In my opinion, having an Allison automatic transmission is the single largest thing you can do for optimum safety. Having automatic transmissions in trucks seems critical because little things that happen in a car turn into big things in a truck. If it's important in a car, it's huge in a truck.

The obvious safety advantage of an automatic transmission is increased control of the vehicle because drivers never have to take their hands off the steering wheel to shift. There's also improved acceleration, better handling in inclement weather and better ABS compatibility, which means better control while stopping.

Most of today's younger drivers don't know how to operate a manual transmission. Combine that with the fact that our need for skilled truck drivers is on the increase at the same time that the pool of potential drivers is shrinking. Younger, less experienced drivers will do better with vehicles that drive more like the cars they are used to. Companies that provide their drivers with automatic transmissions experience better driver recruitment and retention, which is a big challenge today.

That brings me to my earlier statement that little things in a car become big things in a truck. Think about the last time you bought a new car. You had to get used to the feel of driving a new vehicle. You had to search for the air- conditioning setting and your favorite radio station setting. Every time one of these activities isn't second nature, it means your eyes leave the road and you're thinking about something other than driving. Making a correction in a car is one thing; making a correction in a multi-ton vehicle is quite another.

Increased cab complexities is another issue that compromises safety. That's a way of describing drivers who engage in other activities while they're behind the wheel, such as talking on a radio or cell phone, eating, smoking or drinking coffee. There has never been a time when drivers have had more activities available to them while driving. Even though most of these cab complexities are unsafe, they're practiced all the time. Spec'ing automatic transmissions means drivers have one less thing to do with their hands.

Better acceleration is an obvious advantage of an automatic transmission over a manual transmission. But the safety benefits of better acceleration outweigh the convenience. How many times have you been behind a truck that couldn't keep up with the flow of traffic? What do you do? You begin plotting your escape. How far before I can get around it? That's what everyone else is saying, too. What happens? Lots of lane changing, which makes for an unsafe driving environment.

Some of the advantages of automatic transmissions address issues of convenience as well as safety. Hills and turns are easier with an automatic transmission. For example, it's easier to maneuver up to a loading dock or other tight place.

Truck drivers want to keep up with the flow of traffic. With automatic transmissions they have the ability to do this. Drivers of large vehicles will use the path of least resistance; they don't want to hold people up. But for them to keep up, they need the proper tools.

Better transmission performance yields improved safety, as well as increased productivity. Professional drivers deserve the right to be productive. Everyone deserves the right to be safe.