Truck drivers have been manually shifting gears since the dawn of motorized logistics. Likewise, CDL schools have long placed a great emphasis on learning how to shift correctly. States have even included shifting techniques in their CDL exams. But things are changing. The trucking industry is embracing automatic transmissions more willingly than ever before.
We do not think it is an understatement to say that the automatic transmission is now in the process of transforming the trucking industry. And there are good reasons for this. Below are five such reasons, some of which might apply to your decision to go to CDL school.
1. Improved Fuel Economy
The trucking industry has resisted efforts to go to automatic transmissions because fuel economy has historically not been so good. In the earliest days of automatic transmissions, cars built with them used a lot more fuel. That is no longer the case. Modern technology that includes computerization has made the automatic transmission extremely efficient. A well-maintained automatic transmission now uses less fuel than a manual.
2. Improved Overall Performance
Today’s automatic transmission technology also improves the overall performance of trucks. Where drivers had to use gears strategically to maintain control of their vehicles in the past, everything is now handled automatically. That is a good thing. Automatic transmissions can help drivers maintain control going up or down steep grades, while traveling on slick roads, and when responding to emergency situations.
3. A Reduced Learning Curve
Manual shifting has long been one of the most difficult challenges of CDL training. Keep in mind that the average manual transmission truck has upwards of a dozen gears. Cars with manual transmissions usually max out at five gears. The point here is that learning to shift through the gears is a hard skill to learn. Transitioning to automatic transmissions reduces the learning curve for CDL students. It gets them through training faster and with more confidence.
4. Easier Recruitment
The need for manual shifting has been part of keeping women out of the industry for decades. It has also been a problem for younger drivers who have never been exposed to manual transmissions at any other point in their lifetimes. Transitioning to automatic transmissions just makes recruiting easier. Learning to drive trucks is a lot more attractive when people do not have to worry about learning to shift.
5. Better Working Conditions
Every job has certain working conditions that have to be contended with. For professional truck drivers, working conditions include what the driver actually does behind the wheel of his or her rig. Manual shifting plays a role inasmuch as it can be incredibly exhausting over an eight-to-ten-hour day.
Manual shifting requires a lot of concentration. It also requires considerable physical effort under certain conditions. Shifting is said to contribute to driver fatigue, stress and, unfortunately, mistakes. Simply by eliminating the need to shift manually, trucking companies are improving working conditions for their drivers.
Are You Ready to Train?
Our industry has still not reached the point where the majority of trucks on the road have automatic transmissions. But we are quickly approaching that day. It will not be much longer before manual transmissions are a thing of the past. If you begin a career as a truck driver now, it is quite likely that you will train on both automatic and manual vehicles. It is also likely that you will be driving automatics exclusively at some point in your career.
So, are you ready to train to be a professional truck driver? We would love the opportunity to speak with you about it.