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TSQ: Is allowing automatic transmissions for A/Z tests good or bad for the industry?

BRADFORD, Ont. – May 1 marked the start of what – for some – may be the end of an era for the trucking industry. In an attempt to contemporize the Class A road test in Ontario, all applicants now have the option to use trucks...


BRADFORD, Ont. – May 1 marked the start of what – for some – may be the end of an era for the trucking industry. In an attempt to contemporize the Class A road test in Ontario, all applicants now have the option to use trucks outfitted with automatic transmissions during their tests, so long as the minimum vehicle configuration requirements are met.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation’s decision has irked some supporters of the “old school trucking” ideology, with at least one blog commenter on Trucknews.com saying the decision paves the way for “iffy” drivers in the future.

The Ontario Trucking Association, conversely, has lauded the decision, noting the positive fuel economy and recruiting and retention possibilities for fleets using automatic transmissions. But what effect will the ruling have on the industry? To find out what drivers think of the new option, we stopped by the Husky Truck Stop in Bradford, Ont.

Forrest Newland, a driver with Spears Transfer out of Dayton, Ohio, says he’s against the use of automatics in the industry, period.

“Automatic transmission in trucks? They’re a piece of junk. That ain’t truck driving. I don’t like them,” he told Truck News.
Newland says manual transmissions just make more sense for Canadian trucking. “Number one, if you get into snow, you can rock it more than you can with an automatic transmission. And I think they get better fuel mileage than the automatics do. That, and they don’t have the capacity to pull the load that the manual does – you can downshift easier.”

Doug Bradley, a driver with Seafood Express out of Charlottetown, P.E.I., says that even if a driver doesn’t ultimately operate a truck with a manual transmission, they should still have the know-how.

“A lot of trucks are going automatic – a lot of companies are going automatic. But I still think you should be taught and go for your road test in a standard,” he says. “There are still a lot of companies who don’t offer the automatic transmissions, so a driver’s chances of getting a job (after taking the test with an automatic) would be slim to none.”

However, Bradley notes that a driver who operates an automatic shouldn’t be regarded as any less of a professional that one who operates a manual transmission.

“It’s the same thing they say with different types of trucks: if you’re not driving a Kenworth or a Peterbilt, you’re not a real truck driver. I think that’s just a bunch of baloney,” he says.

Dieder Martin, a driver with Ayr Transport out of Woodstock, N.B. who has driven both types of transmissions during his 42 years on the road, says adding the automatic option to road tests makes sense since every trucking application has different needs to be met.

“For longhaul, automatic is good. For (regional driving), standard is better,” he says. “Truck driving is truck driving, automatic or standard, it’s no different.”

Zeeshan Maqsooe, a driver with Nestle with eight months under his belt, says he personally prefers an automatic transmission, even though he spent many years using strictly manuals in his home country.

“My background is from Pakistan. There, I used to drive a manual car, manual truck – everything manually. But there is nothing automatic there. So when I came here, I saw everything automatic – it is much easier, so that is why I preferred it,” he says. “It doesn’t mean if you are driving an automatic that you are not a driver – it’s not like that. Here, driving a truck, you’re on the road, you have the same responsibility as a guy who is driving a manual one.”

– Do you have a topic idea for the Truck Stop Question? Contact Adam Ledlow on Twitter at Twitter.com/adamledlow or by e-mail at adam@transportationmedia.ca and we may feature your question in an upcoming issue of Truck News.


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