Automated transmissions a selling point for driver recruiting

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Fleets struggling to put drivers in the seat are more willing to pay premiums that come with automated transmissions in used trucks, more so than their owner-operator counterparts, according to a report recently released by NADA.

At just more than $70,000, the Volvo 780 with ISX/manual transmission combination held the highest retail price in 3-5 year old sleeper tractors by spec. The 780 D13/manual transmission was a close second.

“The market appears to prefer a manual in this truck, given the roughly $5000 premium over 780’s equipped with an automated transmission,” says NADA senior analyst Chris Visser, who authored the report. “This result is not surprising, given that owner-operators – a group which appreciates manual transmissions – are a target market for this truck.

“Interestingly, the (Volvo) 670 returns the opposite results, suggesting stronger demand for an automated in this more fleet-oriented model,” he adds. “Given the driver shortage, it is logical that small fleets and other buyers of late-model used iron would purchase trucks that are easy for novices to drive.”

The first automated transmission truck to appear on the list, with a price of just more than $65,000, is the 780 powered by a D13.

The report shows buyers of Peterbilt’s 386 valued the ISX substantially higher than the C15, with a $7,474 (11.1 percent) difference between the two. Visser notes there was also a greater number of 386’s sold with an ISX in this period, at 142 versus just 25.

“International ProStar buyers also preferred the ISX, paying an average of $11,012 (19.6 percent) more for trucks so equipped over MaxxForce counterparts,” he says. “Volume for the ProStar/ISX combination was much higher than for the ProStar/MaxxForce, at 308 versus 74, respectively.”

The ISX/manual transmission combination was also valued higher in the Volvo 670 than the D13/manual, commanding an average of $1,346 (2.1 percent) more. As with the other two models, the ISX accounted for the majority of 670’s sold, at 404 versus 106, Visser says.

“Again, though, the price relationship reverses when the D13 is backed by an iShift,” he adds.

Despite strong pricing and demand for ISX engines, Visser says proprietary engines are making gains in the market.

“Focusing specifically on 3-year-old trucks, we know that Paccar’s MX engine performs well in the marketplace, coming in higher spec-for-spec versus the ISX in both the 386 and T700. The T660 brought slightly higher money with the ISX, but only by just under $700,” Visser says.

“Freightliner’s proprietary engine – the DD15 – also brought slightly more money than the ISX, with DD15 Cascadias commanding about a $700 premium. Freightliner’s Detroit/DD engines have maintained one of the better reputations throughout the recent rounds of emissions standards, and Cascadias so equipped – especially with an automated transmission – bring strong money.”

“Volvo’s D13 was the exception, with the ISX outperforming the proprietary engine by almost $8,000 in the 780 and about $1,600 in the 670 when equipped with a manual,” Visser says. “The Mack CX with MP8 returned surprisingly high pricing, showing that a sleeper Mack can perform well when competitively spec’d.”

For 3-year-old trucks, automated transmissions represented a premium for all models except for the 780, the report says. Matched with a proprietary engine, an automated transmission appears to be a value-add on a late-model sleeper tractor, Visser says.

“Another item of interest is high pricing for automated transmissions,” he says. “Aside from the low-volume 780/D16, the more common Cascadia/DD15 and 670/D13 both performed better with automateds. This result is probably due mainly to an ample supply of manuals, but marketplace demand for late-model trucks with automateds is a relevant factor.”