Tankfreund in German magazine "Autoflotte"

This article originally appeared inCar fleet, Issue 5 in 2021.

The human factor

Simona Schulze has had the fleet for outpatient care under control at the DRK Lüneburg for 14 years. She is currently equipping each of the 30 VW Up with a„Tankfreund“ – a simple misfuelling protection.

Tankfreund in the german fleet management magazine Autoflotte
Simona Schulze has 30 VW Up in her fleet. Tankfreund supplies the misfuelling protection tool. Photos: Susanne Löw / Autoflotte + Tankfreund (1)

„My middle name is telephone operator", says Simona Schulze. And you immediately believe the head of nursing at the DRK Lüneburg when she lists how many tasks she has coordinated in the entire district for 14 years: 55 qualified nurses and support staff take care of home nursing and treatment, housekeeping activities and assisted living in 47 apartments in the region. The vehicle fleet with 30 leased VW Up, which the employees use for outpatient care, is also in their care.

„Around seven vehicles are picked up at the headquarters every day for the shifts, the rest of the vehicles are taken home by the employees for local assignments, reports Schulze. A service instruction regulates the exclusion of private trips. After many years in which outpatient care drove an Opel fleet to the care missions, the DRK switched to VW for the first time a year ago. Lüneburg has always been leasing. On the basis of evaluations of the documented journeys, I regularly swap the vehicles so that all of them neither exceed nor fall below the mileage of 60,000 kilometers within three years", says Schulze.

Corona requirements for helpers

Corona does not make the service that the care team in Lüneburg provides easier - on the contrary: We did not transport private passengers, relatives or customers in the past, reports Schulze. Since Corona, however, there have been stricter hygiene requirements in the form of intensified disinfection practices. Everyone must wear mouth and nose protection if an employee is sitting in the car with a colleague or a trainee.“

There are also strict requirements for colleagues in the rescue service of the DRK Lüneburg during the pandemic: relatives of patients are no longer allowed to ride in the ambulance, with the exception of parents of children. Wheelchairs and other aids are transported despite the pandemic. "The costly special disinfection of our emergency vehicles has also increased exorbitantly due to Corona", reports Dennis Kirsch, deputy rescue service manager. "In addition, the highly alcoholic disinfectants are already attacking the plastic materials in the vehicle.“


Tankfreund misfuelling protection tool for red cross

It all started in the rescue service of the DRK (left) Two ambulance vehicles and seven ambulances belong to the fast troop (right))


The care and rescue devisions benefit equally from innovations. So it was the colleagues from the rescue service who brought the misfuelling protection tool "Tankfreund" to Lüneburg. Because DRK district area manager Marcel Stürmer got to know Nico Wienberg, who had invented the patented Tankfreund together with his brother two years ago, at a trade fair and was immediately convinced of the simple and inexpensive solution: a robust misfueling protection tool, which inevitably indicates the correct fuel before and during the refueling process. It can be easily attached with a self-adhesive flap, which is equipped with a special high-performance adhesive, behind the tank cap above the filler neck.


DRK Tankschutz
The tank cap does not always give clear indications, but the Tankfreund does.


Always ready for action

The driver cannot escape the hint when refuelling and that was exactly the goal. "It was clear to us: We had to start with the human factor, with their attention", reports Wienberg from product development. We also wanted a simple and inexpensive product that could offer comprehensive protection against incorrect fuelling and thus against vehicle breakdowns and expensive repairs for all models. In the meantime, the Wienberg brothers have delivered several thousand "Tankfreunde" to private individuals, companies, insurance businesseswho use the "Tankfreund" as a useful give-away for their customers, as well as to various emergency services, where a vehicle failure proves to be particularly serious. "Also the car sharing company Cambio Rheinland has been relying on our Tankfreund for a year and a half and has not had any problems with incorrectly refuelled cars since then", adds Wienberg..

After the diesel rescue vehicles at the DRK Lüneburg were equipped with the Tankfreund, Schulze now also received 30 items for the outpatient care fleet. "The fact that all of our vehicles in the care fleet are petrol means that we last misfuelled a long time ago", reports the care service manager. "However, so far I have had frequent telephone inquiries, especially from new employees or temporary workers, about what the company car should be refueled with. That is now obsolete, thanks to the Tankfreund." Schulze is also convinced of the solution because prevention is better than aftercare.

How the employees will react to the misfuelling protection when they open the fuel cap soon? "I'm excited", says Schulze, looking forward to the feedback. So she'll live up to her middle name again when she receives calls from the care team. But Simona "switchboard operator" Schulze still likes to pick up the phone after 14 years. ab.