No longer a radical shift
Automated Manual Transmissions (AMTs) have proved to be reliable over a period of time
Recently, test driving an Isuzu truck fitted with an AMT, at the Gerotek vehicle testing ground, reinforced my opinion that equipping medium and heavy commercial vehicles with these transmissions is a wise choice for most operations. This is, of course, provided that, during the new-vehicle hand-over process, drivers are properly schooled on how to operate an AMT.
AMTs were introduced and fitted to extra-heavy commercial vehicles many years ago, and have built up an excellent reputation as a reliable type of transmission in this class of vehicle.
However, this type of transmission only became available in South Africa in the medium and heavy commercial vehicle class much later. Many truck operators were not convinced that these new transmissions would be reliable in smaller vehicles. They therefore adopted a wait-and-see attitude towards the purchase of a new vehicle fitted with an AMT.
Well, time has proved that AMTs fitted into the medium and heavy vehicle range of trucks are highly durable and well-suited for the operating conditions in South Africa.
Many of the medium and heavy trucks that were sold last year were fitted with AMTs, and the trend towards selecting AMTs, instead of standard manual transmissions, is steadily growing. Time has also shown that the maintenance cost on a vehicle fitted with an AMT is lower than on the same vehicle fitted with a manual transmission.
As there is a shortage of good truck and bus drivers, many potential buyers of new commercial vehicles have selected AMTs – especially in the food and beverage distribution industry, where drivers are more focused on the marketing and delivery of the product, compared to long-distance drivers, who are more professional drivers.
AMTs offer many benefits to the operator including:
• Exceptionally smooth gear shifting means that the vehicle is always in the correct gear for the road condition and the load. This maximises vehicle performance and reduces driveline stress and damage, resulting in reduced maintenance costs.
• Quick gear shifting results in the vehicle not losing momentum between gear changes, which, in turn, increases vehicle productivity and lowers fuel consumption.
• The risk of clutch damage is also reduced, as the AMT will always select the correct starting gear.
• Better braking and control of the vehicle is achieved.
• The driver has the option to drive the vehicle in a manual mode and to change gears manually. In the manual gearshift mode the system will still protect the vehicle by prohibiting the driver from selecting a gear that will over-rev the engine or damage the transmission.
• The driver can concentrate fully on the road and traffic conditions. This is a major advantage, as it reduces the risk of being involved in an accident.
Besides long-haul operations, where vehicles are driven by well-trained and experienced drivers, it’s my opinion that AMTs are well-suited to most commercial vehicle operations.
One of this country’s most respected commercial vehicle industry authorities, VIC OLIVER has been in this industry for over 50 years. Before joining the FOCUS team, he spent 15 years with Nissan Diesel (now UD Trucks), 11 years with Busaf and seven years with International.