Jun 18, 2009

How To Shift A Semi Truck

Before you can actually call yourself a 'trucker', you have to learn how to drive those massive machines. So, In this article, I'm going to introduce you to the way to shift a basic 9 or 10 speed truck.

Shifting a Semi Truck doesn't have to be a difficult matter, and you should simply try to enjoy yourself. The method I'm going to tell you about here is a basic method that will allow you to be able to shift ALL semi-trucks. It is not progressive, double clutching, or any other method. We're trying to keep things simple for the beginner here, and once you hang out in the truck for a month or so, you'll develop your own method. You'll soon realize that once you sign on with a carrier, they'll have some rule about how they want you to do things, so keeping stuff extremely simple is a very good starting point here.

You should learn how to progressive shift, as companies state that this improves fuel economy, and it wouldn't hurt to learn how to double clutch. Most carriers now require double clutching used, which isn't a big deal, because if you attend any type of carrier based school, or attend any training approved by a particular carrier, the chances will be that you are taught. However, what is not told you is that most drivers, (myself included) Rarely, If ever, double clutch. This is really due to it being kind of a nuisance.

So, with all that being said, Let's get to the tutorial.
  1. You Must Do A Pre-Trip, and make sure that the truck is safe to drive.
  2. You must start the truck, some trucks require that you turn a key, then push a button. However, it seems now that most newer trucks start like cars, by simply turning the key until it's running.
  3. After your air pressure has built up, it's time to start moving. Press in the Yellow, and Red Knobs, and give the trailer a moment to air up, which will release the trailer brakes.
  4. Push in the clutch and shift into second gear. Yes, Second. First gear is so short, and it's only used really on very heavy loads.
  5. Here comes the tricky part. Do not push the accelerator! Big trucks require no fuel to get them moving. They are geared different, some of the small differences are transmission types, and clutch types, a typical car clutch is made of composite fiber-type materials whereas a truck clutch isn't.
  6. After the truck is in motion, accelerate up to around 1600 - 1700 rpm. You will no longer use the clutch as long as your truck is in motion.
  7. While at 1600 - 1700rpm start applying pressure to the shifter towards the next gear, while your foot is still on the accelerator.
  8. It will take some time to learn how to time this right, however, the idea is to release the accelerator, pause a brief moment in neutral, and slide into the next gear. You will grind gears, and this is part of the learning curve. Grinding gears in a trucks transmission is not like a cars, it won't damage. (at lease not as much)
  9. Another part of shifting that you need to know is that you need to hold the gear if you don't get it to go in at first. Many people's natural reaction is to pull off of the gear, however, you need to keep on it. Sometimes a truck will have to go to 1000 rpm before it accepts the gear, other times it accepts it right away. They key to remember is that it will not always take at the same rpm, and many times, you will have to give the motor more fuel to match the transmission and engine speed to accept a gear.
  10. Do the same method through all gears. However, at 5th gear you have to flip the splitter, to change to high range gears. Unlike a car transmission, you can 're-use' gears in semi in what's called high range. Remember to flip the splitter in 5th gear, and once you pull out of 5th, to go into neutral, the transmission will swap into high range. This way, you'll shift into 6th gear instead of 1st.
  11. That's it!

Downshifting is essentially the same, however, you reverse the direction, and must give fuel to catch the higher gear. Just pull out of the gear you're in and go towards the gear you want to be in, and just slowly floor the accelerator, and your gear will catch. But Stay Against That Gear so it Will Catch!


Derrick Trucks on December 26, 2009 at 12:27 PM said...

Up shifting and Down shifting are basically same. They have slight difference in reversing the speed.
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teamdwms on May 5, 2010 at 9:11 AM said...

You have given a lot of really good information on this site. We all get into the business thinking it is going to be easier until we get in and have to figure things out on our own. The internet has really helped all of us to learn new tricks and techniques and help us better our profession.

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