Backing up a tractor-trailer involves skill, planning, and experience.
That’s why a truck driver’s ability to back up a semi-trailer separates professionals from amateurs.
While backing up, most amateur truck drivers damage the vehicle, the loading dock, or any other type of property.
However, with experience, truck drivers gain the ability to back up an 18-wheeler into a tight spot with less stress.
Imagine having a guide with videos demonstrating all types of tractor-trailer backing up techniques.
Would that make the mastering curve of trailer backups shorter for you?
In this article, you’ll find tractor-trailer backing up maneuvers with video demonstrations from experienced truck drivers.
Is it hard to back up a semi-trailer?
Insurance companies report that backing accidents have the highest percentage of claims.
Why does that happen?
Because, backing up a semi-trailer is one of the hardest truck driver skills.
Often truck drivers have to squeeze their trailers when there is little space in front of them. Or, when there is little space between the side trucks.
Also, the truck drivers need to move in reverse gear without seeing the far end of the trailer.
To do that, truck drivers have only the side mirrors.
That is a hard task to do.
6 types of truck backing up techniques
A professional truck driver needs to master the below six backing maneuvers.
Let’s take a brief look at each of them.
1. Straight-line backing tips
This maneuver is the first and the most simple step in learning all other backings.
2. Alley dock backing
Alley dock backing involves backing the tractor-trailer while turning at a 90-degree angle.
It occurs at loading docks when the driver must back up off the street or between other vehicles.
- 90-degree alley dock backing tips
The main rules when performing a 90-degree alley dock backing are:
- when you turn the steering wheel to the left in reverse, the trailer moves to the right.
- when you turn the steering wheel to the right in reverse, the trailer moves to the left.
Please watch the below video where the driver explains in action how to do a 90-degree backing.
- 45-degree tractor-trailer maneuver
Some shippers and receivers have 45-degree alley docks, which truck drivers find trickier to back into than a 90-degree alley dock.
It is sort of like the combination of straight-line backing and the 90-degree alley dock.
- 45-Degree VS 90-Degree Truck Backing
3. Parallel parking
Parallel parking involves backing up the truck into space along a curb or dock.
This concept is like parking a car but, in the case of an articulated truck, it’s much more difficult to perform.
Fortunately, this backing maneuver is not used very often.
4. Jackknife parking
Jackknife parking refers to the 90-degree angle of the tractor and trailer when parked.
This backing technique shortens the total length of the rig, which helps when the dock is too close to the street, parking for sideloading or unloading, or any other obstructions.
5. Sight side backing
Sight side backing is backing toward the left side of the vehicle.
In this case, the driver can see along the intended path of the trailer, which gives you better visibility and control compared to blindside backing.
6. Blind side backing
Blindside backing is backing toward the right side of the vehicle and is a much more difficult backing maneuver than the sight-side backing.
In this case, you can only see where you’re going in your rearview mirrors.
When possible, for safety reasons, avoid this backing technique.
Jackings and chasing maneuvering technique
When you back a combination unit, you perform two basic operations:
- Jacking is the act of backing up forming a jackknife angle between tractor and trailer and getting the trailer started turning.
- Chasing is the act of turning the tractor wheel just enough to get the power unit to follow (chase) the trailer once the correct direction is established.
Backing a tractor-trailer into a tight spot
Tips for backing up a 53 foot semi trailer
To execute the backing up maneuver, you need follow these steps.
1. Take a mental picture
Before backing up the truck, get out, and take a mental picture of the side clearances or obstructions.
After that, set up the position of the tractor and trailer so that it can back up with minimum angle and maneuvering.
2. Set up the truck for backing up
When setting up the truck for a backup maneuver, position it 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.)
Put a glove about 2-3 feet from the right corner of the truck to your left.
When backing up, avoid rolling over the glove.In this way, you are less likely to hit the vehicles next to you.
3. Avoid spotters help
Avoiding using a spotter while backing up.
Or you can use as a spotter who is an experienced truck driver and who knows what to watch and how the truck moves.
Unexperienced or non-drivers spotters do more harm than help.
They watch only one part of the vehicle forgetting about the other side, which may damage some property.
4. Secure the trailer doors
While backing up, make sure the trailer doors don't swing.
Secure the trailer doors to the side of the trailer.
5. Roll down the side window
Roll down the side windows to hear the noises around.
Ask someone to alert you about the hazards in your way.
If you hear strange noises, you might want to check before damaging anything.
6. Move slowly while backing up
That allows you to be careful and control the positioning of the tractor and trailer constantly.
7. Be aware of the G.O.A.L.
Remember the G.O.A.L.! That stands for “GET OUT AND LOOK”.
Make a habit of getting out of the truck to check the positioning of the trailer as often as it’s necessary.
That ensures that you park safely without any accidents.
Go around the truck and the trailer.
Check the clearances on both sides of the trailer. Make sure that no other objects are standing in the way. Look for anything that stands in the way of parking the truck safely.
8. Look at your side mirrors
Look into the mirrors.
Make sure the side trucks and the rears of the trailer are in your mirror.