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Are Semi Trucks Going Automatic? (13 Questions Answered)

A lot of veterans prefer manual as they like to stick to what they know and have been doing since the beginning.

However, the rise of automatic transmission, plus the fact that the rookies are preferring auto more, is turning a few heads.

A wise person once said that the one thing we can rely on is change and it might be happening faster than we think, let’s find out.

Here’s the short Answer to whether Semi Trucks are Going Automatic:

Semi trucks are going automatic. Large truck manufactures are producing more automatics every day to meet the demand. They are easier to drive, more fuel-efficient, and saves truck companies money. Approximately 90% of semi trucks in the U.S. today are automatic, and this number continues to climb.

Are Most Semi Trucks Automatic or Manual?

The rise of the auto is what the industry should call it.

An automatic car is a whole lot easier to drive and has been the preferred choice for Americans for many years now.

But the semi-trucks have not had it so easy.

Volvo has been producing automatic transmissions for their semi-trucks since 2007 and has gone through three generations.

With each time they have increased the transmission’s performance.

Automatic transmissions were used all over Europe a few years before the United States caught up and it’s only over the last few years that the American truck manufacturers have been producing automatics.

As of today a lot of semi-trucks have automatic transmissions, a small rise from a few years back but still outnumber the manuals.

The manuals on the roads today are either in very good condition or their drivers just prefer a stickshift gearbox or it just may be that they are in fear of the change.

Are Most CDL Trucks Automatic?

Most CDL trucks these days are automatic.

Although most CDL trucks are automatic truck driving schools have gone back to teaching their trainees in a manual transmission as some states have restrictions.

There are also restrictions on class A CDL road tests done with a bumper hitch trailer.

I’m sure your trainer will cover all this but just so you know although the manuals are being phased out you may still have to train with one.

What Percentage of Semi Trucks are Automatic?

The numbers rise every few years with newer sturdier transmissions and designs making their way onto the market.

A truck driver’s life is so much easier, as it stands the automatics have around 90% of the current American market.

No one can say for sure if it will ever get to 100% as there are still a lot of trucks on our roads in great condition and although some are going through a conversion, it’s not for everyone.

A conversion from a manual to an automatic may not be worth it as you could create mechanical issues that weren’t there, to begin with.

Not to mention the cost to convert is in the tens of thousands fo dollars, it may be better to stick to the manual until your upgrade.

Are Trucking Companies Switching to Automatic?

Performance and reliability issues are just some of the few reasons the trucking companies are holding back a little when it comes to the switch over.

They’re a little concerned that the automatic transmission gives the driver less control and can cause drowsiness due to the less to do.

They are however leaning moreover to the autos as time goes by.

We will see a time in the not-so-near future when all truck companies will solely use automatic transmissions.

When this will happen is a matter of when truck manufacturers will produce an automatic transmission as reliable as the manual it’s going to replace.

Why are Truck Companies Going to Automatic?

Truck companies will save on average of around 15% on fuel as long as the automatic transmission does what it’s supposed to do and its onboard computer reads the gears correctly.

With a truck driver not having to deal with gears every five minutes, it means they can pay a lot more attention to the road.

This will result in a safer drive, better planning, and therefore less wear on the trucks.

More control when inching forward or back is a plus when you’re backing up to a trailer or pulling into the depot.

Is it Easier to drive a Manual or Automatic Semi Truck?

An automatic takes the strain of changing gears away from the driver making it easier than the traditional manual trucks.

It will select the correct gear at the correct time.

Gears will match the speed the vehicle is traveling at whether slowing down or speeding up.

There is an additional button to push when you feel the truck is struggling on an uphill grade.

The transmission’s computer will sense the load the truck is carrying and react accordingly making it easier for the driver.

So to sum it all up, automatic is much easier and has been called the lazy drivers choice.

We like to call it the smart drivers choice.

Are Automatic Semi Trucks Good?

There are mixed feelings when it comes to good or bad and like anything, it has good and bad.

There are complaints that the automatic ultra shift is slow or out of time, but overall it seems to be more of a preference.

In terms of speed, it is almost impossible to see any difference on an even road surface, but on a hill hauling a load there is some difference in speed.

In a manual as well as full control over the gears, it is far easier to repair and diagnose and doesn’t have complicated computers, sensors, or wiring.

Just be sure to pass your driver training in a manual, as if you pass in an automatic you will limit your job opportunities.

But overall automatic semi-trucks are good, and they should be, after all, they have spent years ironing out all the issues the first few batches came with.

How Long do Automatic Semi Trucks Last?

An automatic requires more care than a manual as there is more to go wrong but that doesn’t mean it will (check out our article on extended semi truck warranties).

A Detroit automatic engine for example can have Shift Controller issues which is something the manufacturers are aware of and are looking into improving.

Checking your transmission fluid regularly can save you thousands of dollars.

If it is not checked it will show all sorts of code on your computer and could overheat.

Air leaks can cause issues but generally, transmissions on automatic trucks can last a long time.

There is no difference between a manual and an automatics lifespan it’s all about the care of the truck and the quality of the build.

A well-maintained engine can last you a million miles or more.

Is it Cheaper to Service an Automatic Semi Truck than a Manual one?

Going to a dealership is always going to be more expensive than visiting an independent shop.

So if you know a good independent shop you will save hundreds of dollars on labor alone.

It’s not always better to go cheaper but if you think in terms of small businesses wanting to please their customers so they get repeat business then you can’t go wrong plus waiting time would probably be less.

Dealerships however offer different packages for their services from basic to elite which as you can imagine comes in at different costs.

They average between $350 to $600 for a manual and $380 to $650 for an automatic, as there is more to check and/or replace but that does also depend on where you have the job done.

Is it Cheaper to Fix an Automatic Semi Truck than a Manual one?

This is such a broad area as it really is a question of what needs fixing and whether you have it fixed at a dealership or an independent shop.

If it’s nothing related to the transmission side of things then there isn’t going to be much of a price difference aside from labor.

But if it is a transmission-related issue then an automatic will set you back quite a bit more than a manual due to its electrical components and higher number of working parts.

Do Diesel Trucks come in Automatic?

They do but are slightly different from an automatic cars transmission.

They come as automated or auto shift and even I shift. Some have 2 pedals and some have 3.

They also have buttons to aid them in selecting the appropriate gear if the transmission fails to recognize the correct one on a hill.

What are the Best Automatic Semi Trucks?

You’ll hear many folks give you their opinion on what they believe to be the best and we can also give you great advice.

Ultimately we think it best that you take a little test drive and weigh out the pros and cons. Check these out:

  • Peterbilt 579.
  • Western Star 49X Model.
  • Kenworth T880 Model.
  • Freightliner Cascadia 2021 Model.
  • Volvo (any I shift) model.
  • Mercedes Actros Power shift automated gearshift.
  • Scania R730.

What is the Future of Automatic Semi Trucks?

The future looks great for automatic semi-trucks but apparently not too great for their drivers with plans for self-drive semi-trucks, yes you heard me right.

These autonomous trucks are already being developed by more than 10 manufacturers and one has even gone as far as testing them out in operations from depot to depot.

This is very bad news for the truckers who love nothing more than controlling a big rig, at present it is of no concern mainly because it’s all a little hush-hush and still early days.

Plus it may not even get the go-ahead for safety reasons.

Time will tell be sure to check it out for yourself.

Happy Trucking!