Backing. Would Practice With A Pickup And A 5th Wheel Travel Trailer Help Me Prepare?

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John C.'s Comment
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From what I'm reading, backing up is a MAJOR challenge for a new driver. I want to get the most out of school, and have 5 months on a design contract before I can start. I'm planning on starting school in July. So that's five months to get a head start.

I lucked out finding this site and am starting to make use of all the material and practice tests here. I'll study of all of it over the next few months. But I can only learn so much on my computer. Is it worth me trying to find someone to practice backing using a pickup truck and a large 5th wheel travel trailer?

Thanks!

Errol V.'s Comment
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Maybe not. Most pickup-sized 5th wheel trailers have the axles more towards the middle of the trailer. On a full size Class 8 trailer the axles (tandems) are at the far back end. The relationship between all the axles and that bend/hook up point are different.

It's true, learning this skill is the do-or-die hurdle for many drivers. But that's why most of your schooling experience is in backing practice.

Two suggestions I've made before are, first, buy small model truck, and see how things work on a table. Also, get a push broom, hold the end of the handle next to your waist, and walk around the house, trying not to hit anything with any part of the broom. You could also use this get-up to try backing between two chairs.

Tandems:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

Tandem:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

Victor C. II's Comment
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I am still in CDL school, BUT I have heard that it would not be of much use to you to use a pickup truck and 5th wheel because it is so much different then a actual semi. A semi has just on the tractor 6 wheels 2 on the front and 4 on the back. That in of its self can make a large impact on maneuverability especially if you are trying to get it in a tight spot. Also a king pin on a semi-trailer is going to react a bit different to every move you make with it.

My advice is to try and see if you have a local motor carrier who would be willing to allow you to back the semi and semi-trailer up to a dock or between cons. 45 degree angle for offsets, straight back and a parallel. Parallel is going to be the hardest for you to learn not the 45 degree angle and straight back.

Hope this helps a little bit. I am about to test on Tuesday the 21st. Takes commitment to and passion to make this work. If you got that it won't take long and you will be a champ on the roads.

GOOD LUCK!

good-luck.gifgood-luck.gif

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.
John C.'s Comment
member avatar

Errol, Good info, thank you. I did not think about axle placement, but now that I do, it make sense. I'll have to try the broom trick, sounds like a challenge. Any excuse to buy a toy truck and play is fine with me!

Thanks Victor, I see the difference now. I doubt I could get a carrier to let me in a truck without a permit, but I have one nearby and it can't hurt to ask. Thanks for the well wishes, and good luck next week!

Rick S.'s Comment
member avatar

From what I'm reading, backing up is a MAJOR challenge for a new driver. I want to get the most out of school, and have 5 months on a design contract before I can start. I'm planning on starting school in July. So that's five months to get a head start.

I lucked out finding this site and am starting to make use of all the material and practice tests here. I'll study of all of it over the next few months. But I can only learn so much on my computer. Is it worth me trying to find someone to practice backing using a pickup truck and a large 5th wheel travel trailer?

Thanks!

Similar, but totally different because of the angles, wheelbase & fulcrum point.

I had a 48' Bus and 8' trailer (for band gear) - and the thing would jackknife REAL FAST.

Actually - a 53' box on the back of a tractor, is EASIER to back than a pickup truck & trailer, or bus & trailer.

Rick

John C.'s Comment
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Easier? Interesting. I understand the physical differences now, but how is it easier? Thanks!

William H.'s Comment
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Easier? Interesting. I understand the physical differences now, but how is it easier? Thanks!

The 53' is easier to see, just my opinion. Also a small trailer is easier to jack knife because it can get sideways a whole lot quicker. Don't ask me how I know this.

Penny's Comment
member avatar

Note that I am in school, but a student asked my instructor the same thing. Instructor told the student that it wouldn't help unless he just didn't know the steering differences with a trailer, but that it would be completely different.

Straight backing, once it clicks, isn't too bad. I'm not an expert by ANY stretch, but it's better than I thought it would be.

Offset is my current nemesis.

(As is shifting, but I'll conquer it)

John C.'s Comment
member avatar

Thanks Penny, I'm watching Youtube tutorials on the different backups now! I'm sure I'll fumble my way through shifting as well.

Errol V.'s Comment
member avatar

Rick claims

Actually - a 53' box on the back of a tractor, is EASIER to back than a pickup truck & trailer, or bus & trailer.

John C wonders

Easier? Interesting. I understand the physical differences now, but how is it easier? Thanks!

Come to think of it, 53' trailers can be easier. William says it's easier to see. Really? Only on the left side, and only if you have motorized mirrors. The right side is hidden, and why we preach GOAL.

It's like tossing a playing card into a hat. Once you get the hang of it, life is good.

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