Automatic vs Manual transmissions in Semi trucks 

I have to first make a disclaimer. I’m a bigot. I seem to look down my nose at those that drive trucks with automatic transmissions. The automatic is for the (as my son-in-law would say) La La Sissy Pants who can’t shift. 

Most of those people don’t have a choice. The company they drive for made the decision to change their entire fleet over to automatics. 

My introduction to the confounded things was back in 2005. Joe and I picked up trucks from US Express in California – near Fontana – and that was a sickening ride if I’ve ever had one. 

From a full stop to the first gear, pressing the accelerator while easing out the clutch, the stupid thing lunged forward for a split second. Pressing my back against the seat before sending my chest into the steering wheel as it shifted to second gear, then back into the seat to spool up for third gear. All this was within a span of 20 feet!  

Yay!  I had about a mile and a half of stop and go traffic before I would reach the interstate. That was THE most intolerable mile and a half EVER. The truck didn’t get higher than fourth gear for 15 minutes for all the stop and go. 

Once out on the highway I was a menace, I tell you. Each time I was knocked back into the seat as the engine spooled to shift, then  decreased speed tossing me forward as it shifted up I was all over the highway. Snaking around like I was drunk. Off the highway and on the shoulder, make a correction while the truck was accelerating or decelerating and I’d be off into the lane to my left. 

I cussed that truck the entire way to its destination of Phoenix, Arizona. I was so glad to get out of that stupid thing. 

My dislike of automatics have their roots in that first trip that made me so sick from all the back and forth. I got car sick really bad. Not bad enough to loop plastic bag handles over my ears to puke in the bag – just sick enough to know that I was in immenent danger of blowing chunks. 

After that experience, every time I check out a truck and find it is an automatic I invariably utter “sh*t”. 

The newer models of trucks with automatic transmissions have no clutch pedal. 

The shifting device is on the dash console. 

Automatic transmissions are supposed to be more fuel efficient and get better mileage. This one isn’t even getting six miles to the gallon. 

For an automatic transmission to work properly the batteries have to be in good condition. Low voltage means “Honey, you ain’t getting very far”. Trust me. I’ve learned that one the hard way. 

Manual transmissions are my preference. Nine or 18 speed doesn’t matter. Just as long as it is manual is all I care about. 

We will have these trucks delivered to Houston, Texas tomorrow and I will be out of that thing. Thank God it shifts smooth and is not all jerky. 

I’ll be home for two weeks in just a couple days and I won’t be thinking of any of this business during that time. I will be in my craft room. 



43 days and counting. 

We left Oklahoma City on March 30, 2016 for Nashville, Tennessee. 

March 31 we had a starter replaced in Brinkley, Arkansas. A $600 unplanned set back. 

On April 1, we picked up four trucks at Western Express in Nashville, Tennessee. 

Trucks were delivered to Carter Lake, Iowa. A suburb of Omaha, Nebraska. 

April 5 we picked up two trucks in Rockford, Illinois going to Houston, Texas. 

April 8 we picked up four powder blue trucks from Houston, Texas going to Buna, Texas the same day. 

April 11 we were in New Orleans, Louisiana to get four trucks going to auction in Tunica, Mississippi. We were delayed a day because the trucks weren’t ready. Delivered them on April 13. 

April 14 was in Lebanon, Tennessee to get four trucks going to Burr Ridge, Illinois on April 15. 

Had a bit of a sticky mess with the truck I drove. Gear shift knob was nasty. Had to put a Baggie on it. 

April 15 was Sturtavant, Wisconsin for two trucks going to Elizabeth, New Jersey. 

There was supposed to be a single truck for me in Fort Wayne, Indiana going to Elizabeth, New Jersey. All we got in Fort Wayne was bed bugs at the Red Roof Inn. 

 On April 19 Joe had to drive over 200 miles out of route to Pikeville, Kentucky for my two trucks going to Kearny, New Jersey. About 8 miles from where Joe was delivering. 
April 25 we were in Greer, South Carolina to get four trucks going to auction in Frankfort Springs, Pennsylvania. 

April 27 we were in Concord, North Carolina to get four trucks going to Covington, Tennessee. These poor trucks were in sad shape. We delivered them on April 30. 


May 1 was in Rainbow City, Alabama for two trucks then off to Fairburn and Atlanta, Georgia to round out the four trucks going to Indianapolis, Indiana. That was a TARFU trip. (Things Are Really Fouled Up). 

We delivered on May 4 where the fun continued. I got caught under the crossing arm of the delivery location. 

May 5 was back to Greer, South Carolina for trucks going to auction in Burgettstown, Pennsylvania. We delivered those on May 7. 

May 8 we picked up four trucks in Lockport, New York going to auction in Burgettstown, Pennsylvania that same day.  By this time I was pretty exhausted and I was in dire need of an alternate mode of transportation. 

