Ask just about any professional truck driver and they will tell you how difficult it is to back up a tractor trailer. Reversing a vehicle and its load can be incredibly tricky, especially for new truck drivers. That is why it is critical that truckers don’t let bad backing skills make or break their career.
Out of all the truck maneuvers a truck driver must learn, backing up is one of the most difficult to master. Some might even say that no one actually ever masters backing up. It is a constant effort of practicing and doing that helps truck drivers get more confident in the task. There must be a level of comfort to backing up a big rig in order to do it safely and successfully every time.
That’s why we wanted to devote some time to providing the basic tips required for any truck driver to successfully back up their tractor trailer. Whether you are a newbie, or an experienced truck driver with over a million safe miles under your belt, tips like these will never get old.
Pull Your Vehicle Up
Never hesitate to pull up or pull back around if you don’t get it right the first time. The fact is this: There isn’t a truck driver alive who has a 100% perfect record on backing up their truck. Yet, the smart truck driver will recognize when they have not gotten it right and take the necessary steps to correct it. Eventually they will get it right and each time they practice the maneuver they will get progressively better at it.
Speaking of Practice
The best way to ace a trucking maneuver is to spend plenty of time practicing it. Truck drivers must get a good feel for how their trailer moves and reacts to their driving skill. No two truck drivers operate a big rig in the same way, so figuring out the idiosyncrasies of a truck will require plenty of practice.
Empty Lots Are Your Friend
If you are wondering where you will practice your skills, if it isn’t in your home yard, then find an empty lot or empty truck stop to test your skills. Of course, it is important to check with whomever is managing the lot before you start driving around it and practicing maneuvers, but generally, if the lot is empty, you should be able to practice in it.
Check the Steering Wheel
Far too few truck drivers remember that when backing up, they can use their steering wheel as a marker for how they’re doing. New truck drivers would be wise to learn and practice this skill. Imagine the top of the steering wheel as the truck and the bottom as the trailer. As you back up, if you turn the steering wheel to the right, the bottom goes right, which means the trailer will go right. Turning it to the left causes the bottom to go left, so this is also what the trailer will do.
Have a GOAL
If there is one idiom that every truck driver should follow, it is to have a GOAL. In other words, to Get Out And Look! Never hesitate to get out of your vehicle and have a look if you are unsure about whether you are going to hit something or the position of your trailer. There is no harm in being extra cautious for the sake of safety.
Fortunately, this isn’t all we have for you. Join us next week when we dive deeper into what it takes to safely back up a tractor trailer.