Choosing a Transmission? Talk to the Pros.
Wouldn’t it be great if you were about to read an article that told you exactly which transmission would be best for every possible vocational truck application? Which would produce the best mileage? Which would make your truck work most efficiently, no matter how complex the application?
Sure it would. That’s what we’re all looking for: the quick, easy answer. But, in the end, there are no shortcuts. To help shed some light on the complicated subject, we talked to Brian Daniels, powertrain product manager and Ivan Neblett, vocational product manager, Freightliner Trucks; Joe Johansson, senior application engineer, Allison Transmission; and Scott DeWyse, lead application engineer and Shane Groner, manager, development and product planning, Eaton. Each of these knowledgeable professionals agreed:
Figure out what you need and how you’re going to use it, then talk to your dealer about your specific requirements.
Freightliner trucks are available with a choice of three transmissions, automated-manual, automatic and manual, from a variety of manufacturers and all backed by teams of highly-qualified product experts.
Spec the truck as a system. Determine how you’ll use it, and then look it all as a whole. It’s a different market place than it used to be. Anything you think is important, you can get.—Shane Groner, manager, Development and Product Planning, Eaton ”
The Freightliner AMT3™
Allison Transmission is the exclusive provider of automatic transmissions in all Daimler Trucks North America products. The company offers fully-automatic transmissions for medium- and heavy-duty commercial vehicles, which are used in applications including distribution, refuse, construction, fire and emergency, energy and mining.
Eaton offers a wide breadth of manual and automated transmissions, all backed by the company’s proprietary Roadranger System, which offers access to experienced, expert and accessible drive train consultants. Eaton’s UltraShift PLUS Transmissions are available in seven platforms for vocational, performance and line haul applications.
Freightliner AMT3™ automated-manual transmissions with strong, synchronized gear-sets are ideal for towing, utility applications and daily pickup and delivery. Freightliner’s automated-manual transmission combines the fuel-saving advantages of manual shifting and the two-pedal shift comfort of an automatic transmission to deliver performance and fuel efficiency.
Given the array of options these three sources offer buyers of Freightliner vocational vehicles, you might be surprised by the commonality of their response. But each of them says that prospective buyers should start by determining what they need and how they plan to use it.
“You can’t select a transmission without deciding what you want the vehicle to do,” says Neblett. “Is it a street sweeper or a dump truck, medium- or heavy-duty, on or off highway? Those answers narrow down the powertrain required to support the kind of transmission needed with the kind of engine drive axle required.”
Daniels believes that vocational users may be less aware of the importance of the powertrain package. “Larger fleets typically have more face time with Freightliner,” he says. “Vocational buyers generally have smaller fleets and that means they may have fewer opportunities to interact with the dealer. This puts the dealer in the position of subject matter expert to help the buyer understand his choices.”
Johannson’s experience suggests that vocational customers typically may be less focused on fuel economy. “They want to know how to move that load over the operating terrain, whether it’s paved highways or soft soil at a job site,” he says.
You can’t select a transmission without deciding what you want the vehicle to do.—Ivan Neblett, vocational product manager, Freightliner Trucks ”
“For example, if you’re buying a feed lot truck, which feeds thousands of cattle, it makes the rounds at 3 to 5 mph, and then the truck is back on the highway at 65 mph to refill at a silo. That wider range of terrain and operations make the decision more complicated.”
DeWyse points out that today all of the trucks in the North American market are built for a specific use. For this reason, he cautions against working off 20 year old specs.
“And don’t just spec one component at a time,“ adds Groner. “Spec the truck as a system. Determine how you’ll use it, and then look it all as a whole. It’s a different market place than it used to be. Anything you think is important, you can get.”
Daniels emphasizes the importance of maintaining a continuing dialog with the engine and transmission suppliers, focusing on optimization. “Look at application,” he says. “What are the components intended to do? Consult your dealer.”
So, while there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question about which transmission is best, there is a clearly defined first step in the decision process. Figure out what you need and how you’re going to use it. Then talk to your Freightliner dealer about your specific requirements. Dealers have access to Freightliner’s huge database of options and experts that can assist the buyer in the decision making process.
A vocational truck is a tool. It needs to be the right tool for your business.
For specific transmission information:
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