Con-way Truckload has purchased 550 new tractors, and in response to what it said are driver demands, 540 will be equipped with automatic transmissions.

All of the tractors feature 6x4 axles.

The company said that previously, only about 50 tractors in the 2,700-vehicle fleet were automatic. The decision was steered in part by more and more driver requests for automatics, along with the company’s desire to lower the barrier of entry into a driving career, Con-way Truckload said.

“We’ve found that many younger drivers looking to enter the industry prefer the automatic transmissions because it removes the perception that operating a truck is outside of their ability,” said Gretchen Jackson, recruiting manager. “Truck driving is an essential role within the economy and, given the current driver shortage, we want to provide career opportunities for those who have an interest but may think the job is unattainable.”

Con-way also said that its drivers prefer tandem, twin-screw tractors.

“Many of our drivers expressed a preference for the 6x4 tractors as they handle more comfortably.” said Randy Cornell, vice president of maintenance with Con-way Truckload. “Driver safety and comfort are essential parts of our company’s success, so we regularly look to our drivers for feedback and listen to their input.”

The new tractors are a mix of Kenworth, Volvo, Navistar and Freightliners. All of the tractors will be operating in the fleet by December.