Trucking industry sees increase in automatic transmissions, safety features

 Trucking industry sees increase in automatic transmissions, safety features Main Photo

13 May 2018

Chad Thompson

Semi-trailer trucks with automatic transmissions are becoming more common than ever in the trucking industry, particularly at Decker Truck Line Inc. in Fort Dodge, according to Brad Baade, the company’s chief operating officer.

Baade reports that more than 90 percent of the company’s fleet have automatic transmissions.

Michael Erritt, vice president of operations, said that number has spiked within the last couple years.

“A lot of trucking companies are going to that,” Erritt said. “At the same time, there are a lot of drivers who prefer manual.”

Baade said about 50 of Decker’s trucks are manual.

In 2016, Decker ordered hundreds of new Peterbilts, a majority of which had automatic transmissions.

Bringing in more trucks with automatic transmissions is just one way the company is working through a trucker shortage.

“The availability of drivers is pretty tight,” Erritt said. “But on the flipside, the demand for trucks is going up. We are fighting the driver shortage battle.”

At the same time, Baade said the company has high standards for its drivers.

“With all the leads we get, we hire less than 1 percent of drivers,” Baade said. “At the end of the week, we hire less than 1 percent. We are very selective.”

Baade added, “We like to hire professional drivers. Our qualifications are probably a little more stringent than some other trucking companies out there.”

Decker trucks haul fresh meat, wall board, steel, and lumber, among a variety of other products.

Erritt said driver salary has increased substantially in recent years.

“We have done more with our multiple pay packages,” he said. “We have adjusted them twice. We put in guaranteed pay, more home time, and dedicated lanes.”

Dedicated lanes mean going to the same customer repeatedly.

“Pay for drivers has gone up percentage wise in the last year more than it has the last 10,” Erritt said.

Electronic logs have become standard within the past year, although Decker has been employing them for multiple years.

Full article.

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