Industry Insights

AUTOMATED MANUAL TRANSMISSIONS: WHERE ARE WE NOW?

Understanding the evolution of Automated Manual Transmission (AMT) technology and its current usage in the Australian truck market is a powerful way to explore the progression of our vital road transport sector.

First, though, it’s important to appreciate the basic workings of AMT technology and how it is different to manual or automatic transmission.

Re-cap: what is an AMT?

An AMT is a manual transmission, without the need to engage a clutch pedal when shifting gears.

When it comes to trucks, an AMT-equipped truck operates with only two pedals – the brake and the accelerator. A truck with a manual transmission, however, requires three pedals to operate the vehicle.

It’s been a game-changing shift in the trucking world and it is a direct result of operators demanding improved ease of operation, better fuel economy and greater flexibility when it comes to driver availability and labour retention.

Choices

Generally speaking, truck buyers have a choice between a traditional manual transmission, a full automatic transmission or an automated manual transmission (AMT).

Rather than requiring the driver to engage the clutch to change gears, trucks offering AMT technology enjoy the convenience of having this aspect of driving operation controlled by electronic computers and hydraulics. This automated system operates the clutch and throttle to match revs for the gear change required, depending on the driving conditions.

AMTs operate in a ‘full automatic’ mode where the driver does not need to manually change gears at all. Although one major point of difference is that some AMTs can be operated in ‘manual mode’ as well – enabling drivers to select gears as required, without the need for a clutch pedal.

Deciding if AMT is right for you

Considering the application and daily tasks your truck performs will help you decide if AMT is right for you.

  • Driving ease – AMTs offer the driving ease of an automatic, two-pedal system with the durability, economy and reliability of a manual transmission
  • Fuel-efficiency – AMTs offer comparable fuel consumption to a well driven manual transmission and are generally more efficient than an automatic system
  • Reduced service costs – with no clutch maintenance to deal with and less fluid to replace at servicing intervals, ongoing savings reduce your truck maintenance costs
  • Convenience – holding a passenger car license (if GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass) is 4.5 tonnes or less) is enough to drive a truck with an AMT – making drivers easier to find and retain

This last point – that drivers can operate the vehicles safely on a standard car licence – will see this type of transmission continue to grow in popularity, as access to more drivers becomes easier and cheaper for Australian businesses.

Although Australians have taken a while to break from tradition and embrace the trend towards automatic transmissions – especially in the commercial vehicle market – there has been a definite shift towards the convenience and affordability of running two-pedal truck fleets.

Savings at the bowser

The news that an AMT can deliver up to five per cent better fuel economy, compared with the performance of a manual transmission, is another definite driver.

The associated savings are proving enough to offset the slightly higher upfront sticker price of trucks with AMT and, with high resale values on two-pedal trucks also having an impact, the shift towards this new technology is finding its way.

Issues of sustainability are also impacting buying behaviour.

The benefits of reduced fuel consumption and improved environmental impact are also important factors in the trend towards AMT technology in trucks. With reduced maintenance required, servicing savings are measurable and, combined with ease of driving, there is little doubt that AMT is here to stay.

With the more recent introduction of torque convertors to the local AMT market, the result is improved shift timing logic and all new features that are specifically tailored to suit our unique Australian road conditions.

A TC-AMT delivers a more intuitive driving experience, with smooth gear changes, better take-off from a standing start, and a more sophisticated, car-like driving experience especially in urban applications.

Technology to suit your sector

AMT trucks suit a number of applications, from freight & logistics to trade and local government services.

With the current skilled driver shortage in Australia – made worse by the ongoing COVID crisis – the stress-free operational ease of AMT puts the power to drive AMT trucks in more hands than ever before. This is encouraging a growing number of younger people to join the road transport sector – positive news for such an essential industry that is all about keeping our country moving ahead.

Thinking of investing in a new vehicle to jump on Australia’s delivery boom? You’re not alone. Check out our blog on this here. 

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