Setting Up For A Dock the Right Way = Successfully Backing Up a Big Rig

Peterbilt Truck Loading at Freight Dock

White trailer and a red big rig parkedOne of the important skills new drivers will need to develop is setting up for a dock.

Positioning the truck correctly is the answer to successful alley docking.

If the truck isn’t positioned correctly, it can be next to impossible to do a 45 degree back up maneuver, and the risk of incurring damage to equipment or property escalates!

The Most Difficult Professional Driver Skill – Backing Up the Truck

Backing up a big rig is probably the hardest driving skill to perform by a truck driver.

The following includes 3 rules which most drivers do not consider when preparing to alley dock their truck.

Some drivers may be embarrassed about following through on any one of these rules:

i) Getting Out of the Truck To Look Multiple Times

ii) Asking For Parked Cars or Obstacles to Be Moved.

iii) Refusing to Back Into an Impossible Setting.

Maybe your pride gets in the way. Maybe it’s just easier to try it instead.

But the bottom line?

If you mess up and hit something, the scars on your driving record which is bad news.

So take the time to think about these rules.

They could save you from worse embarrassment if you rip the bumper off a car or tear the front end off an expensive rig!

Related > How to Back Up a Tractor Trailer Like a Boss 

3 Rules You Should Consider Implementing When Setting Up For a Dock

  1. Rule #1 – REMEMBER G.O.A.L.
Big Rig backing into a loading dock

G.O.A.L. = GET OUT AND LOOK.  Always have a good look at the docking area and the surrounding area before setting up to commence backing up.  Look for obstacles, especially things that are below the site line. These things will most likely not be visible in the mirrors, once the driver starts to back up.

Look for things such as fire hydrants, parking stones, low structures, flower gardens, parked cars etc.

Take a mental picture of these things. As the backing up process proceeds, the driver will know these things are present and can get out of the truck periodically to check his positioning in relation to these things.

If the dock can’t be seen from the street, park the truck on the street and walk in to survey the area. It’s easier than having to back out after nosing in and finding your truck won’t fit into the spot.

  1. Rule #2 – Ask For Parked Cars to Be Moved. 

If the area you need to use to back in is riddled with objects like stacks of skids or parked cars, ask the shipper to clear the area for you. Many shippers are either ignorant or don’t care if you’ve got enough room. Their standard line is ‘We get trucks in here all the time. Go ahead and back in’” .

Remember, to most shippers, a UPS van is the same as on over-the-road truck with a 53′ trailer. They’re all just trucks to most of them.

If you hit something like a parked car while backing in, it’s money out of your pocket and damage to your driving record not the receiver.

  1. Rule #3 – Don’t Be Afraid to Say ‘No’ (If necessary).

Don’t let anyone ridicule you or embarrass you into trying to back into an ugly spot. If it’s impossible to do, speak up and say so. Damage caused by a driver will negatively affect his professional driving record.  In fact, it could cost a driver his truck driving job in some cases. If a driver does damage, no matter what the circumstances, it’s the driver’s fault, no one else’s.

10 Tips For Setting Up For a Dock (Backing up to a Target)

The goal is when positioning the truck to prepare to back up, maneuver in such a way that the rear of the trailer will track as straight into the dock as possible.

  • Follow the track of the rear of the trailer. When the truck is in the correct position, then when reversing, simply follow the track of the rear of the trailer into the dock, straightening the truck and trailer as soon as possible.
  • Hang out the driver side window to look. There’s nothing wrong with hanging out the driver window and looking back at the rear of the trailer when backing up. Direct sight line is better than relying totally on a mirror.
  • Straighten the unit out. Pull forward to straighten up the unit as often as is needed.
  • Watch BOTH sides of the truck. Don’t forget a truck has 2 sides. Watch both of them.
  • Get out and look. G.O.A.L. Stop, get out and look as many times as it takes to get into the dock without hitting anything. Remember, potential for damage is much greater when backing up. It’s worth the time to stop, get out and check.
  • Check dock guards and dock locks. Before contacting the dock, get out and check that dock guards on the building are not going to contact the back of your trailer. Those guards are really good at knocking trailer doors right off the trailer. Check at the same time to ensure dock locks on the building are in the open position and will not hit your ICC bar.
  • Do not rush. Don’t be in a hurry. Take all the time you need to do it safely.
  • Don’t trust a spotter. They can’t see the entire truck and trailer at the same time anymore than you can. Get out and look for yourself.
  • Gently make contact with the dock. Ease gently into the dock, while feathering the clutch. When you feel your vehicle against the dock, set all brakes and get out again to check the area where the trailer is contacting the door.
  • Ensure that your trailer is in the door straight. The purpose of this is so the dock plate can match up to the trailer floor all the way across.

Important to Get It Right

Backing up a big rig when you’re setting up for a dock, is much like riding a bike. It does take some time to get the hang of it.

It’s an important skill which you should master early in your truck driving career. Take the time and make it your personal goal to master it.

Go slowly, carefully and don’t get discouraged. It does take practice to get it right.

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