Replacing manual transmission clutches on Class 8 trucks in an AMT world

Mauricio Freitas

This guest blog from PACCAR Parts was authored by Mauricio Freitas, Product Director from PACCAR Parts.

Fleets are always looking for ways to ensure profitability. That means fleet managers have to find ways to reduce costs and increase efficiencies, all while keeping an emphasis on safety and meeting customer demands. This has proved especially challenging due to inflation and a rise in interest rates and equipment  costs. Not to mention, today’s trucks are more technologically advanced than ever.

One of the major changes in commercial trucks, especially for over-the-road vehicles, has been the shift (no pun intended) from manual to automated manual transmissions (AMT). Less than 20 years ago, most North American fleets still relied predominantly on manual transmissions. A 2017 article in Heavy Duty Trucking  noted, “A decade ago, reports that AMTs enjoyed take-rates of around 75% on new truck builds in Europe raised a lot of eyebrows in North America. Drivers here were different, everyone said; North American drivers were devoted to manual gearboxes as a point of pride, while North American fleets would be unwilling to shell out the higher price for AMTs.”

Carriers and private fleets recognize the benefits of AMTs

Carriers and private fleets realized the benefits of AMTs, which are lighter and programmed to change gears at the optimum instant, resulting in increased performance. AMTs ensure performance and efficiency with new electric clutch actuation and intelligent shift selection software, providing smooth engagement and high fidelity of vehicle control even in the most challenging applications.

All of this helps fleet managers realize greater fuel efficiency, reduced preventive maintenance, and increased safety. Safety is especially key due to the ongoing driver shortage. As drivers experienced with manual transmissions retire from the industry, younger drivers are needed. The vast majority of younger drivers have likely never driven a vehicle with a manual transmission. Even more experienced drivers have grown to appreciate AMTs.

How does this change affect the manual transmission clutch aftermarket?

As the market for new equipment continues to evolve, so has the parts aftermarket. Automated transmission clutches have approximately twice the life span of manual transmission clutches, which is one factor that could account for declining demand. One estimate is that the manual transmission clutch aftermarket will shrink by approximately 100,000 units by 2025.

Although most new truck builds include AMTs, there are still a significant portion of manual vehicles on the road. Fleets require assurance that these trucks will have the appropriate replacement parts available when they are needed. According to a 2020 FleetOwner article, with AMTs, technicians can see “a reduction in wear and tear,” as compared to manual transmissions. So, what is a fleet to do with its older, traditional manual transmission assets? This is where PACCAR Parts plays such a vital role.

PACCAR Parts offers a variety of clutch offerings for both AMTs and manual transmission. These products, including PACCAR Parts’ proprietary brand TRP®,  service a range of needs from first owner (fleets under warranty) all the way to the fourth or fifth owner with different benefits in each category. Search here for clutches for all makes of trucks.

Our manual transmissions Clutch Install Kits are particularly helpful in extending the life span of a vehicle. Clutch installation kits have all the parts and instructions needed to revitalize the clutch system. Replacing all the wear parts ensures the system will perform as designed, leading to longer clutch life, smoother shifts, and less wear on the transmission. PACCAR Parts Clutch Install Kits include:

  • Input shaft engineered to eliminate idle gear rattle.
  • Shift tower and clutch housing gaskets, include beaded surfaces to eliminate leak paths.
  • A new front bearing cover engineered to provide smoother clutch brake surface. Additionally, oil return grooves on the input shaft provide maximum lube retention.
  • Many kits contain a long-life flywheel pilot bearing with high-temperature grease and Viton seals to stand up to the temperatures of today’s hotter running commercial diesel engines.

Fleet managers need to ensure that every truck in the fleet, whether manual or AMT, is road ready. With the Class 8 manual trucks giving way to AMTs, those fleet managers need to know there’s a company they can rely on to keep those manual transmission trucks on the road, especially when it comes to wear and tear on the clutch.

There’s a reason fleets around the world turn to PACCAR Parts for their aftermarket parts. Regardless of the make, model, or age of the truck, PACCAR Parts takes pride in providing quality brands that exceed customer expectations.

Let us help keep your fleet on the road and in business.