how to back-up a semi

Tips From The Pros: How To Back-Up A 10-Ton Semi

If you’ve ever seen a talented driver tackle a tight turn without jack-knifing, or expertly straighten the rig when strong winds threaten to push it off the road, then you know that driving an 10-ton truck is as much art as it is science.

In that spirit, we asked some of our expert drivers and driver-trainers to share their top tips for backing-up a semi in style. With their input, we’ve put together this step-by-step guide to reversing a big truck, as well as a list of some of the skills to help you master the move:

* Caution: Don’t attempt this at home – learn this maneuver with an experienced driver trainer.

Learn How To Back-up A Semi: A Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Find a suitable space (a large parking space or truck stop).
  2. Drive in a straight line past the parking spot, so that your truck is parallel to and in front of it.
  3. If the parking space is straight, angle out at a 45-degree angle so that your back axel hits the driver’s side edge of the parking space, and keep going until your truck and trailer are almost in-line once again. If the parking space is angled, angle your truck out when the driver’s side edge of the parking space hits the middle of the trailer, and continue until your truck and trailer are once again in-line.
  4. Make a hard left so that you are at a 90-degree angle with the parking spot.
  5. Pull forward a little until it looks as though the back of the trailer is properly positioned to slide back into the parking space.
  6. Slowly ease back into the parking space, observing your mirrors and straightening as you go. Do your best to line your truck and trailer up with the parking space as you can see it from your driver’s side window, but take the time to get out and double-check, if needed, to confirm your spacing as you go.
  7. If you made a mistake with your spacing, adjust as necessary by pulling forward and reversing again until you’ve got it right. Don’t be afraid to check and re-check your spacing by getting out and walking around your truck, especially when getting used to the size and spacing of a new vehicle.

Some Tips From The Pros:

  • Avoid Accidents By Taking Your Time
    By far, one of the biggest causes of property damage and accidents when reversing is the result of drivers not taking their time. Backing-up a semi-truck is a challenging feat, even for experienced drivers. Be patient and allow yourself enough time to really examine your surroundings: take it slow – it isn’t a race.
  • Remember The G.O.A.L. (Get Out And Look)
    Without a doubt, the most important thing is to have a thorough and accurate sense of your surroundings – and you can only get this by looking! When it comes to your space cushion, and what’s around you, don’t take anything for granted. And if other drivers get annoyed that you’re taking extra time to get out and look? Let them. Trust us: they’ll be a hundred times more annoyed if you accidentally hit them because you misjudged distance or spacing.
  • Don’t Forget To Follow Your Tires
    Don’t focus exclusively on your trailer – pay attention to your tires, too. Lines on the pavement will help you judge your angle, so use them!
  • Pay Attention And Limit Distractions
    Turn off your stereo and CB radio so that you can devote your full attention to the task at-hand. You don’t just need your eyes to get the job done right, you also need to listen – carefully – to your surroundings and to your vehicle.
  • Do Not Rely On Inexperienced Spotters
    Unless your spotters are experienced truckers, they’ll often do more harm than good. Car drivers just don’t understand the intricacies of truck-maneuvering and how it differs from steering a car, so even well-intentioned spotters may lead you astray.

The most important tip above is just to take your time. Reversing a truck can make any driver feel like an amateur – especially on a stressful day – so remember to breathe deeply and to take it slow to avoid making costly mistakes. Better a slow back-up than a big repair bill!

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Steve Wadhams

Steve Wadhams

As Co-owner and President, Steve oversees three trucking divisions, 700 employees, and 300+ trucks. The dedication, integrity, and personal touch that helped his father succeed remain the cornerstone of Wadhams Enterprises. By the 1980s, he and his brother had taken over an active leadership role, focusing on acquisitions and purchasing assets and operating authorities. They have seen the company grow from $4 million to $96 million in 2014. To fulfill Wadhams’ mission to be the “Carrier of Choice, Employer of Choice,” Steve actively seeks out opportunities for continue growth and improvement for his people and his fleet.