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How to drop-and-hook a tractor-trailer as a CDL driver

A Schneider tractor backs up to an orange Schneider trailer, with other trailers surrounding it.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes  

Knowing how to drop-and-hook a tractor-trailer as safely and efficiently as possible is one of the most important duties of a truck driver.

Since it’s such a crucial element of operating tractor-trailers, understanding the correct steps to drop-and-hook a trailer ensures drivers stay safe and quickly move in and out of trailer yards.

What is drop-and-hook trucking?

Drop-and-hook trucking falls under no-touch freight trucking. It is the process of a truck driver dropping off a loaded trailer and then hooking their tractor to a preloaded trailer at the same place.

Most drivers like this kind of freight because they don’t have to worry about waiting for trailers to get unloaded/loaded or do the loading/unloading themselves. It’s simply drop, hook and get back on the road.

How to drop a trailer

There are 7 basic steps to safely dropping a semi-trailer:

1. Position the tractor-trailer. Make sure you are on solid ground and the tractor is lined up with the trailer.

2. Set the trailer brakes and back slightly to relieve the pressure between the fifth wheel-locking jaw and the kingpin.

3. Put on the tractor’s parking brake while it is pushing against the kingpin.

4. While standing with two feet on the ground, put one hand on the trailer and your other hand on the handle to lower the gear. Lower the landing gear until it makes firm contact with the ground.

5. Disconnect the air and electrical hoses. Secure them to the back of the cab.

6. Pull the release handle on the fifth wheel. If the handle does not pull easily, back the tractor up a very small amount to release pressure on the jaws.

7. Pull forward until the trailer is off of the fifth wheel completely but still over the tractor frame. Stop and wait for a minute to allow your suspension to get back to normal. Observe the trailer is level, stable and not sinking before pulling away.

How to hook up a semi-trailer

There are 16 steps to safely hooking to a semi-trailer:

1. Make sure you are about to hook to the correct trailer.

2. Check to ensure there are no obstructions.

3. Stop with the fifth wheel just in front of the trailer.

4. Turn the truck off, take the key out and set the brakes.

5. Safely step out of the truck. Check the trailer and clearance.

6. Make sure the kingpin is centered into the crotch of the fifth wheel and the trailer is centered to the ramp area of the fifth wheel.

7. Align the kingpin and the height on the trailer to ensure proper coupling.

8. Get back into the truck. Back it up until you hear the click of the kingpin in the fifth wheel.

9. Perform the two-tug test:

    • Pull forward just enough to feel the weight of the trailer.
    • Make sure the jaw of the fifth wheel is locked on the kingpin (and that you're not moving the trailer).
    • Then do it one more time for safety.

10. Turn off the truck. Check the trailer connection.

11. Make sure there is no gap between the apron of the trailer or the fifth wheel.

12. Push the handrail on the fifth wheel to make sure it's fully engaged.

13. Get underneath the trailer and use a flashlight to make sure the jaws of the fifth wheel are around the kingpin. You don’t want to see any shiny metal or any part of the kingpin.

14. Connect the airlines and electrical.

15. While standing with two feet on the ground, put one hand on the trailer and your other hand on the handle to raise the gear. Crank the landing gear off the ground.

16. Conduct an air-brake test.

Please note these are examples of how to drop-and-hook a tractor-trailer. 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 drop-and-hook a tractor-trailer. Be sure to consult your company guidelines or speak with your leader for more information about dropping and hooking.

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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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