Quality Has a Name

Interview with Sven Schallach, CEO of HSL Netherlands and Sales Director of HSL Europe

HSL EURO 9000 Locomotive
The EURO 9000 locomotive operates hybrid, with diesel and electric

Rail transport is an important pillar in international transport, but compared to other modes of transport, it has hardly any lobby. HSL Logistik GmbH is the largest privately owned railway transport company in Germany. Sven Schallach, CEO of HSL Netherlands and Sales Director of HSL Europe, advocates for more cross-media cooperation in European transport in the context of current global political events.

Wirtschaftsforum: Mr. Schallach, as an expert in rail transport, what type of transports do you focus on?

Sven Schallach: We have been on the market for almost 20 years now and are the largest privately owned rail transport company in Germany. In total, we have 55 locomotives. We transport a wide variety of goods, such as containers, trailers, cars, grain, or hazardous goods, here for example liquid fuels, across Europe. Currently, hazardous goods like mineral oil, kerosene, gasoline, diesel, and chemical products are important for us. In 2022, we transported about twelve million tons of goods by rail. We are active in the spot market to 95%, so we always know quite shortly in advance what we will be transporting.

Wirtschaftsforum: You operate across Europe. From which countries do your customers come?

Sven Schallach, CEO of HSL Netherlands and Sales Director of HSL Europe
Sven Schallach, CEO of HSL Netherlands and Sales Director of HSL Europe

Sven Schallach: A large part of our clients come from Eastern Europe, frequently from the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary. Moreover, we also serve companies from Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. In Switzerland and Austria, we have had licenses for three years. Here, we want to establish ourselves even more strongly in the coming time. In addition, we aim to expand towards Southern and Northern Europe. We already have our own branches in eight European countries. In the remaining markets, we are represented by partners.

HSL Logistics Train
In 2022, HSL trains transported around twelve million tons of goods by rail
HSL Logistics Mascot
HSL Logistics stands for team spirit and humanity; here the company mascot

Wirtschaftsforum: We are talking about transport. How do you face climate change and the issue of alternative drives?

Sven Schallach: We operate five new EURO 9000 locomotives. These are hybrid locomotives that fully replace diesel and electric locos. For example, the locos can travel to Munich electrically, lower the pantographs there, and then enter the terminal on diesel. These locomotives are more expensive, but also heavier, meaning they can pull higher loads. This is an important argument, since customers always want to transport higher loads. Grain companies, for example, sell exclusively by the ton.

Wirtschaftsforum: In light of current world political events, how do you assess the current market outlook and perspectives?

Sven Schallach: Currently, we notice a slight reluctance in the container market. I am a convinced European. We need to act more collectively in Europe. Of course, the various cultures should remain, but we need to standardize and thus simplify processes. For example, English should be spoken at all borders. In the truest sense of the word, we need a common language in Europe to avoid bottle necks. Moreover, this creates more security. A good example is international air travel. Here, pilots from different airlines all speak English with each other, there is a standard vocabulary. In addition, all modes of transport must be treated equally. In rail transport, we still need a lot of extra permits. All modes of transport must be used effectively and efficiently, preferably cross-media. There should be no opposition here. The car lobby in Germany is strong. The railway does not have such a lobby.

HSL Logistics Train
HSL Logistics is at home on the rails across Europe
HSL Logistics GGVE Train
HSL also transports hazardous goods from different sectors, here a GGVE train

Wirtschaftsforum: What are your plans for the year 2024?

Sven Schallach: We would like to maintain a stable position in the market and become more well-known. That's also the reason for our new slogan. The shortage of skilled workers remains an important issue. Here, we will position ourselves even more strongly as an attractive employer. Our employees should enjoy coming to us and want to stay with us.

Wirtschaftsforum: Where do you see HSL Logistik in the medium to long term in the market?

Sven Schallach: I see HSL at the top of the market across Europe. But despite all our growth plans, it is especially important for us to remain a reliable partner for our customers. What's crucial for the future is that the European idea is lived more strongly, both politically and socially. Only together can we cope with the current and future challenges. Cultures must make compromises to remain competitive outside of Europe as well.