Manual vs Automatic Trucking

For years, semi-trucks with manual transmissions were the standard, but advances in technology have led to a new generation of automatic trucks. Many trucker drivers prefer the simplicity and ease of an automatic rig, while others continue to enjoy the control they get by driving a vehicle with a manual transmission. 

Manual Transmission in Semi-Trucks

A manual transmission in semi-trucks is a gearbox system where the driver uses a clutch and gear shift to change speeds, slow down, and control the vehicle. This transmission system allows truckers to choose different gear ratios to drive the rig. Lower gear ratios provide more torque but less speed, while higher ratios are the opposite. 

Automatic Transmission in Semi-Trucks

An automatic transmission in semi-trucks differs from that of a car. It is a manual transmission system that uses automation through computers, actuators, and sensors to tell the vehicle when to shift. 

What’s the Difference?

Trucking companies are moving to automatic transmissions for various reasons, including ease of driving and fuel economy. However, one of the main draws of manual semi-trucks is vehicle control.

Ease of Driving

Driving a vehicle with an automatic transmission is simpler than using a manual, and semi-trucks are no exception. An automatic model can adapt to slight changes in speed and keep the truck running smoothly, while manuals require the driver to constantly shift gears as their driving speed varies. 

Fuel Economy

One of the greatest expenses in the trucking industry is fuel costs. While seasoned manual truckers have experience driving to save fuel, in general, semi-trucks with an automatic transmission tend to have better fuel efficiency compared to those with manual transmissions. The simplified system allows the engine to operate at a more efficient rate, leading to better use of fuel and improved mileage.

Vehicle Control

One of the advantages of a manual semi-truck is that drivers are more in control of their vehicles. Manually shifting helps your rig gain momentum faster, and this transmission also handles better in winter weather conditions. Being in control of shifting your truck also helps keep truckers awake during long hauls or night driving.

Removing the Automatic Restriction

If you take your commercial driver’s license (CDL) skills test in a vehicle with an automatic transmission, you will have an automatic restriction on your license. This means you can’t drive a commercial vehicle with a manual transmission. Even though many fleets are switching to automatic, it can still limit your career options, so it’s helpful to remove this restriction. 

Ready to Get Started?

If you want to take the first step toward a career in trucking, start by attending HDS Truck Driving Institute (HDS truck driving school). We can prepare you for local, regional, or over-the-road trucking routes, and we have opportunities for solo and team drivers. Along with education, we help our students find resources to finance truck driving school and assist with job placement. We use manual semi-trucks for training, so you won’t have an automatic restriction on your license. 

Contact us today to learn more about our CDL training program.