When you’re learning to drive a truck, one of the choices you must make is whether to learn to drive an automatic or a manual transmission vehicle. For many years, manual transmission semi-trucks were the preferred vehicle type, and people who drove automatic transmission vehicles were few and far in between. Today, those numbers have almost reversed. Many older drivers still know how to drive a manual, but newer drivers are trained on automatics, and have little understanding of how manuals operate.
Knowing the difference between these two vehicles, including the pros and cons of learning to drive each, can help you decide which type of truck is right for you. Here’s what you need to know.
Differences Between Automatic and Manual Transmission Trucks
The biggest difference between a manual transmission vehicle and an automatic transmission vehicle is the way the truck shifts gears. A manual transmission vehicle requires a person to shift the gears, while an automatic transmission vehicle uses a computer to do this job. To shift the gears in a manual transmission truck, a person must use a clutch and gas pedals to signal to the vehicle that it’s time to shift upward or downward.
Why Have Automatic Transmission Vehicles Been Slow to Catch On?
Automatic transmissions have been around for a while, but for many years, the technology was very flawed. Trucks would stick in the wrong gear for too long or would struggle to shift while on inclines and in declines. The technology was inefficient and problematic. Today’s automatic transmissions are much better, and as a result, automatics are the preferred vehicle type for many transportation companies. These vehicles are considered easier to manage and more efficient than manual transmission.
“Approximately 80% of the fleet with major employers are now automatic, however where it becomes a challenge is if a drivers normal vehicle breaks down or they have equipment challenges, says Matt Daly, Corporate Director of Education. “Having an automatic only restriction on your license will mean it might be more difficult to secure similar replacement equipment. So many employers still indicate a preference for a driver whose license is not automatic restricted.”
Pros and Cons of Learning to Drive Manual Transmission
If you’re leaning toward learning to drive a manual transmission, you should first know the pros and cons of learning to drive this type of vehicle. For some people, manual transmissions are the perfect vehicle for them. For others, manual transmissions cause more problems than they’re worth.
Pro: Manual Transmissions Are Less Expensive
If you’re considering driving your own truck down the road, you may someday prefer a manual transmission. Manual transmission vehicles can cost less money to buy, and their transmissions can cost less money to fix. The up-front costs of driving a manual transmission are lower, and that can make a big difference for someone who is starting off on their own as an owner/operator.
Pro: Can Accept Jobs Driving Manual Transmission Vehicles
A person who has trained on an automatic transmission vehicle is not someone who can easily make the switch to a manual transmission semi-truck. If you’re interested in a job that involves a manual transmission vehicle, then this is the type of vehicle that you’ll want to learn to drive.
Con: You’ll Never Best the Computer
Manual transmission vehicles rely on human judgment to determine when the best time is to shift gears, while automatic transmission vehicles rely on computers to decide for them when the gears should shift. Although automatic transmission vehicles started off less efficient and buggier, over time, these vehicles have become the more efficient option. In other words, you’ll never be able to drive a manual transmission vehicle as efficiently as an automatic transmission vehicle.
Pros and Cons of Learning to Drive Automatic Transmission
There are many advantages to learning to drive an automatic transmission vehicle, and many people choose to learn on this type of truck as a result. In fact, many driving schools now teach far more students to drive automatic transmissions. Here’s what you need to know.
Pro: Greater Efficiency
Automatic transmissions usually rely on computer technology to shift gears. Computers use information such as the load, the grade, and what the engine needs, and then this information is used to make the transmission shift as needed. This makes automatic transmissions more fuel efficient.
Pro: More Trucking Companies Use Automatic Transmissions
Trucking companies have been making the shift to automatic transmissions over time, for many reasons. Automatic transmissions are easier to use and provide a more relaxing driving experience. Teaching someone to drive an automatic is easier than teaching someone to drive a manual. Finally, automatic transmissions have better fuel efficiency.
As a result, many trucking companies specifically recruit people who have learned to drive automatic transmissions, and students who were trained to drive an automatic transmission can have an advantage over those who learned manual.
Pro: Automatic Transmissions Are the Way of the Future
As time goes on, automatic transmissions will likely become even more popular and prevalent in the industry.
“We suggest our students first train and test on an automatic vehicle,” says Daly. “Once they are comfortable with lane control and handling a vehicle on the road they can decide if they want to spend additional time learning to shift a manual transmission and can always have the restriction removed in the future.”
Con: Some Companies Still Use Manual Transmissions
Some companies still use manual transmissions for various reasons, and students who learn how to drive an automatic are all but incapable of driving a manual without special training. This can limit your choices if you’re just starting your career and have your eye on a company that uses manual vehicles.
Make the Right Decisions for Your Truck Driving Education
The truck driving industry is fast-growing and people who can drive trucks are in high demand. At Daly’s Truck Driving School, we can answer your questions to help you decide which type of transmission to learn to use. We offer support to our students step by step through the training process.
“We are a partner in your training even if it’s years after you graduate,” says Daly. “So, if you do choose the automatic restriction initially and then want to return to have that restriction removed, we are always here to help whether it’s days or decades afterwards.”