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How to back up a tractor-trailer: Step-by-step guides and tips

A Schneider semi-truck in the process of backing up.

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes 

Learning how to back up a tractor-trailer can be one of the hardest things to do as a truck driver. So, we’ve created a few videos and provided some tips to help you learn how to back up a tractor-trailer at a 45-degree angle, a 90-degree angle and with limited space. 

How to back up a tractor-trailer at a 45-degree angle 

Learn the essential techniques to safely and accurately back a tractor-trailer at a 45-degree angle in this step-by-step tutorial. 

How to back up a tractor-trailer at a 90-degree angle 

Learn the basics of backing a tractor-trailer at a 90-degree angle, one of the most common backing scenarios drivers encounter. 

How to back up a tractor-trailer with limited forward space 

Learn how to back a tractor-trailer when you’re dealing with limited forward space in this step-by-step demonstration. 

6 tips for safely backing a semi-trailer 

No two backing scenarios are the exact same. While the truck backing techniques shown above can be a helpful reference for some situations, you may not always be able to follow them step-by-step. 

If you’re wondering how to get better at backing a semi-truck, consider these six tips while practicing: 

1. Take your time. 

Patience is key when backing a semi-truck. You may feel rushed in the moment, but don’t be afraid to take your time.  

To safely keep your tractor-trailer straight while backing and help avoid accidents, take the time to: 

  • Use all your mirrors on both sides of the truck.
  • Readjust your angle as you start to drift
  • Remove all distractions. 
  • Pull up, if necessary.

2. Get out and look. 

Always be aware of your surroundings before you start backing. Use the G.O.A.L. (get out and look) technique before you put your truck in reverse to check for obstacles and visualize the space you have to work with.  

When getting out to check your surroundings, stand in the spotter position (20-25 feet out from the front right corner of the tractor) and check: 

  • The parking spot.
  • The blind side.
  • The area the tractor will use when backing.
  • Any area that you cannot see from the driver’s seat or in the mirrors.

Drivers should also complete a full lap around their truck to check for hazards above and below the tractor and trailer. 

3. Maintain idle speed. 

Moving slowly allows you to be as exact as possible when backing and gives you more time to make necessary adjustments.  

You can maintain idle speed throughout the backing process by only using the gas pedal when absolutely necessary. 

4. Make sure others see and hear you. 

Avoid accidents when reversing a tractor-trailer by making sure you are seen and heard by other drivers. 

To make sure other drivers stay clear while you’re backing: 

  • Use your flashers: Having your flashers on will help you stand out and show to others you are completing a back.
  • Use your horn: Tapping your horn before backing will tell other drivers in the area to keep their distance.

5. Don’t let other drivers intimidate you. 

It’s not uncommon to see drivers who are in a rush while at delivery sites. Don’t let these drivers pressure you into getting out of their way or rushing your own back. 

Backing hastily can cause you to lose focus, skip steps or even get into an accident. 

6. Remember your training. 

It can be easy to doubt your backing abilities when you’re faced with a tough area you need to back into. However, it’s important to remember you have all the truck reversing skills you need.  

Just be patient and remember what you learned in training. 

Please note that the backing tips and videos above are just examples. It is important to remember the type of driver you are, the company you work for and the type of truck you drive can impact how you back up a tractor-trailer. Be sure to consult your company guidelines or speak with your leader for more information about backing a semi-truck.    

Looking for even more safety tips?

Schneider works to improve driver safety by creating blogs with tips, guides and how-tos for drivers of all experience levels. Find out how you can be safer both on and off the road by checking out more of our safety focused blogs. 
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