A big part of training at any CDL school centers around one of the basic trucker skills—shifting gears. That’s getting a lot easier, both in training and out on the road, because of the increasing move to automatic transmissions for 18-wheelers. This is helping the industry become more attractive to women (see Overdrive and Global Perspectives for more on this), and it’s catching on for other reasons as well:

  • Manual shifting consumes more fuel than today’s computerized automatics.
  • Automatics relieve the driver of having to use gears to control the vehicle and can make it easier to handle steep up and downgrades.
  • Automatic transmissions (which usually have no more than five gears) are a lot easier to learn than manuals, which tend to have upwards of a dozen.
  • As noted, this makes recruiting new drivers easier.
  • The relative ease of use of automatics makes the overall job less tiring. It also helps reduce driver fatigue, stress, and mistakes.

Thus, automatic transmission is the future. Over the next eight years or so, we’ll reach a point where the only place you’ll see a manual transmission on a truck is in a mine or special load.

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