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Rise of the automatic and automated manual transmissions?

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Jason Morgan is the editor of Fleet Equipment. He has more than 14 years of B2B journalism experience covering the likes of trucking and construction equipment, real estate, movies and craft beer industries.

With the growing popularity of automatic and AMT transmissions, and the focus on fuel efficiency, what will become of the tried and true manual transmissions?

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“As the driver pool becomes less experienced, I think we’ll continue to see some transition to automation, but there will always be a good place for manual transmissions in the market,” said Ryan Trzybinski, development and product planning manager for Eaton. “The manual is still a very efficient component if driven correctly. It’s extremely reliable. It’s proven—millions have gone down the roads with unparalleled reliability. Anytime you add an AMT, you’re going to add some complexity to your truck, but you are also going to be adding to better overall vehicle performance.”

The other side of the equation is the younger, less experienced driver pool that doesn’t have the manual shifting experience.

“AMTs are seeing an increasing acceptance in the marketplace and in a growing number of applications,” said Charles Cook, Peterbilt product marketing segment manager. “This can be attributed to more people having experience with the transmissions and improvements in reliability, as well as enhancements to the technology responsible for communication between the engine and transmission which has led to more efficient, optimized shift points.”

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Be sure to read our full feature on automatic and automated manual transmissions

Safety transmission

In addition to efficiency, one of the biggest selling points of automatic and AMT transmissions is the safety component. The driver can have two hands on the wheel and two eyes on the road at all times—resulting in less distracted driving. AMT and automatic transmissions also allow the driver to pay attention to the road, rather than the RPMs and when to shift. Some transmissions, like the AMT offered by Eaton, institute a hill-hold feature that keeps the truck stationary when going from stopped on a hill into gear, eliminating rollback. In addition, drivers have reported being less fatigued when driving an automatic and/or AMT.

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