If you are new to the trucking industry or considering a career as a truck driver, there is one key to being a success. You have to know how to drive a big rig. In the past, tractor trucks came standard issue with an 18-speed transmission. This required you to learn how to shift those gears before you could get a commercial driver’s license. This was not a problem for most newbie truckers, since a good portion of passenger cars came with a stick shift. Not the case anymore, and trucking companies like Schneider National are following suit. By transitioning to automatic transmissions, truckers who don’t have manual driving experience are better positioned to be able to drive a big rig.
Benefits of Going Automatic Manual in Trucking
Why would a company as big as Schneider, currently ranked No. 6 among the Top 100 for-hire carriers, spend the money to make all trucks automatic manual? According to Schneider VP of Equipment, Maintenance, and Driver Recruiting, Rob Reich, “We have been testing various versions of automated transmission tractors since 2007, so we had a lot of experience behind us when we made the decision in 2015 to start transforming the fleet.” There are also several benefits in doing so including:
- Automatic transmissions are more energy efficient, which means they use less fuel and give off fewer diesel emissions making the trucks on board with environmental expectations.
- Automatics are easier to operate especially for the millennial trucking generation that didn’t grow up using a stick shift.
- An automatic transmission requires less maintenance compared to standard manual transmissions.
By choosing to convert more than half of its fleet with automated manual transmissions, Schneider is hoping to improve its trucking capabilities. In addition to spending less on fuel, the company is striving to spend less on job recruitment and driver turnover. Equipping new drivers with less taxing and tedious trucking equipment will in turn give them less cause to want to quit their trucking job at Schneider and go somewhere else.
Schneider’s AMT Plan
Furthermore, Schneider National expects to have its entire fleet converted to AMTs by 2019. This would make Schneider the biggest trucking company in the US that will have gone completely automatic. So how do truckers and higher-ups feel about this transition in transmissions?
Reich notes that, “Ever since [we started transitioning], we have been very impressed with the dependability of these tractors. In fact, we’ve had fewer maintenance issues with them than we’ve seen with the manual-transmission tractors, which is not what we expected. We’re extremely pleased with the performance of these vehicles—and more importantly, so are drivers.”
Jim Czachor, a long time Schneider truck driver, who was on board with the pilot test for the program, said, “At first, I was wondering what I got myself into, so I asked my dispatcher, ‘If I absolutely can’t stand this, can I have my 10-speed manual back?’ Well, long story short, there’s no way I’d ever go back to a manual transmission.”
Among the newer truck driving recruits, there is even more enthusiasm for the switchover. Pam Taylor, Schneider National truck driver, added, “I learned how to drive on a manual at a truck driving school, but I’ve been driving an automated [transmission] since shortly after joining Schneider. Once I got in it, I was in love with it, and I prefer it over a manual any day! It’s easier to drive, and I also feel safer behind the wheel because it allows me to keep my focus on the road. I don’t have to shift down if something jumps out in front of me.”
Future of Truck Driving
We can expect to see more trucking companies, especially the larger carriers with a bigger budget for retrofitting and upgrading trucks, move toward AMTs in the future. There are too many pros for automatic manual transmissions in the trucking world to let this type of equipment be left by the wayside. As the trucking industry continues to increase its need for truck drivers, while looking for ways to cut fuel costs, automatics fit the bill and then some. Bottom line, if truck drivers are willing to operate an automatic with little resistance, then you can bank on other carriers taking up this more efficient, easier-to-operate type of transmission in big rigs.
Source: Schneider – Newsroom