5 Tips for Backing up a Tractor-Trailer Safely

By The Schneider Guy Feb 15, 2016

There are many skills to acquire when becoming a truck driver, and arguably the hardest one is learning how to back up a tractor-trailer safely. Schneider’s new CDL holder orientation provides backing and slow maneuvering training in much detail, but we wanted to know what advice experienced truck drivers had to offer for new drivers. That’s why we asked our Facebook followers for their best piece of advice for new drivers about backing up a tractor-trailer. The comments were packed with useful tips, and we want to share the five best ones with you, with added commentary from Schneider’s “Highway to Success” driver handbook:

1. “G.O.A.L. Get out and look. Take your time. Don't rush yourself.” – Paul Isaiah Archuleta

There’s no surprise G.O.A.L. is at number one. Get out of your truck and look at where you need to back up. Walk around the entire unit. Stand in the spotter position, 20-25’ in front and diagonal to the passenger side tractor bumper and look at the parking spot, the blind side, the area that the tractor will use while backing and any area that you cannot see.

2. “Never back up unless you really have to.” – Joe Schwenz Sr.

The best way to hedge against a backing accident is not to back up if you don’t have to. You should try to eliminate unnecessary backs by planning and parking in spaces you can pull through.

3. “If you’re unsure where you are at, get a spotter to help you. Always back up as straight as you can. Don't be in a hurry. Remember safety first. Always back up with your window down, and back up mostly using your left mirror. Good luck.” – Donald Leyva

A spotter should be used whenever possible. Position the spotter so he/she is able to see what you cannot. Again, this is 20’-25’ out from the right front corner of the tractor. Agree on hand signals you expect the spotter to use. Stop is the most important signal to have. Anytime the spotter is out of sight, STOP. Make sure your tractor and trailer are straight and aligned with the parking space. Rolling your windows down increases the visibility of your mirrors, which you should be continuously checking.

4. “The best thing I can say is watch your mirrors stop and look if you’re not sure, and always blow your horn before backing up any place. Remember you can't see right behind you. Be safe and good luck driver.” – George Raymond

You must use both mirrors to guide you when making backing adjustments. Sound the horn before backing (two toots, once for getting their attention and the second to give them the direction it is coming from) and use the four-way flashers anytime the vehicle is in reverse.

5. “You are driving the trailer and not the truck. Steer the rear tandems, and G.O.A.L.” – Pam Nanney Carroll

The tractor steers the trailer. The drive axles of the tractor become the trailer’s steering axle. Remember, when you turn the steering wheel to the right, the rear of the trailer goes left and when you turn the steering wheel to the left, the rear of the trailer goes to the right.

Check out the rest of the tips shared on our Facebook post:

What's the best piece of advice you have for a new driver about backing up a tractor-trailer?

Posted by Schneider Truck Driving Jobs on Tuesday, December 15, 2015

How did you feel the first time you backed up a tractor-trailer, and what were some strategies you used to get good at it?

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Schneider Guy loves the “Big Orange.” He’s passionate about the trucking industry and connecting people to rewarding careers within it. He’s been the eyes and ears of our company since our founding in 1935, and he’s excited to interact with prospective and current Schneider associates through “A Slice of Orange.”

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