Tractor Trailer Backing Tips & Techniques

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Backing a large trailer requires attention to angles.
Backing a large trailer requires attention to angles. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Tractor trailers perform an important job of moving consumer goods throughout the country. Exports and imports constantly enter and leave the country through ports of call where the goods arrive by ship. However, the goods must move to distribution centers and retail facilities far from the port. Tractor trailer drivers must have specialized training for these long hauls, including the ability to back up.

Tractor Trailer Identification

A typical tractor trailer consists of a forward cab housing the engine and driver's area. An attached trailer connects at the cab's rear with an average length of 48 feet. The U.S. federal government stipulates the tractor trailer's length and width dimensions for overall road safety between the large truck combinations and passenger vehicles.

Tractor Trailer Setup

Backing up a tractor trailer requires the use of basic angles. A driver pulls in front of an intended parking spot, such as a dock. Using the steering wheel, the driver angles the cab with the rear trailer at a 45-degree angle. The rear trailer also requires a 45-degree angle with the dock or parking spot.

Tractor Trailer Backing Action

The cab and trailer require straighten out as the driver backs into the dock or parking spot. The rearview mirrors provide the method for straightening correctly. The driver should turn the steering wheel toward the mirror with more trailer within its reflection. For example, drivers who see more trailer within the left mirror should turn the steering wheel to the left. Slowly backing up and turning the wheel in the correct direction will bring both the cab and tractor successfully into the dock at a straight finishing angle.

Backing Tips

Backing up a large vehicle configuration requires space. Stop the vehicle and survey the area before backing into the dock by walking around. Verify that any clearance issues, such as overhead bridges, have enough space for safe entry of the vehicle. During physical backing, honk the horn if the truck did not come equipped with alarm sounds, which will notify any nearby drivers or pedestrians of a moving vehicle. Tractor trailers have large blind spots — especially during a backing procedure.

Backing Considerations

The Profession Truck Driver Institute recommends turning off all radios, including CB radios. A quiet cab is necessary for a concentrated backing-up procedure. Additionally, roll down the window for a clear side view of the rearview mirrors. Constantly monitor all rearview mirrors during backing for the safety of the vehicle and surrounding bystanders. Keep the rearview mirrors clean at all times for the best view while backing.

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