully laden twice a week on a route around the Lofoten Islands. From the village of Å in the south to Svolvær in the north, he knows every single pothole and bump on the narrow out-of-town roads around the archipelago. “It’s good to have a truck on which you can fully rely and which actually helps you to tackle all of the challenges confidently.”

Within the company, Madsen is known as “Mr. Lofoten” because he is fast, flexible and efficient in completing his tasks on this demanding tour. If Madsen is lucky, his mother-in-law can look after his two daughters so that his wife Cecilia can join him in the Actros. “There’s plenty of space for the two days and the views of the landscape from up in the cab are just amazing!”

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A strong supplier: driver Stig André Madsen hands over an order to chef Dag Steinar Fredriksen Myklebust from the “Anker Brygge” restaurant.

Note: Photographic and video material was created before the COVID‑19 pandemic.

Photos: Matthias Aletsee
Video: Martin Schneider-Lau