May 9 we were back in Lockport, New York for the final four trucks going to auction in Burgettstown, Pennsylvania. We delivered those on May 10. 

After delivering those trucks we found a hotel room and crashed at 4:00 in the afternoon. Both of us slept until 5:00 this morning. 

Today, May 11 we are headed for Indianapolis, Indiana for three trucks going to Irving, Texas. With any luck we will be HOME this weekend.  There is a possibility we will be gone another 10 days. 


The Eagles “Hotel California” about sums up truck driving. 

We are taking four abandoned trucks back to the parent company. 

Two of the four trucks had keys. We had to get keys made for the other two. 

Sunday in Rainbow City, Alabama we picked up the two white trucks. One a Freightliner and the other an International. Today, Monday, we picked up the white truck (Freightliner) in Fairburn, Georgia and the blue Peterbilt in Atlanta, Georgia. 

People get into truck driving for many reasons. Raised in a family of truck drivers and wanted that life as an adult. Having the opportunity to get away from problems and get paid for it. Trouble with that is…..problems only compound themselves and never disappear. Some people think being a truck driver is exciting and magical and they want that in their life. 

For those not raised around truck drivers, reality bites big time. 

Spouses call with home problems needing help solving them. Significant others, and spouses, want to know when he or she will be home. Missed graduations, prom, birthdays, anniversaries, school recitals or plays. Sports games the kids are in are missed.  Mounting pressure from the home front and the job itself takes a toll on relationships. 

For company drivers being paid 33 to 42 cents per mile, all fuel and repairs covered by the company, requires the pressure of 3,000 miles per week to make any money. $990 to $1280 before taxes and advances have been deducted. 

Drivers who take advantage of the Lease programs to be “Owner/Operators” get paid up to $1.10 per mile plus a fuel surcharge of a few hundred dollars. Their pay per load can be upwards of $1,500 for 900 miles. These drivers pay all the fuel costs and repairs.  

A company driver hears the fantastic sums of money made by the Lease operators and they want a piece of the action.  

Larger trucking companies offer this to company drivers. Larger companies know the failure rates are high and they take advantage of it. 

Company drivers that cross over into being a Lease Operator find out the hard way what is expected of them. All that money they begin earning doesn’t get invested into savings accounts for repairs, tires, maintenance, and normal operating expenses. 

A settlement check of $5,000 is like winning the lottery. Big screen tvs, new sound systems, a new car, other material trappings of the new rich is where the money goes. 

All four of the trucks that have been abandoned are because the drivers walked away from them. Just drove them to a sister company and left. 

Truck driving is a hard business. Long hours. Monotony. Always pushed to get to the delivery site faster. Get to the pick up site faster. Make miles. 

Joe and I are fortunate in that we are with each other. The down side is…..going on 38 days since we last saw home and don’t know when next we will be there. We have a mortgage that gets paid whether we live there or not. Electricity, cable, insurance, all have to be paid even though we don’t use them. 

About 5 years ago we met a Swift driver who was thrilled to tell us about his new truck. A Freightliner Columbia with 57,000 miles. New truck to him anyway. 

Joe asked how much it cost him? Answer….”I don’t know”.  How much interest are you paying?  “I don’t know”. How much are your monthly payments?  “I don’t know”.  The further answer was “they deduct it automatically from each settlement sheet”.  How much of your monthly payments are interest and how much goes to principle?  “I don’t know”.  And then the big question Joe posed. What is your pay-off date?  “I don’t know”.  Do you have a final balloon payment?  “I don’t know”.  Then the driver asked “what’s that?”  As the Swift driver walked away his parting salvo was “I don’t know the answer to all your questions but I do know this truck will be mine when I get done”.  

Five years later, today in Georgia, the same story plays out.  As Joe was relating our encounter with the Swift driver, the man in Atlanta said “I thought that was just a Georgia thing!  It is the same all over!”  

Do your research. Check out the major companies online. Find truck driving forums and ask questions about companies. Their safety rating. Their Lease Operator policies. Is there, in fact, real legal documents showing the cost of the truck including principle and interest payments. A pay-off date. What is the company policy on maintenance?  Do you pay a monthly fee for oil changes and all inspections?  Repairs. Do you pay the shop for the repairs directly or does it come out in scheduled increments of your settlement sheets. This one is the real killer that causes drivers to walk away from the trucks. 

The large trucking companies with satellite offices cross country have a shop at each facility. Lease operators are told to use the company shops for repairs.  US Express is one company that requests drivers use their shops. 

It is your livelihood and your financial stability. Don’t toss your life into the hands of unscrupulous companies that will get you in a Lease truck then give it to the next unlucky person when you can’t keep up the truck payments.

We have heard, more than once, the companies that provide the Lease option to drivers make a higher percentage of profit from the truck Leasing operation than they do on the freight they haul. We have no idea if this is true.  But…….

Operating a business, of any kind, without making a profit is only good for churches and charities. 

I think that is enough for today. 


