Tips to Select the Right Engine + Transmission Combination for a Truck

Tips to Select the Right Engine + Transmission Combination for a Truck

A fleet truck can be easily overloaded if it does not come with the proper powertrain (engine+ transmission) combination, thereby resulting in increased expenditures for maintenance servicing. The combination of these components plays a critical role for the truck performance capacity.

There is no standard solution when it comes to choosing the perfect powertrain for any truck. In this article, we will consider some helpful tips for owners of truck fleets on selecting truck components that have a significant impact on its performance, fuel economy and maintainability.

Application target

The first question that has to be clarified during the quest for a perfect powertrain system is the future application of the truck. When talking about the truck application, it is necessary to consider such factors as truck’s operating weight, max possible starting grade, and designated road surface help to specify what transmissions and engines will make your truck a real asset for any business. It should be noted that there are some transmissions that have certain restriction concerning the GCVW rates. All these important parameters mentioned above help to determine what kind of gearing and torque will be needed to operate most efficiently at specific cruise speeds.

Significance of Drivability

One of the most important aspects for truck drivers is the drivability of the vehicle. Depending on the application, it is necessary to take into account a wide range of parameters (smoothness of operation, maneuverability, speed of gear shifting, availability of creep mode) that ensure safe and efficient operation of the truck. For instance, it is extremely important for ambulance/fire and emergency vehicles to shift gears and pick-up the speed as fast as possible. In applications that are frequently exposed to stop-and-start traffic, it is necessary to pay attention to such aspects as clutch wear and driver fatigue (in such cases automatics may be more preferable).

Engine Displacement

The requirements imposed on the engine displacement greatly depend on the vocation of a specific truck. For example, trucks used for transportation of heavy loads may benefit from using a smaller engine displacement in order to save weight. Fleet managers should collaborate closely with dealers to determine the required engine size and to come up with the most efficient powertrain combination.

Manual vs Automatic

Selecting an ideal transmission type is crucial when considering a particular kind of fleet operation. When it comes to choosing between manual and automatic gear shifting units for trucks, it is necessary to keep in mind the following aspects: vehicle application, driver’s expertise, main characteristics of the engine (power, torque).

Truck drivers with different professional competence levels have recently been giving preference to automatics because of numerous advantages of modern self-shifting solutions. Automatics free drivers from the necessity to constantly engage the clutch pedal and shift gears manually, thereby allowing them to concentrate on the road and reduce the possibility of road accidents. As the global automotive industry gradually shifts to complete automation regarding transmission solutions, owners of truck fleets also cannot ignore the fact that new heavy-duty automatic gearboxes outperform conventional manuals in several important aspects (from performance capacity to maintenance cost).

Direct-Drive or Overdrive

Once the transmission type has been specified, fleet owners have to decide on a direct-drive or overdrive configuration. Until recently, overdrive options have been enjoying much more popularity. The thing is that previously the automotive market offered a limited number of direct-drive manuals on the market, and there was restricted axle ratio coverage to work with the direct-drive. But most of modern AMTs come in both direct and overdrive configurations. In fact, direct-drive units are more fuel efficient than their overdrive analogs.

Performance and Economy

Another important factor to consider when determining the main powertrain components is the priority between the performance and economy of the fleet truck. If good performance characteristics allow drivers to feel more comfortable on the road, high economy rates allow businesses to reduce the overall cost of operations. Achieving the right balance between these two important parameters is a big factor when determining the right powertrain setup.


Driver satisfaction also should not be disregarded in this important design aspect. The right powertrain is not just about the performance and economy ratio. The correct combination should allow the driver to operate the truck in the most comfortable way possible, thereby avoiding excessive fatigue and increasing safety on the road. The competence and flexibility of drivers can differ, depending on the kind of fleet and peculiarities of the business. In fact, most of the drivers now are reluctant to drive manual trucks or simply don’t know how to do it. When considering the powertrain configuration, it is important for fleet owners to understand the level of driving skills of their employees.

Learn what it is like to drive a truck equipped with an AMT transmission and how’s it different from manual truck experience

Resale Value

Finding the appropriate powertrain setup also should be examined from the resale perspective. It is not a secret that major vehicle manufacturers gradually shift from manual to automatic transmissions, and it has a significant impact on the used vehicles market. Currently, automatic trucks have a higher resale value. When it comes to the engine, the choice between diesel and gasoline-powered engines depends on qualities for a specific business. While diesels ensure longer operation and better fuel economy, while gasoline engine vehicles are notable for a lower upfront cost.


All in all, a proper selection of the main powertrain components, namely engine and transmission, cannot be performed separately, as both components are interdependent when it comes to ensuring the highest performance and economy rates. Moreover, it should be born in mind that operating characteristics must match application peculiarities of the truck.

Finding quality transmission insights and reliable information is not an easy task for transmission specialists who are often either busy with transmission repairs or have their hands covered in oil after a transmission fluid change. All in all, we may be exaggerating a bit but finding these materials is a timely process indeed. We at have got it covered for you! There is a lot you can learn about transmission problem solutions and new transmission models being launched, we also try to interview transmission industry professionals so they can share some of their experience and stories with our readers. We have also included what we find to be events of interest for anyone related to the transmission industry: you check dates, venues, profile and more details on the upcoming industry events. We have got food for thought that you need!

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