Despite the fact that most of the vehicles on the road primarily use automatic transmissions, most long and short range trucking companies have always favored manual transmissions, primarily because the automatics simply didn’t stand up to the type of work the drivers put their vehicles through. According to data collected by a global consulting firm, Frost & Sullivan, that could change. Based on data Frost & Sullivan collected that should a steady annual growth in the number of trucking firms that made the switch from manual to automatic transmissions since 2005, the company anticipates that most of the heavy haulers will be fitted with automatic transmissions by the year 2025.
The main reason that trucking firms have decide to change the type of transmission they use is economic. Keeping fuel in their rigs makes up between 50% and 65% of the average trucking firms main operating expense, and with the way the cost of fuel soared in recent years, the CEO’s of the trucking companies took any opportunity to make their fleet more fuel efficient seriously. One such opportunity is replacing the manual transmission with an automatic one. The amount of fuel the change in transmission saves the company can vary, but each one has noticed a significant decrease in the amount of fuel they go through, particularly during times when the running vehicle is standing idle.
Another issue that trucking firms have encountered is that the young drivers they’re hiring to replace the ones who have decided it’s time to retire aren’t familiar enough with the manual transmissions to smoothly handle their rigs, which results in hefty repair bills.
The automatic transmissions currently being put into heavy trucks are designed in such a way that they’re controlled electronically, and can be fitted with software that allows the trucking firm to keep accurate records regarding the performance of each truck in their fleet.
The one areas where firms aren’t having much success with automatic transmissions is in heavy trucks that weigh more than 16 tons. At this point, switching to an automatic transmission in a vehicle that size is not a fuel efficient choice, though that could change as technology continues to improve.