Report: Autoshifting Transmissions Save Fuel, Could Ease Driver Shortage

December 22, 2014

By Tom Berg

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Automatic and automated manual transmissions save fuel, enhance safety, and can widen the pool of potential drivers and help alleviate a growing industry shortage, says a report just released by the North American Council for Freight Efficiency and the Carbon War Room.

The report verifies what manufacturers and many users have been saying about modern self-shifting gearboxes for some time.

Fuel savings range from 1% to 3%, the report’s executive summary says. And because the transmissions are easy to use, inexperienced drivers can be recruited and put to work without have to learn to shift manual transmissions. Safety is better because attention can be paid to guiding a truck through traffic and not to shifting gears.

For ease of terminology, the study uses “electronically controlled” to describe both automated manual and torque-converter automatic transmissions. It considered automated products from four manufacturers and an on-road automatic from one builder.

Conclusions were based on interviews or surveys of fleet managers and truck builder representatives. “In total, 59 fleets participated in that survey, of which 29 had first-hand knowledge with electronically controlled transmissions,” the report summary said. 

“I think we'll look at 2014/2015 as the tipping point when the new norm is automated manuals,” said Mike Roeth of NACFE, who led the study.

Builders recently said that about 30% of new Class 8 trucks now get automated transmissions, and the percentage is growing. One heavy truck builder has said the penetration for its automated transmission is above 70% and at a sister company it’s above 50%.

A downside to automated and automatic products is greater complexity and new maintenance requirements. And there’s been a historical loss of residual value because second owners are suspicious of the products, the report stated. But trucks purchased now with automated and automatic transmissions are likely to command a premium by the time they’re sold.

The full Confidence Report is available from NACFE at It is the fourth report on modern truck components issued by NACFE, a research organization funded by manufacturers, and the Carbon War Room, an ecology minded group of business leaders. 


  1. 1. haller [ December 23, 2014 @ 03:17PM ]

    Don't you just love it ! ! INEXPERIENCED DRIVERS are now as good as AMERICAN EXPERIENCED DRIVERS. You scoundrels realize you are a contributing factor for more truck accidents on American roads.

  2. 2. Desperado [ December 27, 2014 @ 12:34PM ]

    I can tell you this ...I been around diesel trucks all my life . Working on them and driving them. I have had the chance to drive Freightliner's and Volvo's automatics last year and this coming year. I learned the old school way of shifting gears by rpm .Only used the clutch to start and stop, I'll tell you this ...I love those automatics in the over the rode rigs! You are able to pay more attention to the road . I wouldn't say the automatics are for every road application. But man , l love the getting in and hitting the road without all the time having to keep the right gear range and in heavy traffic with a lot of stops and starts saves your leg and knee caps . I know that the autos require different maintenance then the ol 15 inch clutch ,but I'm pretty sure that the automatics are here to stay and will pretty much become main stream in the trucking industry. To each his own , but give me a big automatic to ride around in any day . Take It Easy.


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