Automatic trucks make increasing sense for fleet owners
In South Africa, two-pedal trucks
accounted for approximately half of all truck sales nationally, according to
figures from Lightstone, a marketing intelligence company. In other markets,
such as Australia, sales of automatic trucks are also close to those of manual
transmissions. The trend mirrors what is happening in multiple industries: the
use of smarter technologies to reduce costs and drive business efficiency.
The move to some form of automatic
transmission for trucks is also in line with the trend towards more automatic
cars. A primary cause of this shift is the growing sophistication of automatic
and automated manual transmissions. Such technologies now offer a closer
approximation of a skilled driver. It is claimed that by reducing the momentum
lost when changing a large truck’s gears, anything from four to seven seconds
may be gained for every 400 metres travelled – a saving of time and fuel that
can add up over long journeys.
Automatic transmissions are only the
start. For example, technological advances such as Idle, Stop, Start, which are
just beginning to make the transition from cars to trucks, can also reduce fuel
and engine wear and tear.
For fleet owners, the arguments for
automatic trucks are making more and more sense. For one thing, automatic
transmission reduces the impact of an unskilled driver on fuel efficiency, as
well as wear and tear on the vehicle. With both fuel and parts increasingly
pricey, this is a real incentive for fleet owners.
Another consideration is that clutches
wear out the more they are used. Time spent in the repair bay is dead time for
fleet-owners – an important consideration in South Africa where road transport
is by far the most important part of the logistics mix.
Removing the clutch also means that
driving becomes a less-skilled operation. At a practical level, fleet owners
can draw on a wider pool of drivers.
There are benefits, too, for drivers.
Operating the clutch over long periods of time notably increases the physical
strain of driving, particularly in heavy traffic. More comfortable driving
conditions are likely to mean that drivers are more inclined to pay attention
to their driving, with possible safety benefits – and thus, potentially, fewer
Automatic trucks would also be a reason
for a particular fleet owner to become an employer of choice for the best
In general, it makes sense for fleet
owners to keep up with the technology curve to improve fuel efficiency, reduce
wear and tear, and better the working conditions of their drivers. In the long
run, these improvements are likely to have a positive impact on their bottom lines
— and could even translate into a more cost-effective insurance profile as
technology improves human performance on the road.
Contributed by: Morné Stoltz, Head of
Business Insurance at MiWay.
first appeared in Auto Forum: