From Twin Sticks To Auto Shifts

Topic 13182 | Page 1

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Dave B Flying's Comment
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After 35 years of banging gears I will take Auto shift every time. I absolutely love the auto shift transmissions available today. I move trucks piggyback out of San Antonio, TX and I drive all new trucks. Many of them come with auto shift transmissions these days and they are very reliable. You can place the switch in auto or manual shift. You know it's funny but you can always spot a new driver belly aching about how automatics are unreliable or getting excited because he has just been assigned a truck with a 13 or 18 speed transmission. Then even though he/she has only 20,000 on board they feel a need to go through every single gear. LMAO I think we all used to be that way.

While we are on the topic, you know it's funny but you simply can't compare today's trucks to their predecessors. Modern new drivers have no idea how easy they have it with their walk ins and everything else on board these days. They are as different as a DC3 aircraft and a commercial airliner. When I was about 22, one of the first trucks I drove back in '80 or '81 had a duplex or sometimes called a twin stick. You had two shifters; The main and the auxiliary. Today, they are bundled together in the same box, roughly speaking, with the two gearshifts replaced by the shift lever and a hi-lo range selector, roughly equal to today's 9- or 10-speeds. Now, let's see if I can get this right.

First gear on the main box, low then into high on the auxiliary. That's the easy part. Next, shift the main into second, but before engaging the clutch, you pull the auxiliary out of high, rev the engine, slip it into low and engage the clutch. Now you're in second low. Depending on the load, you might have to do that all the way up through the gears 'till you get to top speed. More likely, you'll cheat and run through a few gears in low before you have to start splitting them. It only gets worse when you get into the 3- and 4-speed auxiliaries; today's 13 and 18 speeds.

Shift timing had to be impeccable, and good drivers could often skip shift and even split odd gears. If you missed a shift, it would bite you but good. The teeth on the gears were spaced pretty widely apart, so there was a good chance that a partially engaged gear would kick the shifter back. If you were lucky, the meaty part of the palm of your hand took the brunt of it. Drivers have had wrists and fingers broken by the kickback.

If you happened to miss a split shift, you wound up in what they called double-nothin' -- both transmissions in neutral. That often meant a full stop to get the thing back into gear, though some of the drivers made claims to finessing them back into gear, if they could remember which gear they were in. Personally, I haven't seen this done without a very unhealthy grinding of the gears. You may have seen pictures or heard stories from older drivers about drivers with one arm wrenched through the steering wheel gripping a shifter while the other arm grapples with the other stick. God forbid you happen to hit a pothole at that moment, because the big steering wheel with all its leverage could whip around and easily break an arm.

Ahh... the good ole days!

Greenhorn88's Comment
member avatar

Hmmph. I remember when I had to follow the Oregon Trail in an ox drawn buggy. You kids and your fancy mechanical horses have it easy. Broken arms? Bpphh. Little Timmy drowned when we were fording the river.

Kurt's Comment
member avatar

After 35 years of banging gears I will take Auto shift every time. I absolutely love the auto shift transmissions available today. I move trucks piggyback out of San Antonio, TX and I drive all new trucks. Many of them come with auto shift transmissions these days and they are very reliable. You can place the switch in auto or manual shift. You know it's funny but you can always spot a new driver belly aching about how automatics are unreliable or getting excited because he has just been assigned a truck with a 13 or 18 speed transmission. Then even though he/she has only 20,000 on board they feel a need to go through every single gear. LMAO I think we all used to be that way.

While we are on the topic, you know it's funny but you simply can't compare today's trucks to their predecessors. Modern new drivers have no idea how easy they have it with their walk ins and everything else on board these days. They are as different as a DC3 aircraft and a commercial airliner. When I was about 22, one of the first trucks I drove back in '80 or '81 had a duplex or sometimes called a twin stick. You had two shifters; The main and the auxiliary. Today, they are bundled together in the same box, roughly speaking, with the two gearshifts replaced by the shift lever and a hi-lo range selector, roughly equal to today's 9- or 10-speeds. Now, let's see if I can get this right.

First gear on the main box, low then into high on the auxiliary. That's the easy part. Next, shift the main into second, but before engaging the clutch, you pull the auxiliary out of high, rev the engine, slip it into low and engage the clutch. Now you're in second low. Depending on the load, you might have to do that all the way up through the gears 'till you get to top speed. More likely, you'll cheat and run through a few gears in low before you have to start splitting them. It only gets worse when you get into the 3- and 4-speed auxiliaries; today's 13 and 18 speeds.

Shift timing had to be impeccable, and good drivers could often skip shift and even split odd gears. If you missed a shift, it would bite you but good. The teeth on the gears were spaced pretty widely apart, so there was a good chance that a partially engaged gear would kick the shifter back. If you were lucky, the meaty part of the palm of your hand took the brunt of it. Drivers have had wrists and fingers broken by the kickback.

If you happened to miss a split shift, you wound up in what they called double-nothin' -- both transmissions in neutral. That often meant a full stop to get the thing back into gear, though some of the drivers made claims to finessing them back into gear, if they could remember which gear they were in. Personally, I haven't seen this done without a very unhealthy grinding of the gears. You may have seen pictures or heard stories from older drivers about drivers with one arm wrenched through the steering wheel gripping a shifter while the other arm grapples with the other stick. God forbid you happen to hit a pothole at that moment, because the big steering wheel with all its leverage could whip around and easily break an arm.

Ahh... the good ole days!

with these automatics how do you deal with going up and down mountains where being in the correct gear can be of utmost importance

Kurt's Comment
member avatar

Well I messed that up. I was wondering how these auto-matics handle in the mountains.

Old School's Comment
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I was wondering how these auto-matics handle in the mountains.

Kurt, I drive a Volvo with the I-shift auto transmission. It handles the mountains much better than I ever did with a manual. I've never driven any of the other automated transmissions, but I can tell you that Volvo has developed a winner. The thing you have to realize about these new autos is that they are not much different at all from the regular manual transmissions we're all accustomed to driving. Unlike today's car transmissions, these things are not transferring power to the drive-train with hydraulic fluids (transmission fluid), but they are still a standard gear box, and they still have a clutch. Really the only difference is that the driver doesn't control the clutch or the timing of the gear change - a very precise computer system controls that part of the transmission's functions. There is also a mode you can select so that you control the shifts with a press of a button on the side of the shift selector column. There is a button for an up-shift and another one that will down-shift. The Volvo's transmission is so adeptly coordinated with the Jake brake that I very seldom even need to use the manual mode in the mountains. Once I have set the Jakes and gotten my self slowed to the speed that I want to descend the mountain in the transmission will hold that gear as long as I just don't ignore it and let the truck run too freely down hill. What I mean is if I am descending a very steep mountain I will occasionally slow the truck with a brief time of pressure on the brake pedal to slow me back to my safe speed, just like you would do in a manual transmission. If the downgrade is not extrememly excessive the transmission will hold it's gear and go down without any other input from me. The key is slowing down at the beginning of the descent just like you would in a standard transmission and when you do that the auto selects the proper gear for that speed and you are golden.

I'll admit that it took a little getting used to at the beginning, but once you understand how it works and work together with it, this automated manual transmission is a dream. I actually drive mine in the manual mode quit a bit when I'm rolling down the Interstate. Let me explain why, because it just might help anyone who is driving a truck set up similar to mine. My Volvo is set up so the governor limits my speed to 63. When I'm on the highway and get up to around 60 or 61 the transmission wants to shift into 12th gear. Running this thing at 63 in twelfth gear lugs the engine a bit too low to get the best fuel mileage. So once it gets too 11th gear I simply pull the shift lever back one notch into the manual mode and cruise the highway while the manual mode is holding it into 11th gear. I will also sometimes use the manual mode when in steep mountains - I'm in Pennsylvania a good bit and I've got some regular customers on my dedicated account that have their facilities off the beaten path of the Interstate , and if you are familiar with Pennsylvania's terrain then you know it can get interesting in a hurry sometimes. By keeping it in the manual mode with the Jakes on you have got total control over that thing. The only difference from a manual at that point is that you don't have to operate a clutch pedal, and you simply select your gear with a push of a button. You still need to control your speed so that you can go into the gear of your choice, but it is all very easy and similar to driving a standard transmission. A driver still needs to understand at what speeds he can descend a grade and what gear he should be in to do it properly. The major difference is that the transmission handles the clutching and shifting when in auto mode, and the driver can control when it shifts when in manual mode.

Interstate:

Commercial trade, business, movement of goods or money, or transportation from one state to another, regulated by the Federal Department Of Transportation (DOT).

Dm:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

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Operating While Intoxicated

Kurt's Comment
member avatar

Thank you O.S. great answer

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