It is enough to make our truck driving fathers and grandfathers roll over in their graves, but the fact remains that trucking services of all sizes are embracing automatic transmissions as they update their fleets. Independent operators are going the automatic transmission route as well. Despite manual transmissions being the standard for nearly 100 years, their days seem to be numbered now. That may be good news for you if you have been considering a career in truck driving but have been hesitant about learning to operate a manual transmission.
There are four primary reasons trucking services are going automatic. Before we get to those reasons, though, a little history is in order here.
There was no such thing as an automatic transmission when motor vehicles first hit the roads at the turn of the 20thcentury. By the time automatic transmission entered mass production in 1939, at least two generations of drivers had already learned how to use manual transmissions. Automatic transmissions were sold as ‘extras’ right up through the 1970s, with most people still preferring manual. Things have changed over the last 30 years.
Today, not many drivers ever learn how to operate manual transmissions. They are almost unheard of for passenger vehicles, and they are gradually being phased out of the commercial sector too. And that leads us to the previously mentioned four reasons trucking services are embracing automatic transmissions:
1. Better Fuel Economy
The automatic transmissions of the past were known to decrease fuel economy substantially. Being able to control a transmission manually allowed for optimal shifting patterns for maximum fuel savings. This is no longer the case. Computerized ignition systems and advanced gearing technologies now make automatic transmissions more fuel-efficient than their manual counterparts. As anyone in the trucking industry can tell you, fuel economy is vital to the bottom line.
2. Better Overall Control
Modern automatic transmissions also give drivers better control over their trucks. Technology allows for more controlled acceleration, more controlled ascents and descents, and safer operations in inclement weather. Better overall control makes a truck driver safer in both traffic and weather.
3. A Less Steep Learning Curve
Instructors at America’s CDL schools can testify how difficult it is to teach new drivers how to use a manual transmission in a big rig. In fact, shifting can be the most difficult task a truck driver has to learn. By transitioning to automatic, trucking companies and CDL schools are creating a less steep learning curve that reduces student anxiety and gets drivers to the licensing phase more quickly.
4. Less Driving Fatigue
Truck driving has long been known as an exhausting occupation due to the amount of work required for steering and shifting. Much of that reputation, earned by both the manual steering and shifting of the past, is no longer valid. Automatic transmissions reduce driver fatigue by eliminating one of the most physically challenging aspects of truck driving. Power steering greatly helps as well.
This last reason for embracing automatic transmissions has an added benefit to trucking services: they can offer positions to female drivers who would otherwise decline trucking employment out of fear that they could not handle the physical work of manual shifting. In short, manual transmissions and power steering are making it easier to recruit women.
It may seem sacrilegious to old-school truck drivers, but the trucking industry of the 21st century must keep up with the times. The fact is that transitioning to automatic transmissions is good for the industry and its drivers. It may not be much longer before trucks with manual transmissions go completely extinct.