Eaton Gears Automated Clutch Series Transmissions To Mixers And Dumps

Responding to a wave of ready mixed producers switching their truck specs from manual to automatic transmissions, Eaton Corp. has added the mixer-geared

Don Marsh

Responding to a wave of ready mixed producers switching their truck specs from manual to automatic transmissions, Eaton Corp. has added the mixer-geared Vocational Multipurpose Series (VMS) to its latest generation of automated clutch models. Thanks to the transmission’s intelligent adaptive shifting and 36:1 gear ratio, negotiating steep grades or curb-and-gutter jobs might never be the same for mixer drivers.

The VMS, plus the mixer or dump-suited Vocational Construction Series (VCS) and heavy-haul-suited Vocational Extreme Performance Series (VXP), are among six UltraShift PLUS models Eaton rolled out for limited release this fall, with full production scheduled in 2010. The product of seven years of research & development and field testing, the transmissions succeed UltraShift models, which have been available since 2004 in ratings confined to on-highway use. The UltraShift PLUS Vocational models, and three on-highway series, feature what Eaton engineers describe as new automated clutch technology and software that employs grade sensing, weight computation, and driver throttle commands to make intelligent shift decisions for efficient and safe vehicle performance.

The VMS, VCS and VXP offer installed weight savings up to 300 lbs. compared to a torque-converted automatic transmission. In addition to greater payload potential and net fuel economy, Eaton engineers note, the absence of a transfer case and attendant heat in the UltraShift PLUS equates to lower cooling requirements. Transmissions running at a cooler temperature become more significant in the face of EPA 2010-compliant diesel engines, whose increased heat factors have spurred OEM truck hood and body design changes.

The UltraShift PLUS Vocational series feature torque capacities from 1,450 lb.-ft. to 2,250 lb.-ft. and what Eaton engineers describe as world class start-ability and ratio coverage. Each has been designed for on/off highway performance and manufactured with such key driveline protection features as stall prevention, engine overspeed and clutch-abuse protection, and auto gear selection. The entire line can be serviced by Class 8 truck dealers trained in Fuller transmission work.

UltraShift PLUS models feature enhanced low-speed maneuverability and the new Hill Start Aid that prevents rolling while on steep grades. This allows a controlled launch, with a three-second hold on the throttle to prevent truck roll back. Driver-friendly operating modes include Drive, Reverse, Manual and Low.

Eaton notes these engineering details and application-specified performance features for each Vocational platform:


With an overall gear ratio of 36:1, and 11 forward and three reverse speeds, it features an ultra-low gear reduction to enhance low-speed maneuverability for concrete curb pouring and other vocations where creeping is required. The gear ratio assures smooth operation below 1.5 mph. Software enables the VMS to achieve fast gear switches by creating three operating modes: floating shift, open clutch, and open clutch with inertia brake. The open clutch mode halves the gear switch time of the floating shift; the open clutch with inertia brake halves that shift time.


With an overall gear ratio of 20:1, and 10 forward and three reverse speeds, it has been designed with deep reduction gearing and multiple high-speed reverse to meet the specific needs of highway construction work and general dump operations requiring extended reverse operation.


With an overall gear ratio of 20:1, and 18 forward and four reverse speeds, it provides users with maximum power capacity Û no vehicle weight limits apply Û and grade-ability features for the toughest of operating environments.

The markets to which the VMS, VCS and VXP are targeted, notes UltraShift PLUS Program Manager Michael Holahan, have a host of unique applications with very specific transmission requirements. That’s why we decided on three separate platforms Û each fine-tuned to fit the needs of vocational customers. Based on test fleets’ highly favorable feedback, he contends, We’re extremely confident UltraShift PLUS transmissions will be well received as a very viable alternative to torque converter automatic designs.

Among concrete and aggregate operators testing VMS and VCS are Holcim Dufferin (mixers in metro Toronto), Lafarge North America (mixers in Atlanta, Prairie provinces and B.C.; note companion box), and, Knife River Belgrade Division (dump trucks in Montana). Thus far, the VMS has been tested in rear-discharge mixer trucks. Eaton engineers are eyeing modifications to make the transmission suitable for front discharge mixers.