Unimog U 500 with 4-wheel steering defies heavy snowfall in the Austrian Vorarlberg area
U 500 with 4-wheel steering demonstrated convincing performance in the face of over 10 metres of fresh snow
Mercedes-Benz Special Trucks unit offers 4-wheel steering as a factory-fitted technical variant for Unimog, Econic and all municipal and fire-fighting vehicles
Vorarlberg highways authority sets the benchmark – best practice example for Andorra
Stuttgart/Feldkirch-Arlbergpass (Austria) – The Mercedes-Benz Unimog is in all-year-round use in the Austrian Vorarlberg region: snow clearing, road and crash barrier cleaning as well as grass verge mowing duties have been undertaken for many years now with the help of the "Universal-Motor-Gerät", or "Universal Motor Device", commonly known as the Unimog. In early 2012, the tropical cyclone "Andrea" brought particular challenges for the Unimog fleet operated out of the Felsenau depot near Feldkirch/
Frastanz, which is responsible for road maintenance services on some two-thirds of the roads in the Vorarlberg region. More than ten metres of fresh snow fell on the Arlberg pass, the most important link between Austria's most westerly region and Innsbruck, taking the highway maintenance authorities by surprise.
The situation was similarly dramatic in the Montafon region, over towards the Silvretta high Alpine road, in the Great Walser Valley and on the Flexen route towards Zürs and Lech. The only vehicle up to the task was the 210 kW (286 hp) Unimog U 500 fitted with a Schmidt 105 front-end snow cutter – clearing width 2.60 metres. This combination proved extremely effective in clearing the exceptional volume of snow from the roads, according to Helmut Feuerstein, technical director of the Felsenau depot.
4-wheel steering for exceptional manoeuvrability in snow
The metre-high banks of snow on either side of the road demand precision work from the Unimog's driver. It is in situations like this that the transferable steering system VarioPilot and the 4-wheel steering system really come into their own. With 4‑wheel steering the Unimog becomes considerably more manoeuvrable than it already is, while its turning circle is reduced by up to 30 percent. It means that the snow cutter can clear bends far more quickly these days.
Before the advent of 4-wheel steering, it was necessary to begin by cutting extra bays into a bend in order to achieve the necessary curve radius. It was a long-winded process that involved a lot of turning and forward and backward manoeuv res. Mercedes-Benz Special Trucks now offers this unique technology as a variant for Unimog, Econic and all municipal and fire-fighting vehicles.
The Unimog fleet at the Felsenau depot comprises two U 500 models with 4-wheel steering as well as a third U 500. Then there are a U 1000 and a U 130, plus a 29-year-old U 406, known affectionately by the Felsenau team as the "Buffalo". It is apparently indestructible and can be fitted with various attachments and implements to cope with even the trickiest operational situations that can arise on Alpine roads. Working in the heavy snow that fell earlier this year, the six Unimog vehicles were once again crucial to delivering the broad spectrum of activities demanded of the Felsenau fleet.
Best practice example for winter maintenance specialists from across Europe
The exemplary way in which the snow on the Arlberg was cleared – and the cost-effectiveness of this approach for the operator – also became a talking point among Alpine winter maintenance experts from across Europe. A stream of experts with an interest in this field have since made their way to the Vorarlberg to see the benefits of a Unimog with 4-wheel steering being demonstrated on the Arlberg Pass.
Even the road maintenance service experts from Andorra, who have been Unimog customers for many years, were persuaded to come along and see for themselves the superior performance of the Unimog with 4-wheel steering. A demonstration of its capabilities on the Arlberg so convinced Andorra's representatives that they immediately placed an order for six Mercedes-Benz Unimog U 500 with 4-wheel steering.