Off the beaten path. 

We delivered trucks in Covington, Tennessee yesterday. 

We are on our way to Rainbow City, Alabama for our next load going to Indianapolis, Indiana. Both of us have a split load. My second truck is in Fairburn, Georgia and Joe’s second truck is in Atlanta, Georgia. 

No major interstates to travel on until we leave Arlanta. Our roads are through small towns. Places where tight shoes and ties are saved for church. Out where the hard working people live. Farmers and ranchers.

Roads are two lane and tree lined. 

Small towns that stopped growing long ago, with a tenacious population that keep them thriving. 

At one point in our travels Joe needed to make a stop to water the weeds. While he was otherwise occupied, I took the opportunity to get a few photos of wild flowers growing on the roadside. 

Getting off the major highways and away from all things high tech is worth it all. You get a chance to closer inspect your fellow man in a different way. As with my roadside flowers there is more here than what meets the eye. 

Today is another work day for me.  Sunday and a day for rest for others. A day of worship and fellowship at local churches. My church of worship is the same everyday. Out in god’s creation. 

Have a wonderful Sunday. 


The Great Smokie Mountains. 

We picked up our trucks in Concord, North Carolina yesterday and this morning. These poor old trucks have been rode hard.  A couple of them have one million miles on the odometers. 

We went through the Great Smokey Mountains today. I-26 and I-40 in North Carolina and I-40 through a bit of Tennessee. Beautiful country. 

They are called the Smokies because of the cloud cover and ground fog that tends to happen in these densely forested areas with high humidity. Similar to our recent travels through West Virginia yesterday morning.  These photos are from West Virginia. 

In North Carolina and Tennessee the twisting and winding roads scare the bejeebers out of me the first time I drove them. 

My mouth so dry the mucus membrane of my cheeks stuck to my teeth. Breathing through my mouth for 70 minutes on a ride through hell dried the roof of my mouth, my tongue, and my esophagus.  So dry I could not even work a tiny bit of spittle to get my cheeks off my teeth. 

My hands clenched so tightly to the steering wheel I did not dare let loose even for a refreshing sip of water.

Joe, calling to me over the CB radios we used to use, checking on my progress through the nightmare eventually brought this kind and sweet soul out from the depths of my carefully controlled emotions. 

Had to borrow that one from Facebook. 

Several more trips through that beautiful country I have grown accustomed to the turns and steep grades. Enough so I could take a few pictures.  

If you are thinking of a trip this summer with your family, consider the Great Smokey Mountains. 


Hills of Kentucky and West Virginia. 

We picked up my trucks in Pikeville, Kentucky this morning. 

Pikeville is in the north eastern part of Kentucky. Less than 30 miles from West Virginia and about 2 hours from Charleston. 

The trees and hills in Kentucky and West Virginia are everywhere. This is coal mining country. Many of the towns are in “hollows”, or as the old time country singers call them – “hollers”.   This is Williamson at the border. 

Driving the twisting roads, chugging up the hills slowly and speeding down the other side, thick forest is the main scenery. 

After we were in West Virginia, smoke billowed out from an area.  The smell of burning wood took me back to my youth at camp around a wood fire. I love that smell. 

We are staying in Charleston, West Virginia tonight. Next to a river, I don’t know the name of. A river that still is a major thoroughfare of goods shipped. Coal in barges is a big commodity here. 

Outside our hotel sit barges docked and loaded, ready for their trip up or down stream. Pilot boats are at rest this evening. Waiting to push the barges to their destinations. 

A beached log is home to a growth of some type of mushroom. I don’t know if this is one variety that is edible or if it is the kind to take someone crazy enough to try off on a halucinigenic trip or a quick ambulance ride to the hospital. 

There is always something to marvel at as I drive these roads. It doesn’t take much to entertain me. LOL


Through the bug splats

Today I am on a road I have not been on before. The Brent T. Combs Mountain Parkway in Kentucky. We are going 400 miles out of route for Joe’s delivery in New Jersey to get my trucks in Pikesville, Kentucky. 

The scenery is beautiful. Forest of trees fills my vision. 

Some of the trees are bright with Spring blooms. 

A busy two lane road requires all of Joe’s attention while I explore the passing fields, streams, and occasional derelict buildings. 

A road widening project is being done near the end of the Mountain Parkway. Heavy machinery moves along the steep hills of this area. Moving rock and dirt to clear the way for eventual road construction. 

In my travels I have often seen the drill marks left on a rock face and wondered how that was done. 

Today, I saw the machine and operator that does the drilling through the ground and rock.  I find it fascinating, a machine that is the size of a road grader can puncture the hard earth.  Creating stress points in the rock to be broken off then later cleared away. Leaving nothing but long veryical lines in the rock. 


Our never ceasing need to expand, outgrow, and populate areas begin with machines. 

I hope you enjoy your day. We are a few short miles away from where I will pick up my trucks going to New Jersey with Joe.