Many fleets are shifting away from from manual transmissions. But why?
The reasoning is simple, fully automatic transmission mean improved fuel performance, less maintenance requirements, and less strain on the driver.
And as the transmission continues to improve, there is another theme developing here – the “thinking” transmission. A thinking transmission could play into future of developing an autonomous truck. While the self-driving aspect isn’t there yet, the advances that are being made in automated mechanical transmission certainly suggest it is on the way.
As Sandeep Kar, global vice president for mobility at consulting firm Frost & Sullivan says, “as the transmission gets smarter, the driver can then focus on more important things such as safe driving instead of what gear they are in. The transmission automatically gets the best fuel economy so neither the driver nor fleet needs to worry about it,” he says. “Making the transmission smarter also means getting more data from it, and that helps improve vehicle prognostic capability.”
Having a “thinking” transmission also means that the effort required to this otherwise very demanding job, will go down. This will result in a less fatigued, happier driver. Additionally, it will also go a long way in helping to recruit new, younger drivers
AMT Transmissions & Fuel
As anyone in the transportation industry knows, fuel is a huge cost. It is estimated that fuel savings with these new transmissions could be somewhere in the realm of 1-3%. That small % can equal a significant amount of dollars for fleets of all sizes, even the smaller operations.
Mike Roeth, NACFE executive director, notes that a 1 to 3% range is conservative because the electronic platform AMTs are built upon “opens the door” to other potential fuel savings, as the transmission is integrated with the truck’s engine, axles, and other systems.
As you can imagine, this makes the idea of adopting these transmissions very attractive. But, what about the cost?
Cost of AMT Transmissions
The cost of the automated manual transmissions is certainly the thing that will prevent widespread adoption. Based upon a survey conducted by Frost & Sullivan, “the premium for a medium-duty truck AMT versus a manual averages between $600 and $3,000, increasing to between $1,000 and $5,000 for heavy-duty units. Fuel savings, however, range from 3 to 10% for medium-duty trucks and 0 to 8% for heavy-duty units.”
Over time, yearly savings can range from roughly $2,000 – $4,000 per truck depending on the amount of miles driven. This can certainly add up in the long run and investing in the AMT transmissions is truly a matter of computing the upfront vs. long-term cost.
As with all new technology, particularly that related to an autonomous truck, only time will tell if this is something the market is ready to handle. One thing is for sure though, we are moving toward smarter trucks and improved comfort. Both of these things have the potential to make trucking a safer occupation for the drivers.
As part of our commitment to customers at Dickinson Fleet, we will continue to follow trends like this one and share important updates with our customers, technicians and potential clients.
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