Tractor-Trailer Backing Tips

Roll your window down - You may need to hear what is going on around you, or someone may alert you as to hazards you are about to encounter that you were not aware of. Dock areas and obstacles are easier to see with windows down.

Use Flashers every time when backing to let others know you are backing. Do it every time so you are in the habit.

Tapping your brake at night while backing can help you see the area you are backing into.

Avoid pulling forward to the right: Unless you know for sure it will help. Pulling forward to the right can get you into a blindside backing situation making things worse.

Be aware of 20 accident impact areas around truck and trailer: 

Front of truck.

Right and left front corners of tractor. 

Right and Left side mirrors (hitting another truck or inside dock wall), 

Right and left bottom sides of tractor near the steps. 

Right and left back of tractor near the mud flaps.

Right and left mud flaps on trailer (you can lose a mud flap and bracket on curbs and potholes), 

Right and left side of trailer.  

Right and left rear bottom of trailer near DOT bumper. 

Right and left top of the rear of the trailer. 

Right and left trailer doors.

Rear of trailer. 

When backing look at all mirrors: It is easy to forget about the small mirrors on the bottom when straight backing, but it helps you know in advance if another driver is going to be pulling behind you while backing.

When backing up close to a building, other truck, or any stationary object: Walk to the back of the trailer and measure the distance from the stationary object. I measure it by counting my steps. I then go back to my driver’s door and count steps backward minus 1 step. I find an object at that distance and backup to that point. (For instance: If my trailer is 9 feet from hitting an object and I measure the distance from my side mirror to the side mirror of the truck beside me. If the distance from my mirror to his mirror is 6 feet, then if I back up making our mirrors even with each other, I should still be 3 foot away from hitting the object behind me.) If I need to be closer than that, I will inch back about 2 inches at a time, getting out and going to the back of the trailer and checking to see how close I am.

You are responsible for backing accidents:

Even if others are ground guiding me, I get out and look the same.

Get out and walk around truck a minimum of 3 times: 

a) Once after setting up just before starting to back 

b) Once about 2 feet before entering parking spot, and 

c) Once about 2 feet before bumping dock

Back slowly constantly being aware of all sides of vehicle

Be aware of tail swing, nose swing, and changing objects (while concentrating on the back of the trailer, it is easy to forget about the fact that the truck is moving right and left causing you to end up side swiping a low stationary object with your truck near the steps 

Do not get to close to obstacles including trucks and trailers. Any small misjudgment or small change in ground surface can cause movement causing an accident. It does not leave room for mistakes in wheel turning when you are inches away from an object. 

Before I pull up to back between two trucks in a truck stop, I take note of the colors and style of the trucks and when I am backing I make sure those two trucks are in my mirror. Also make sure there is no car or small vehicle in the parking spot before pulling up.

Sliding tandems in the middle of the backing maneuver sometimes helps in tight areas

Pick the easiest parking spot: I drive around the truck stop once usually to find the easiest parking spot to get in and out of, of course if you see a good spot and do not take, it may not be available after going around lot.

Inside Docks: Watch your trailer doors, trailer doors are easily taken off by mistake when either pulling out of an inside dock or when pulling up to make an adjustment. Try to be lined up for a straight as you are backing into buildings. Place a flashlight on the dock makes it easier to get lined up. 

Dumping your tractor air bags or sliding your trailer tandems back to the rear of the trailer: Either of these methods can raise the tail end of your trailer making it easier for the customer to load/unload you.

Blindside backing – Driver will need to get out much more when blind side backing. Some sleepers berths have a window or door on the side. Roll up the curtain of the sleeper berth window and you will be able to see the back of the trailer making it easier to blind side back. Opening the side sleeper door also helps (use a bungee cord in order to keep the sleeper door open.) 

Sliding Tandems - Make sure nothing is behind you if you are sliding your tandems back.

Secure trailer doors - Secure trailer doors to side of trailer and watch trailer doors while backing making sure trailer doors do not become unlatch while backing and start swinging.

Setting up for the back: 

After pulling up for the initial back, make sure the truck is at least 10 feet from any object such as other trucks, fences, or curbs. (This gives you room to move right and left while backing.)

Prevent backing into the truck or trailer on your right blindside: 

Before backing, put a real glove or an imaginary glove about 2-3 feet in front of the right corner of the truck to your left. Do not back over the glove. By using this technique, your trailer is less likely to hit the vehicles next to you.

Making adjustments: 

  1. While doing pull ups after you enter the parking spot, made sure your trailer does not hit anything with the trailer tail swing. 
  2. While backing, if your trailer is trying to hit the front of the blindside vehicle, to correct it, pull straight forward, then steer clockwise jackknifing while backing. 
  3. While backing, if your trailer is trying to hit the front of the vehicle to your left, to correct it, pull straight forward, then steer counter-clockwise while backing.