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Beyond the Gear Shift: 5 Forces Accelerating the Adoption of Automatic Transmissions in Heavy Duty Trucking

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Beyond the Gear Shift: 5 Forces Accelerating the Adoption of Automatic Transmissions in Heavy Duty Trucking

Why the PACCAR TX-12 Automatic Transmission Has Made Believers out of Old-School Truckers

Less than a decade ago, a mere 10% of heavy-duty trucks rolled off the production line with automatic transmissions. Fast forward to today, and nearly 90% of these heavy trucks come equipped with automatic transmissions. So, what’s behind this dramatic shift away from manual shifting?

Manual shifting, long favored for offering drivers ultimate control in varying road conditions, terrain, and load types, is facing a formidable challenger—the automatic transmission.

The Automatic Appeal: A Decade of Transformation

While automatic transmissions have been a staple in vehicles for decades, the trucking industry’s recent adoption has been nothing short of revolutionary. Here are the top 5 reasons driving this monumental change:

  1. Training and Certification Simplified: The move towards automatic transmissions simplifies training and certification for drivers. Quicker and less complex training expands the pool of available drivers. This trend began even before the pandemic as companies realized the scarcity of drivers proficient in manual transmissions.
  2. Technology Advancements: Early automatic transmissions faced issues like clunkiness, inefficiency, and high maintenance costs. However, today’s automatics have undergone significant improvements in materials, software, and heat management. These advancements have won over even the most ardent manual transmission enthusiasts.
  3. Improved Fuel Efficiency: Modern automatic transmissions have closed the historical gap in fuel economy compared to their manual counterparts. For fleet operators aiming to reduce operational costs, improved fuel efficiency is a significant factor influencing the shift.
  4. Driver Recruitment: Many drivers, particularly those entering the industry recently, prefer the simplicity and ease of use offered by automatic transmissions. This preference becomes a crucial factor in driver recruitment and retention for trucking companies.
  5. Greater Selection of Reliable Automatic Transmissions: As more drivers switch to automatics, transmission manufacturers gain experience, leading to a significant drop in the cost of purchasing automatic transmissions.
The PACCAR TX-12 Transmission: Leading the Charge

While several excellent automatic transmissions exist today, the PACCAR TX-12, debuted in October 2016, stands out as a dynamic choice. Specifically designed to automate gear shifting for heavy-duty vehicles, it offers several advantages:

  • Improved Fuel Efficiency: The primary goal of the TX-12 transmission is to enhance fuel efficiency, crucial for reducing operating costs in commercial trucking.
  • Smooth Shifting: Designed for precise gear changes, the TX-12 contributes to driver comfort and potentially reduces wear and tear on the drivetrain. Smooth shifting is especially apparent at low speeds, and the ability of the TX-12 to skip shift has made a huge difference in changing driver opinions.
  • Advanced Electronics: Equipped with advanced electronic controls, the transmission monitors various parameters in real-time to make optimal gear shift decisions.
  • Integration with PACCAR MX Engines: Designed for seamless interaction with PACCAR MX series engines, optimizing overall performance and fuel efficiency.
  • Ease of Use with E Brake: The transmission seamlessly integrates with your E brake, offering four settings: low, medium, high, and max.

But what drivers rave about more than anything else when reviewing the PACCAR TX-12 is the performance in heavy traffic. The intuitive shifting makes driving in traffic a breeze and the roadway safer for everyone.

The Automatic Future

While manual transmissions will always have a place in the Heavy Duty Trucking industry, the automatic transmission has become the standard, not the exception. The PACCAR TX-12, with its impressive specifications and performance, is a testament to the future of heavy-duty trucking.

The PACCAR TX-12 By The Numbers:
  • Gears: 12 Forward / 2 Reverse
  • Lower Cruise Speed Limit: 1,100 RPM Torque
  • Capacity: 1,850 LB.-FT.
  • Oil Capacity: 16 Pints
  • System Weight (Transmission, Clutch, & Oil): 657 LB.
  • Maximum Operating Weight: 110,000 LB.
  • PTO Maximum Capacity: 8-Bolt, Bottom Mount, 95HP
  • Fluid Pressure Sensor Protection from Gear Burnup
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