There is a heated discussion among drivers in the United States (and probably other countries) regarding what the "real truck driver" drives. Manual or automatic transmission? In this short article, I would like to look at it from different angles in order to answer that question. Maybe even take the burden off many of you out there.
Fallacy of the myth
In the first place, I would like to get even with the very popular, yet unfounded preconception that "true" drivers only drive the manuals. And if you do not have the clutch pedal under your foot, it does not even count. I personally don't consider operating a clutch pedal anything extraordinary. It's rather a matter of getting used to the certain type of driving. Ultimately, after a couple of weeks of driving any rig, it becomes a second nature. Having over 20 years of vast experience in driving all kinds of trucks, I have no fear driving anything, whether it's a solo truck, one with a semitrailer or if it's manual or not.
This is what the game is about
I strongly disagree with the statement that driving a manual transmission rug is diminishing to the value of a driver in any way. It's rather an image thing. And many drivers' fantasy about being more "macho". Driving a truck is not really about what gearbox you operate. It's all about other skills, driver's character, and the mindset on its own. Especially given the fact that truck driving job is not one of the easiest ones out there. It's also, for a reason, relatively well paid. It's a huge life commitment and it takes a lot of mental grit. In order to be successful at this job, you need to be really grounded and stress-resistant. Of course, cursing at things that get on your nerves is one thing, and getting the truck straight during a skid is another.
These skills are of the essence
There is an array of character traits that come at play when talking about being a successful driver. From my own experience, I can tell that it's all about time management, planning, and problem-solving skills and also good communication with other drivers. These skills only will let you deal with the majority of obstacles properly. Other than that, like anywhere else, patience and perseverance vastly contribute to your success at becoming a good driver.
Things change gradually
Nowadays, more and more companies in the US slowly start to use automatics as a default option. There is also a group of freshmen drivers who don't even drive manuals because they have a restriction on their CDL license limiting them to automatics only. To what extent it is limiting their opportunities in the job market is a different story. As of now, the vast majority of companies still run on the manual fleet and this is not soon to be different. At least, not in the next decade or two. Even though automatics are considered to be more economical in the long run, they also take more out of the pocket. The difference is sometimes, significant.
It's all about you
The bottom line is this. Don't get involved in the game of labels. Succeeding at this job has nothing to do with how you shift the gears. If you want to improve your work opportunities, on the other hand, you definitely should take up the challenge and learn how to drive both. After all, it's the market's demand that dictates the rules.