How to Shift a Semi Truck

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Driving a semi truck takes practice, as it requires learning shift patterns and where each gear is located. Shifting in a semi truck is the same as operating a manual transmission in a car. The only two differences are that there is a high/low shifter to shift from the low gears to the high gears, and that the clutch is not needed for shifting. Always study the gear pattern before attempting to drive the truck.

Ensure the truck is idling and the air gauge is reading 120 PSI. The parking brake can not be released unless the air pressure is built up.

Press the clutch pedal down all the way with the left foot. Pull the gear shifter to the left and up to engage second gear. Ensure the high/low selector is in the down position. The high/low selector is a switch on the front of the gear shifter.

Release the clutch pedal slowly while pushing in the accelerator pedal with the right foot. As the truck starts to lunge forward, push the accelerator down until the truck is in motion.

Shift the gear once the RPM gauge reaches 1,600 to 2,000 RPM's. Pull the shifter down to place in the next gear. Continue shifting until there are no more gears to shift. There is a gear pattern on the top of the shifter.

Bring the shifter back to first gear. Push the high/low selector up while the shifter is traveling. Push in first gear. First gear will be sixth gear once the high/low selector is pushed up.

Continue shifting until tenth gear is reached. Tenth gear is the highway gear.

Slow down by downshifting. Take the right foot off the accelerator pedal and push the shifter in to a lower gear. Keep downshifting until the truck is in sixth gear. Shift the high/low switch down to downshift through the lower gears. This will slow the truck down, almost to a complete stop. Press the clutch pedal and brake pedal to bring the truck to a complete stop.

Shift in to reverse by pulling the shifter to the left and up. Engage in to the reverse gears the same as the forward gears.


  • Learn to drive with a licensed commercial driver present.


  • Using the clutch is not necessary when shifting. Only use the clutch when engaging into a starting gear or stopping.


About the Author

Gregory Crews has been in the film industry for three years and has appeared in more than 38 major motion pictures and 16 television shows. He also writes detailed automotive tutorials. His expertise in the automotive industry has given him the skills to write detailed technical instructional articles.

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