A Guide to Manual and Automatic Transmissions for Truckers

Truck drivers across the country have been driving trucks with manual transmissions for years and years. But with newer cars phasing out manuals, few new drivers have experience with anything but automatic transmissions, and the industry could be on the verge of a major change. There are advantages to both transmission types, and ultimately the decision comes down to what’s best for the individual driver and the fleet. Here’s a brief breakdown of the differences to help you understand what best suits your needs. 

What a New Truck Driver Needs to Know About Transmissions


For decades, manual transmissions have been the standard technology in almost all semi-trucks. They function entirely mechanically, allowing the driver to manipulate the gearbox to achieve different levels of speed and torque. A manual transmission puts the decision-making in the hands of the driver, who has to judge when it is best to change gears and what gear ratio is ideal for the driving conditions. While automatic transmissions have been standard in cars for decades, the information a computer needs to properly shift a truck is complex and difficult to track. This made early automatic transmissions infeasible, and the industry at large stuck with manuals.


Now that computing technology has caught up to the demands of the industry, automatic transmissions are becoming increasingly common and may even be the new industry standard within a few years. An automatic transmission allows the engine and the transmission to share data on how the truck is performing and what it needs at any given moment. If the engine computers determine that the truck needs more speed or power, it sends that information to the transmission computer, causing the vehicle to shift gears to accommodate. 

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How They Compare

Benefits of Automatic

With data integration getting better all the time, modern automatic transmissions are able to run more efficiently than ever. In general, this means that truck drivers with an automatic transmission will use less fuel, have an easier time on high-grade roads, and accelerate faster. These benefits will only improve along with the technology. Automatic transmissions also require less concentration while driving, leading to less exhaustion and fatigue at the end of a workday.

Benefits of Manual

Because manual transmissions have been standard in the industry for so long, many experienced drivers are comfortable with them and can use them to great effect. A skilled truck driver will generally have better handling in a manual and may be more confident behind the wheel. Manual transmissions also contain fewer sensitive components like computers and gauges, making them much simpler and more cost-effective to fix.

If you’re looking to break into the trucking industry, enroll at Hamrick School in Medina, OH. This fully licensed and accredited trucking school has trained new truck drivers for success on the road for over 40 years. They offer both advanced and master-level driving courses as well as a robust financial aid program. Learn more about their classes online, and call (330) 239-2229 to discuss financial aid today. 

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