AutoShift hits the mid-range market

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (March 29) — There’s another option for medium-duty truck buyers who want transmission automation but with the relative simplicity of a mechanical gearbox.

Eaton Corp. has added a 6-speed model to its line of AutoShift transmissions, saying it’s also the launch of “a major initiative to expand the company’s presence among medium-duty markets throughout the world.”

The new Eaton Fuller AutoShift transmission, based on the proven 8406A manual box, was introduced at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky. It’s aimed primarily at lease/rental operations, sales and delivery routes, P&D applications, and beverage fleets. Limited production begins in May, with full production in July, though it’s available now in Freightliner and Peterbilt trucks with Caterpillar 3126 engines.

As with the 10- and 18-speed heavy-duty AutoShifts, manual lever shifts are gone and the clutch is used only when starting or stopping the truck. Electronic controls and electromechanical actuators take the place of the manual shift lever, communication with the engine accomplished via the J-1939 data link. The transmission is thus only available with engines featuring that link.

It features “Generation II” technology enhancements models that will also be incorporated into the heavy-duty AutoShifts later this year. Among them are the newly designed electronic control unit, with much expanded self-diagnostic capabilities. The transmission has a torque range of 500 to 860 pound feet. It will first be offered with a dash-mounted, pushbutton shift control. Other shift options, like steering wheel and T-handle lever designs, may be introduced later in the year.

Eaton says the new transmission weighs a little less than the equivalent Allison product but will cost some $3000 to $4000 less. Interestingly, the company also says it will introduce its own torque-converter model later this year.

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