Next-generation transmissions on their way

Over the past decade or so, the world of truck transmissions changed radically, driven by the arrival of the first automated manual transmission in heavy-duty trucks. The Eurotronic from Iveco was the first cab off the rank and it was quickly followed by all other competing brands in the heavy-duty market.

But there is a new generation of automated manual gearboxes on the horizon, and some in the market already predict a quantum leap in heavy-duty truck technology. The new technology looks to make the transition between ratios even smoother, while improving fuel economy and productivity for the operator. The innovation is not in the gearbox itself, however, but in the clutch system – or in the clutches system, to be precise, as we now enter the world of multiple clutching.

The new generation of AMT gearboxes now waiting in the wings will take the whole process to the next level and go beyond simply replicating a human driver; it will use smart technology to make shifts smoother without any torque interruption. If they are as effective as they are manufacturers claim they will be, this may be the beginning of the end for manual gearboxes in heavy-duty trucks, apart from those used in some very specific applications.

The interface between the gearbox itself and the rest of the driveline is what the new technology is focusing on. We already have a dual clutch AMT in the Fuso Canter light-duty range and we can expect to see more of the same in other brands and higher up the GVM range as well.

Fluid clutches and torque converters will also enter the equation. They allow for a much smoother transition from one ratio to the next, and also remove the need to interrupt torque while the change is being made. Combined with the higher levels of electronic control and monitoring possible in a modern truck, we are going to see much more computer control throughout the truck driveline.

Which of the new technologies will arrive in Australia first is unclear at the moment, but one of the favourites to be first cab off the rank is the Allison TC 10 AMT. This completely new gearbox is already on sale in the US market and is said to be achieving considerable fuel savings when compared to the AMT competition.

Another competitor will be the ZF Traxon. The next-generation AMT from the German gearbox specialist takes the current ZF AS Tronic to another level by adding in a suite of options where the gearbox meets the driveline. 

In North America, Eaton developed the Autoshift AMT, based on the old, yet reliable Roadranger gearbox with an electronically controlled clutch doing the changes when the truck is moving, but still using a foot clutch when the truck is stationary.

Get all the details on the new systems and a rundown of the technology behind them in the current edition of Prime Mover magazine. 

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