12 Tips In Safely Backing Your Truck And Trailer

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If you are new to the driving profession, you will quickly find that maneuvering a vehicle with a trailer is a difficult skill to learn. The skill of safely backing your truck and trailer will eventually improve to the point where backing will seem second nature.

Regardless, no matter if you are learning to get your commercial driver’s license or are a veteran driver, backing is always going to be dangerous because you cannot see everything behind your vehicle.

Backing accidents happen frequently and are almost always due to a driver error that could have been prevented.

Below are 12 tips to help your approach backing maneuvers safely.

Types of Backing Techniques

Before we get into the tips in safely backing your truck and trailer, let us highlight five different types of backing techniques.

When you are first trained in driving a truck and trailer you will be taught at least five kinds of backing maneuvers that go from simple to complex.

These backing maneuvers are:

  1. Straight line backing
  2. Alley dock backing
  3. Parallel parking
  4. Sight side backing, and
  5. Blind side backing

Straight-line backing is the simplest maneuver technique to learn and essential for the other backing techniques.

Alley dock backing involves backing while turning into a space that is 90 degrees to the tractor and occurs at loading docks when the driver must back in from off the street or between two vehicles.

Parallel parking, like when parallel parking your car,involves backing into a space along a curb or dock and is more difficult to learn with a tractor-trailer.

Sight side backing is backing toward the left side of the vehicle where the driver can see the intended trailer path. Sight side backing is preferred as the driver has maximum visibility.

Blind side backing is backing toward the right side of the vehicle where the driver has limited visibility and can only see where he or she is going in the truck’s rear-view mirrors. Blind-side backing is more dangerous than sight side backing and should be avoided whenever possible.

12 Tips In Safely Backing Your Truck and Trailer

All backing maneuvers have the potential to become dangerous and should be avoided as much as possible. To eliminate backing your trailer, plan to park your vehicle in spaces you can pull through.

If you have no other choice, or are backing to a loading dock, we have four tips to remember before you begin backing:

  1. Get out of the vehicle and check to the rear
  2. Check above, under and to the sides of the vehicle
  3. Check for adequate swing clearance, and
  4. Warn others that you are backing

    Once you have checked out your environment, start backing as soon as possible before new hazards appear. When doing so, remember to:  
  5. Be patient and back as slowly as possible using the lowest reverse gear
  6. Do not over-steer, as slight movement is all that is required if caught right away
  7. Use sight side backing on your left whenever possible
  8. Use your mirrors and flashers
  9. Turn off the radio and other distractions with the windows down so you can listen for noises
  10. Be aware if obstacles that can tilt the trailer, such as curbs and ramps
  11. Restart the maneuver instead of backing poorly, and
  12. Whenever possible, use a spotter when backing. Before doing so,
    • Agree on signals before backing, especially “Stop”, and
    • Make sure the spotter is in a position that the driver can see them in the truck’s rear-view mirror at all times

Remember, backing accidents happen frequently and are almost always due to driver error that could have been prevented.

Use and practice these twelve tips so you can be as safe as possible when backing and, if a backing accident does occur, you will have a better argument for the accident to be determined “not preventable.”

Want additional practice or looking to get a commercial driver’s license? Contact our CNS Driver Training Center. We offer first class, 1-on-1 training tailored to your needs and experience.

Do you have questions about our CDL training programs? Give us a call at 717-496-9145 or email us at support@cnstrains.com.