Tag Archives: Automatic transmission

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. 



It is Margarita time. More breakdowns.


Actually Joe is the tippler. Two sips and I’m drunk, or slightly intoxicated. I think I’m allergic to alcohol because it hits my brain so fast and I’m worthless for the next 10 hours.

This morning, at sunrise in Tucumcari, the air was cool with just a touch of humidity. Forecasts were for cooler temps in the high 80’s with a chance of rain later in the day.

My truck went right into gear and we left Tucumcari behind. Flagstaff, Arizona was our stopping place for the night.


Our first stop was the Love’s in Santa Rosa, New Mexico for cash to pay Arizona Permits and to wash my windshields, windows, and mirrors. Getting back on the road was not a problem.

The next stop was west of Albuquerque at the Route 66 Truck Stop for a potty break. That done we got back on the road.

10 miles later my truck hacked up a fur ball and would not go any further. I lost engine power and the truck acted like it was going to quit so we pulled off the highway at an exit ramp.


Nearly three hours later the tow truck showed up. This time it was a ‘Honkin’ Monster of a truck.


Interstate Towing came to get me. The driver hooked onto the front of my truck….


Disconnected my driveline….

And off he went to the Kenworth shop 35 miles back to Albuquerque.


We encountered a gulley washer of rain heading back to the shop.


Now my truck is sitting the weekend out in the shop yard until Monday when the Kenworth mechanics can get to it.


Hotel rooms in Albuquerque are scarce! There is a barbecue festival going on this weekend in Albequerque. The “Pork and Brew“. We snagged one of the last rooms in town and are paying an obnoxious rate. $114 plus tax!

So we are here in Albuquerque until Monday afternoon – best case scenario – or until Thursday – worst case scenario.

Tomorrow it will be a trip north of Santa Fe to a place called “Rancho de Chimayo” in Chimayo, New Mexico.

First is to find a Starbucks. I’m out of coffee for my percolator and that is not good 😉

Hope you all are enjoying cooler temps. If not I’ll think of you as I sit under the shade of a big tree and watch the kids, big and little, splash around in the hotel pool.


A bit of technical junk


The trucks we have today are Freightliners and are “Mid Roof” in style.  Which means the driver is able to stand up in the sleeper section and move about, take their clothes off without banging their head.  This is sometimes referred to  as “Stand Up Sleeper” because a person can actually stand up.


Our trucks yesterday were Kenworths and the style is known as “Condo” because it has bunk beds in the sleeper area.  A top bunk and a bottom bunk.  Condos are more spacious in design to accommodate more than two people in the truck at one time.  Although cramped quarters with two people….well the size of Joe and I anyway…there is still a lot of room in a Condo.  The Mid Roof style has only one bunk and very tight quarters for two people.


These are dual tires on a flat bed trailer.  I’m using it as an example of what the trucks we normally drive have for tires.  There are four sets of duals on each truck.  They are on the rear axles.


These are known as “Super Singles” and are a single tire on each side of the axles.  These are for heavy hauling, weights that exceed the normal 80,000 combined weight of tractor and fully loaded trailer.  These are on the trucks we are taking out of Gary, Indiana this trip going to Houston, Texas.

Joe just corrected me on what I had just stated on the Super Singles.  He says they are for better fuel economy because of reduced rolling friction that happens with the duel wheels on trucks.  I stand corrected.


This nasty piece of business is the gear shifting “Paddle” for the automatic transmission.  A  little yellow button slides up and down on the outside of the paddle to engage the gears from Reverse to Drive.  Unlike your car with a “Park” gear or “P” these trucks have to be put in Neutral – “N” – and the air brake handles pulled to put the truck in park.

Automatic transmissions…..I HATE them.  Unlike your vehicle when pulled into the gear you select, either Drive or Reverse, you are able to step on the gas pedal and go slow or fast depending on the amount of pressure you put on the foot feed.  The automatic transmission in trucks is a flipping beast to work, totally computer controlled.  Put it in gear then apply some gas to get the truck moving….nothing happens.  Then the blasted thing decides to kick into gear and you are OFF and RUNNING faster than you want to go.  Slam on the brakes to stop the fast momentum and then you get to go through the whole exercise again.  Going nowhere, easing into motion, then immediately going faster than you intended to go.

Backing into a parking spot, or under a trailer can be quite a chore with these automatic transmissions.  Joe and I have been able to know, just by looking at the condition of the rear of the cab, if the vehicle is an automatic transmission.

As for fuel economy they are the best thing out there.  For anything else, like city driving with traffic lights and/or stop signs, these transmissions are the worst.

As you travel around in your daily life, if you are beside a truck or behind one, watch to see how the truck moves.  If it is jerky and bouncy more than one time after starting from a full stop chances are good the driver has an automatic transmission in his truck.

FOR YOUR SAFETY, I beg you please….pretty please with a cherry on top.  When stopped behind a big truck at a traffic light, leave enough room between you and the rear of the trailer so you can see the tires on the pavement.  The rear tires of the trailer or the rear duals on the bobtail.  Automatic transmissions in trucks are notorious for not catching immediately and the truck will roll backward before it finally goes forward.  ESPECIALLY ON AN INCLINE!!!!!

You could find yourself pinned underneath the “DOT Bumper”, the hangy down thing at the back of trailers if you stop real close to the back of a truck and trailer combination.  You could also get the nose of your car bashed in by the rear frame of a bobtail.  More and more trucking companies are going to automatic transmissions because of the fuel economy savings in their bottom line.  So please be careful out there.