Allison TC10 transmission a breath of fresh air

By: Matt Wood

We climb behind the wheel of a Kenworth T359 to test the TC10 transmission from Allison.

Allison TC10 transmission a breath of fresh air
Prix Car had an Allison TC10 transmission retro-fitted to a Kenworth T359 prime mover.


The Allison automatic transmission has carved out a formidable reputation for durability and performance on the Australian market. 

It’s the transmission of choice for the vast majority of the waste and construction sector.

These days barely an agitator rolls past without that signature Allison and live drive PTO sound.

However, the American release of the Allison TC10 transmission a couple of years ago showed the company was keen to expand its gear changing horizons outside of its traditional vocational and bus territory.

The TC10 is a twin counter shaft 10-speed transmission with a torque converter out front that has been specifically designed for heavy duty and on-highway applications.

The company is claiming a 5 per cent improvement in fuel economy in US applications.

As you’d expect, the torque converter gets things rolling on take-off but locks out almost instantaneously.

The TC10 then shuffles through its 10 ratios as needed much in the same way as an automated cog box (AMT).

Except it isn’t an AMT and the TC10 is touted to dodge some AMT performance blackspots, namely clutch engagement, intersection clearance and indecisive shifting.

This all sounds great on paper but what does it mean out in the real world? We found out recently after climbing behind the wheel of a near new Kenworth T359 recently.

The Kenworth belongs to Prix Car and was retro fitted with the Allison on delivery with the old Eaton box getting the flick.

The beauty of this application is that the single trailer car carrier runs at 36 tonne gross, which is exactly the same as the American on- highway weight limit.

And this is the first TC10 equipped truck in the country.

When we caught up with it there was a full load of cars on the back to give us a real world indication of what this cog swapper was about.

Inside there’s little to give away what’s going on under the 359’s narrow floor. An Allison selector pad looks right at home. The 450hp Cummins ISM fires up and I hit D for drive. The result is quite startling and quite unlike any other truck I’ve driven to date.

The torque multiplying characteristics of the torque converter give the combination a good nudge off the line which belies the fact that this truck is equipped with an incredibly tall 3.08 final drive.

The TC10 also delivers full power gear shifts which really gives it a kick up the bum when rolling though urban traffic.

But what really got me was the decisiveness of the transmission especially when negotiating roundabouts, for example.

Even some of the best AMTs can get a little confused when rolling up to an intersection. Any decent driver will try and keep the rig rolling and anticipate traffic if they can rather than stopping unnecessarily.

Trouble is some AMTs will then shuffle up and down gears when throttle is applied which means you lose vital time getting though a gap in the traffic.

The longer it takes encourages the driver to plant the foot even more which then encourages a normal AMT to hold onto gears and rev out longer, which then means the truck takes even longer to get going. It can be very frustrating in heavy traffic.

This Allison box, however, makes its mind up very quickly and gets you shuffling with the right cog sooner rather than later.

Varying road cambers don’t seem to worry it either. Allison is looking to expand on the TC10’s potential locally and there’s already a plethora of roles that a transmission of this ilk would shine.

But from behind the wheel, the TC10 is a breath of fresh air in an increasingly automated world.  


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