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How to back up a tractor-trailer: Videos, tips and guides

A white Schneider semi-truck hauling an orange trailer backs into a parking spot between other trailers.
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April 14, 2022

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes 

Learning how to back up a tractor-trailer can be one of the most challenging things to do as a truck driver. The various steps to remember in addition to staying patient can be tricky for both inexperienced and veteran drivers. 

So, we’ve created a few videos and step-by-step guides to help when backing up an 18-wheeler at a 45-degree angle and with limited forward space. We also provided our list of our top tips for backing safely. 

Please note that the backing steps and videos below 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.  

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

How to back up a tractor-trailer 45-degrees step-by-step guide

1. Move down parallel to the hole, staying close to it.

2. Stop at the halfway point of the hole.

3. Observe the hole – make sure there are no obstacles that could interfere with the back.

4. Drive forward until your left shoulder is halfway down the next trailer.

5. Turn wheel hard right and hold until the tractor comes to the noon position.

6. Cut back hard left, to nine o’clock.

7. When tractor gets to nine o’clock position, straighten out wheels and stop.

8. Get out of tractor and walk around trailer. Check for obstacles on all sides.

9. Get back into truck, put seat belt back on, honk the horn.

10. Begin backing at idle speed, do not start turning wheel.

11. Start coming left with steer tire.

12. Pull forward with wheels at a hard right to straighten out.

13. Look behind you and begin backing at idle speed to angle in.

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

How to back a tractor-trailer with limited forward space step-by-step guide

1. Stay within about four feet from the hole.

2. Pull up to the hole and stop at the halfway point of the hole.

3. Observe the hole – make sure there are no obstacles that could interfere with the back.

4. Drive forward until your left shoulder is halfway down the next trailer.

5. Make a hard right, using about half the available room.

6. Make a hard left until you are at about the eight-thirty position.

7. When tractor gets to eight-thirty position, straighten out wheels and stop.

8. Get out of tractor and walk around trailer. Check for obstacles on all sides.

9. Get back into truck, put seat belt back on, honk the horn.

10. Turn the wheel to the right and begin backing.

11. Begin straightening your steer tires and turn the wheel to the left while backing.

12. Get out of tractor and walk around trailer. Check for obstacles on all sides.

13. Get back into truck, put seat belt back on, honk the horn.

14. Do a pull up if you need to adjust your backing angle to fit into the hole.

15. Once in position, turn the wheel left and slowly feed the trailer into the hole.

16. Straighten out the wheel and back straight into the hole.

6 tips for safely backing a tractor-trailer

No backing scenario will be the same as the next. So, while the information above can be a helpful reference for some situations, you may not always be able to follow it step-by-step.

Follow these five safety tips while backing a semi-truck:

1. Take your time.

Patience is key when backing a semi-trailer. You may feel like you need to rush in the moment, but don’t be afraid to take your time.

Avoid accidents by taking the time to readjust your angles or do a few pull-ups before backing into a spot.

2. Maintain idle speed.

Things can happen quickly when you’re backing a semi-trailer. Moving slowly allows you to be as exact as possible when backing. So, try to maintain idle speed whenever backing into a spot.

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

3. 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 safety steps or even get into an accident.

4. Make sure you are seen and heard.

Parking lots, delivery docks and truck yards are busy places that are full of truck drivers coming and going. You can avoid accidents in these areas when reversing a tractor-trailer by making sure you are seen and heard by other drivers.

Two easy ways to do this are by using your flashers and your horn. Having your flashers on will help you stand out and show to others that you are backing. Tapping your horn before backing will tell all other drivers in the area to steer clear.

5. Always get out and look.

You should always be as aware as possible of your surroundings before you back. So, be sure to use the G.O.A.L. (get out and look) technique before you put your truck in reverse.

When a truck driver gets out to look, they should walk completely around their truck, checking for obstacles above, below and around their truck and trailer. This additional safety step allows truck drivers to make sure there are no obstacles blocking their path and helps them better visualize how much space they have to work with.

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 that you have all the truck reversing skills you need. Just be patient and remember what you learned in training.

Interested in learning even more safety tips?

One of the many ways Schneider works to improve driver safety is by creating blogs with tips, guides and how-tos. Find out how you can be safer both on and off the road by checking out more of our safety focused blogs.

About the author
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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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