LIMA —Though automatic transmissions are the standard for automobiles, many trucking companies prefer their drivers to use manual vehicles — still the trucking industry standard.
That’s why the Commercial Driver License restrictions, some of which went into effect in Ohio today, have been updated to require drivers to have training in manual if they are going to drive that type of vehicle.
Previously, truck drivers may have only been trained on automatic and be driving manual — a big difference when it comes to shifting gears.
If truck drivers are trained in automatic, they may not “understand complications with manual transmissions,” said P. Sean Garney, director of safety policy at the American Trucking Associations.
Until now, there was no distinction about a driver’s transmission operating skill on CDLs, Garney said.
The law is “acknowledging there are two different types of vehicles out there, and if you don’t have the knowledge to drive one, you shouldn’t,” said Pete Prichard, adult education director at Vantage Career Center in Van Wert.
At Vantage, and Apollo Career Center in Lima, students are trained on both manual and automatic, though most companies prefer drivers who can use a manual transmission, Prichard said.
Automatic transmissions “in commercial motor vehicles is a relatively new concept,” Garney said, though they’re becoming more popular.
“I think you’ll see a mix, but I do think you’ll continue to see manual be the standard,” he said. “I think this provision looks to the future if automatic transmission becomes more popular.”
Prichard said automatic should steadily increase, but he doesn’t anticipate a big jump in companies buying that type of vehicle.
The law won’t affect the school, as it teaches both techniques, he said. At Apollo Career Center, students are tested using manual transmissions, said Rick Turner, director of adult programs at the center.
About 100 students are in each five-week CDL program, he said. Vantage students are also tested using manual, and about 20 to 25 students are trained a year, Prichard said.
These new rules were a long time coming, first proposed in 2008, and each state is tackling them at a different pace, Garney said.
Other law changes include requiring those wishing to become truck drivers to get a permit license, much like automotive drivers get a learner’s permit, and the addition of distinctions on drivers’ licenses listing which state drivers can operate vehicles in.
The associations support the changes because they’re “more properly aligning what a driver is trained to do with what he’s allowed to do, eliminating the gaps there were before,” Garney said.
“ATA has been supportive of federal efforts to standardize state testing requirements and creating stronger knowledge and skills testing requirements that reflect actual on-road driving requirements for the motor carrier industry,” Garney wrote in an email.
Reach Danae King at 567-242-0511 or on Twitter @DanaeKing.