Volvo Trucks’ ground-breaking automated transmission celebrates its 15th anniversary in North America. To this day, it continues to evolve and remains a benchmark for the industry. But what are the secrets behind its worldwide success?

When I-Shift became North America’s first-ever, automated manual transmission system for heavy duty trucks in 2006, it was met with widespread skepticism within the industry. It was believed by some that the automated gearbox would offer a less reliable alternative to its manual counterpart.

Volvo Trucks remained firm in its belief in a transmission system designed for automatic gear-changing. This persistence paid off. Customer testing and experiences soon revealed I-Shift’s many invaluable benefits, including its ability to lower fuel consumption, improve safety, and relieve driver fatigue.

“It was a bold move, but it worked. A major game changer soon became a major success,” says Pär Bergstrand, heavy duty transmission manager at Volvo Trucks global.

Today, all Volvo trucks in North America come standard with I-Shift, and Volvo Trucks has sold more than one million I-Shifts around the world. There is little doubt that it continues to set the standard for heavy duty transmissions.

" It was a bold move, but it worked. A major game changer soon became a major success."

Fuel efficiency

I-Shift has allowed Volvo Trucks to push the limits of fuel efficiency through downspeeding. Lowering the engine’s peak torque to 900 RPM and the optimal engine speed at cruise to 950 does not leave much margin for error. Volvo’s D11 and D13 engines work together with the I-Shift to precisely match engine speed to road conditions. Sometimes there’s just a hair’s breadth difference between dropping a gear or not, but the integrated powertrain can consistently maintain that margin in a way a driver with a manual transmission simply can’t match.

Fuel efficiency is further enhanced by Volvo’s I-See® technology, a combination of I-Shift and an intelligent cruise control. It’s a unique system that learns the topography of the road. Later on, it automatically uses its knowledge to save fuel when the intelligent cruise control is engaged.


I-Shift with Crawler Gears was introduced in 2016 and allows a truck transporting a load of up to 125,000 lbs. to start from standstill on a level road.

The gear ratio enables the truck to truly crawl—at speeds as low as 0.5 mph—which is hugely beneficial when performing precision maneuvers, for example on construction sites or when hauling timber. The extra start gears also require fewer rpms, which lowers fuel consumption and environmental impact, as well as reducing wear and tear on the driveline.

A bright future

Looking ahead, it’s inevitable that I-Shift will be adapted for Volvo Trucks’ electric battery vehicles and will continue to be improved for its diesel trucks. I-Shift’s versatility and the engineering team behind it will ensure the world’s most innovative transmission will be celebrating anniversaries for many years to come.


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