How To Master Backing Up?

Topic 21146 | Page 1

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Mike B.'s Comment
member avatar

I am asking this because this seems to be one of the biggest issues for newbies. I'm not a driver yet, still in the process of deciding whether or not becoming a Trucker is right for me and my family, but am strongly leaning towards making the jump. I do have some experience backing up a fifth wheel trailer, it was not easy (I know TT is totally different). Backing up is one of my concerns, how can I become good at it in a short amount of time? Once you earn your solo status and are assigned a truck, can you spend time practicing in an open lot or other safe locations or is this just not realistic due to time constraints and delivery schedules? Why wouldn't the schools allow you extra time for this? I would be wiling to pay extra $$$ for extra practice. I think it would be money well spent and save me a huge amount of time and stress once I become solo. Any tips to help a novice will be greatly appreciated!

Calkansan's Comment
member avatar

When I was new, I practiced in the yard on the course when it was free. On the road, I would take my 30 around 10-12 noon. I would do 3 or 4 backs before I parked at a truck stop. Pick areas where there are few obstacles. Use a hat or gloves on the ground to mark lanes. Practice different backing exercises. It is always stressful when you are new. Try to tune it out. Remember, successful backing is to not hit anything. It is not a race to get it parked. And always, GOAL as many times as necessary. With time, you will back the truck better than in your car. ;)

Chris M's Comment
member avatar

From my experience, I think people tend to over-stress when it comes to backing. That seems to be everyone's biggest concern before they get started. Backing a 53 foot trailer is easier than anything you have ever backed in your entire life. It doesn't move around like any other trailer. The biggest problem people have, is by how they set themselves up to start the back. And that is where the practice comes in.

To more directly answer your question, there will absolutely be times where you can practice. As CalKansan said, utilize a few minutes of your breaks if you've got an open area. If you're stopping in the middle of the day for your 30, or even to shut down, there will often times be multiple empty spots where you can take a few minutes to practice.

Ive got 2 pieces of advice that I would give. 1) Start setting up as close to your target as possible. Don't try to back into a spot from 50 feet away when you have limited room. Try to have the back end of your trailer as close to the spot you're backing into as possible when you get setup. 2) When at a truck stop, don't try to impress anyone. You don't necessarily have to back into a tight spot on the front row just because it's close to the building. Unless you're parking late at night, your chances for finding an easier spot in the back are usually pretty high. Of course this is just a general rule and there are some very small truck stops out here that won't apply to that logic. But focus on getting in the spot safely, rather than getting in quickly or worrying about what any other drivers are saying. You will get ribbed at some point for being slow, but that is much easier to take than getting chewed up one side and down the other by an owner op that you just woke up out of his sleeper after you peeled his mirror back.

Daniel B.'s Comment
member avatar

Become a local driver.

Chris M's Comment
member avatar

Become a local driver.

Oh come on Daniel we all know yall tanker drivers get to just pull on and pull out everywhere you go rofl-3.gif

Old School's Comment
member avatar
Oh come on Daniel we all know yall tanker drivers get to just pull on and pull out everywhere you go

Chris, I think Daniel B was trying to tell us something the other day when he made the following statement in that thread about driving a fuel tanker right our of truck driving school...

I'm wholeheartedly not a fan of gas tankers so you'll rarely see me recommend it to an experienced driver, and never a rookie. Which is why I moved on.

He always seems to like dropping little hints in the forum just to see if we can pick up on them. There's no telling what that guy is doing these days, but I think he will soon be changing his avatar to indicate that he is trying to help keep promises, or something like that.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Errol V.'s Comment
member avatar

This is how common backing "issues"are. Brett wrote this: The Backing Range At Trucking Driving School - It's Like Clown Soup For The Soul.

All seriousness aside, you will have a time of it, learning how to watch the tandems as you back up. Also the big box behind you will pretty much block the things you're supposed to see. It all comes with the job.

Not to worry, you'll probably learn enough to get through school and pass your CDL skills test. Then it will still take more than six months before you get comfortable with backing the trailer.

My advice: don't let the frustration get to you. Learn from each failure, then simply do what you need to do on the next one.

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.

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".

Pianoman's Comment
member avatar

Just practice every day. I used to avoid pull through spots during my first year because I wanted extra backing practice every chance I could get. After yard hostling for about six months, I'm more comfortable taking pull throughs and easy spots. I don't get rusty like I used to if I don't back into a tough spot for a few days, but I still usually back every day.

And GOAL. I still get out and look if I'm not 100% sure what's behind or next to my semi. I'm not just talking about tight truck stops--this also applies to that dark spot that backs up to tall grass in a mostly empty truck stop. Can't tell you how many times I've walked to the back to find there was a large boulder or cement block at the end of the spot.

He always seems to like dropping little hints in the forum just to see if we can pick up on them. There's no telling what that guy is doing these days, but I think he will soon be changing his avatar to indicate that he is trying to help keep promises, or something like that.

I noticed that too Old School. Enlighten us Daniel!

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Mike B.'s Comment
member avatar

Thanks for the great advice!

From my experience, I think people tend to over-stress when it comes to backing. That seems to be everyone's biggest concern before they get started. Backing a 53 foot trailer is easier than anything you have ever backed in your entire life. It doesn't move around like any other trailer. The biggest problem people have, is by how they set themselves up to start the back. And that is where the practice comes in.

To more directly answer your question, there will absolutely be times where you can practice. As CalKansan said, utilize a few minutes of your breaks if you've got an open area. If you're stopping in the middle of the day for your 30, or even to shut down, there will often times be multiple empty spots where you can take a few minutes to practice.

Ive got 2 pieces of advice that I would give. 1) Start setting up as close to your target as possible. Don't try to back into a spot from 50 feet away when you have limited room. Try to have the back end of your trailer as close to the spot you're backing into as possible when you get setup. 2) When at a truck stop, don't try to impress anyone. You don't necessarily have to back into a tight spot on the front row just because it's close to the building. Unless you're parking late at night, your chances for finding an easier spot in the back are usually pretty high. Of course this is just a general rule and there are some very small truck stops out here that won't apply to that logic. But focus on getting in the spot safely, rather than getting in quickly or worrying about what any other drivers are saying. You will get ribbed at some point for being slow, but that is much easier to take than getting chewed up one side and down the other by an owner op that you just woke up out of his sleeper after you peeled his mirror back.

G-Town's Comment
member avatar

Hi Mike.

I agree with all the advice given. Patience is important when you are learning how-to back,...it's a process not an event, best mastered through practice and repetition. Expect it to be difficult at first, it's inevitable. Stay the course, you'll "get it"!

Good luck.

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