Pro Tips for Backing up Tractor – Trailer
Learning how to drive an 18-wheeler is a lifetime skill, sort of an art. And learning to back up a 53’ trailer is what makes a professional driver a true artist. Backing up a trailer is one of the hardest maneuvers performed by a truck driver. It’s very challenging and a common cause of truck damages. The ability to perform the maneuver well separates the ‘pros’ from the amateurs.
Here are some “pro” drivers’ tips:
The first useful tip for backing up is the steering wheel tip, and it’s usually the one that drivers learn during the training. However, if you have not learned this from your trucking instructor, here it is:
Imagine the top of the steering wheel (the side closest to the windshield) as your truck and imagine the bottom of the steering wheel (the part closest to your lap) as your trailer. Now, while backing up, turning the steering wheel to the right makes the top of it go right and the bottom goes left. That means your trailer, in that case, is going left. And vice versa, turning the steering wheel to the left makes the bottom go to the right. That means your trailer at that time is going to the right.
It is a simple, but a very visual tip, which helped many drivers who had a hard time figuring tractor-trailer backing up technique.
No matter how experienced you are, when it comes to backing up a tractor-trailer you need to be 100% present and focused. That means putting your phone away, turning off your radio, not listening to the CB. Remember, it’s only for a few minutes. So, give it your all to eliminate all the distractions you can.
Before even starting to back-up, make sure that the people around you are aware of your attention. This can be done by turning on your hazards or honking the horn, just to get attention. It is important to make yourself visible to everyone around.
In most cases, you will need to backup your truck and trailer beside another vehicle or a parked trailer, so take a mental picture of the space. Pay close attention for things such as stones, low structures of the buildings, fire hydrants, mailboxes, dumpsters, etc. Before trying to back up, it may help to park the truck in a safe place and walk in to survey the area. This will only take you a couple of minutes, but it will help you a lot to see the area and to spot of all the things that can give your problems while you’re backing up.
Move slowly. It is always safer to take your time backing up your truck. That does not make you a less of a “pro driver”, in a matter of fact it shows that you are a responsible driver. Check the position of the truck and the trailer constantly. Use your mirrors. Hang out of the driver side window to look, sometimes it is better than relying on a mirror. In very tight and difficult places, feel free to get out of the truck and check if you are going in the right direction. Again, better safe than sorry.
- Trust only your own eyes.
Be confident in your driving and backing up skills. Do not trust the spotters, they cannot see the trailer and truck the same as you do. The more you rely on yourself, the better you are.
While backing up, take your time and keep checking both of your mirrors. They are there for the reason, and that reason is to help you back up. So, keep in mind that you have two mirrors and do not fix your eyes on one.
Refuse to back up if you come to the conclusion it’s impossible. Don’t let your pride get in the way. The damage you may cause will negatively affect your professional driving record. No matter what the circumstances are it’s always a driver’s fault, so keep that in mind in the situation like this.