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August 13, 2018

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Shifting Gears Towards Automatic and Automated Transmissions

There was a time when you weren’t a real truck driver unless you manually shifted gears. Well, times are changing, and drivers and fleets are embracing automated transmissions more willingly than ever before.

In a trade magazine article one veteran driver said: “We're creatures of habit, and used to shifting — that's just the way it was for years and years. You think (with an automatic) that you're not going to have any control over your vehicle, but it's not like that.”

A new report from the NPTC showed that over 70 percent of private fleets spec’d automated transmissions in 2018.  That’s up from 40 percent in 2014.  We’ve been seeing the same trend at PacLease, yet we always give our customers a choice…they get to decide the specs of their own trucks – custom spec’ing is something not always offered by other leasing companies. It’s a very important differentiator between PacLease and other leasing companies.

Going forward, we feel the curve will continue upwards….And, here’s why:

Fuel savings, reduced maintenance costs and increased uptime are the big operational reasons for the industry preference of automated transmissions. But, perhaps the biggest reason of all – and it’s hard to argue – is the user-friendliness of the transmission.  They help driver recruitment and retention. What’s more, they elevate driving performance. A rookie’s performance is now closer to that of a seasoned operator – and who doesn’t want that?

Automated transmissions, like PACCAR’s proprietary 12-speed, integrate seamlessly with the drivetrain, and utilize predictive systems, to ensure the most optimal gearing for speed and conditions. What that means is that the transmission has been engineered to function the same with any driver.

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No stick shift means increased driver comfort. The PACCAR transmission has the shifter integrated with the engine brake controls and mounted on the steering column, allowing for more cab room and ease of transition from the drivers seat to the bunk area.  There’s also the safety factor in that drivers can now keep both hands on the wheel and their focus on the road.

Highway haulers might seem the easiest to adapt to shiftless technologies. Vocational truck operators in the bulk materials, aggregate and logging industries can benefit as well. Off-road, automatics provide better torque control to get the vehicle out of tough situations and lessening the possibility of damaging critical — and expensive — drive components. Vehicles in PACCAR Leasing’s portfolio also incorporate predictive cruise control utilizing GPS data to analyze terrain ahead – furthering performance.

And that veteran driver, what does he think of the shift (pardon the pun) towards automatic and automated transmissions?  “You’d be bullheaded,” he says, “not to want something to assist you in doing your job.”

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