Welfare driving new UD
Automatic transmission gives new MK6 an edge, writesGRAHAMSMITH
WITH driver safety and comfort so crucial in attracting and retaining drivers, UD’s new automatic transmission- equipped medium-duty MK6 could be the key to unlocking sales for the underrated brand.
The MK6 is one of three models in the new 10.4- tonne GVM medium-duty MK range and offers the choice of a six-speed manual gearbox or a five-speed Allison automatic transmission.
While automatic transmissions are common in vocational trucks such as tippers, waste collection and concrete agitators and the like, they are less common in distribution trucks.
But concerns for the health and welfare of drivers have operators looking to automatic or automated transmissions to reduce the stress and strain of constantly changing gears.
Drivers who are less fatigued are sharper at the wheel, which makes them safer and more productive.
‘‘Our customers have emphasised that a major factor in achieving improved productivity is to employ a more comfortable truck which is easier to drive and reduces the likelihood of fatigue,’’ UD marketing manager Shannon Taylor says.
‘‘Additionally, operators are finding it hard to recruit and keep drivers and factors such as trucks equipped with automatic transmissions will broaden the appeal of a company’s fleet to drivers.’’
Other truck makers in the medium-duty market, like market leader Isuzu, have chosen to use automated manual transmissions rather than a fully automated one with a torque converter like the Allison.
With an auto, the acceleration is smoother and more progressive with no pauses, meaning the truck gets up to speed faster and stays there easier.
It might not seem much at first, but in a day’s running with all of the gear-changes involved it can be the difference between getting an extra trip in or not. It’s that efficiency advantage UD believes will have operators flocking to its dealerships in search of the new MK6.
Automatic transmissions have traditionally been rejected for applications other than stop-start work like collecting refuse et cetera, because of their higher fuel consumption, but Allison claims the fuel consumption penalty of its transmission compared to an automated manual gearbox is minimal thanks to its lock-up converter that engages in every gear to eliminate converter slippage, the primary cause of higher fuel use.
A recent run in an MK6 equipped with the optional Allison 2500 fivespeed automatic transmission confirmed UD’s claims for ease of driving.
The 10.4-tonne GVM rigid pan accelerated swiftly and without any pause as it swapped ratios, the shifts were smooth and crisp and it comfortably kept pace with the traffic.
Out on the open road it easily maintained the highway speed limit on cruise, climbed hills without losing momentum and its powerful retarder held it safely when descending them.
It was clearly more comfortable and less tiring than the automated shift transmissions previously sampled by Big Wheels and could indeed represent the breakthrough UD is seeking to get sales moving.