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Best Advice for
Backing Up a Tractor Trailer

Backing up a tractor trailer unit, is one of the most difficult maneuvers for a truck driver, particularly one with a sleeper bunk. This move is very challenging and is a very common cause of truck and property damage.

There's lots of truckers on the road who are able to drive a big rig truck straight ahead, but not so many who are able to successfully back up their rig, without causing damage to the vehicle, the loading dock or the property.

Backing up a tractor trailer properly, is an essential skill for a commercial vehicle driver that must be taken more seriously. The ability to perform this maneuver well, separates the 'pros' from the amateurs.

Trucking insurance companies note that a high percentage of claims and incidents are caused when the driver of a commercial vehicle is backing up. The maneuver is challenging no doubt.


The cause of most backing up accidents

But, many big rig truck backing up accidents are usually caused by the trucker not spending the time necessary to complete the backing up process successfully.

Virtually no other maneuver limits the trucker's visibility, like 'blind siding'.  The driver is literally backing up using his mirrors and aiming to place the truck in a spot he cannot see!

The driver side mirrors don't show where the trailer is or where it's headed. The passenger side mirrors only show the side face of the trailer.

Here's a few things to remember when 'blind siding' or backing up a commercial tractor and trailer.


Driving safety tips for backing up a tractor trailer


Rule #1: Try to avoid blind siding whenever possible.

It will reduce the risk of an accident, period.

Chances are you'll be backing in beside another vehicle or  beside a parked trailer.

If it's absolutely necessary to blind side in, take a mental picture of your target area, set up your rig in a position when pulling into the area, that places the trailer in the best possible position for backing in, with a minimum of angle and maneuvering.

Get out of the vehicle when backing in, to physically check your position as often as is necessary to ensure a safe landing, even if it means getting in an out of the vehicle, every five feet or so, during the process.
Take as much time as is needed to back up safely, without incident. It's definitely worth investing the time!

Rule #2: avoid using spotters.

My advice is only use a spotter who is an experienced truck driver.
As a rule, anyone else can be more distracting without being helpful and tend to watch only one portion of the vehicle backing in.

Anyone who is not a trucker, isn't experienced enough to know they need to watch the entire truck and trailer.

I've watched people trying to help out when spotting, only to direct the trucker incorrectly to slam into light posts, docks and do a lot of  unnecessary damage.

Rule #3: Go slowly.

I can't stress this point enough. Be very careful. Check the position of the tractor and trailer constantly.

Following the above suggestions when backing up a tractor trailer, certainly won't guarantee success every single time, when backing in, but it will dramatically reduce the damage that can be caused by backing up incidents.

A great deal of practice is the best solution to learn how to successfully accomplish this move safely, each and every time.



More 'How to' articles for driving skills.....

Scaling a Tandem Axle Trailer

Moving the Fifth Wheel

Smart Trucking Home  > Driver Skills

Smart Trucking Magazine


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