Straight Backing Nightmare

Topic 13686 | Page 1

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ProudArmyMom's Comment
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I'm in trucking school. We started doing straight backing on Saturday. I did great then. Since then, I haven't made it down the lane one time. I'm running over the cones.

I've seen different forms of advice. I'm reading everything on here about straight backing issues. Look at your tractor tires, look at your trailer tires. Look where the trailer is drifting. Look in your mirrors, don't look at mirrors.

I'm doing terrible & any helpful advice is welcome. Thanks in advance.


Rick S.'s Comment
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I used my mirrors in school.

Make a small correction - watch for the trailer to swing - straighten out the wheel and watch.

The trailer takes a few feet to start turning, and a few more feet to respond to the wheel straightening. Most folks (myself included) tend to cut too sharp or hold too long, and by that point, you're over-corrected.

Small corrections = small mistakes, big corrections = big mistakes.

Remember - you're moving slow, with a long wheelbase that takes time to react.

Also - once you've straightened the wheel - the trailer will continue to turn.

Take it slow, don't be inpatient with yourself. No one learns this stuff in a day (or even in a year).

I graduated top of my class - skills-wise - but when I first got out on the range to learn them, I asked myself "WTH are you doing here anyways", more than once. I went though class with a friend (thankfully) who would tell me "shut the he11 up and drive". Kept me from bailing more than once.


Robert B. (The Dragon) ye's Comment
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Just for kicks, try this one time. If the truck is lined up straight and the trailer doesn't dog track, I can all but guarantee success. Put the truck in gear, slowly let out the clutch and do nothing. My favorite instructor would get people out of the habit of frustrating themselves by proving that the truck will go straight backwards all on its own with no input from the driver. The only difference is that you had to make jazz hands the entire time.

Now, once you've proven to yourself that the truck can do it, you have to prove to yourself that you can do it. Always watch your mirrors, whoever said not to is foolish. Your head should be on a swivel, scanning back and forth watching for any trailer movement. Also, one side will always look straighter than the other in the mirrors and everyone is different how they view it. Once you figure out which side that is for you, make reference points in your head,,,,, straight, distance from the cones to keep the spacing equal, etc. Then use very gentle movements of the wheel, a little means a lot one the trailer figures out which way you want it to go and most people want to crank too hard and over steer it. Most important of all, stay calm and stay focused, you got this.

G-Town's Comment
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Karen wrote:

Look in your mirrors, don't look at mirrors.

Always look in your mirrors when backing...always. Like Dragon said, head on a swivel, alternating from one mirror to the other. DOn't beat yourself will eventually come to you. Be patient with yourself and relax.

Errol V.'s Comment
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You can't see anything without the mirrors. Watch both of them at the same time. (No, not cross-eyed, just back and forth back and forth.)

Guaranteed, the tail end of the trailer will start to wander off some where. As soon as you see that, turn the steering wheel a little bit toward that direction. (If you see the trailer bending in the right mirror, turn the top of the steering wheel to the right.)

Turn just a bit! When the trailer gets the message, straighten the steering wheel back to "straight".

DumDriver's Comment
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When you're new, the key to backing is go slow!!! Slower than you think is possible. Backing isn't a timed event. Take as long as you need. I'm serious- go as slow as the truck can possibly go (it's slower than you think- ESPECIALLY if you've driven a manual transmission car in the past). That will make corrections so much easier.

I agree and disagree with the drivers that say keep your head on a swivel. To me- that's for before you get lined up. Once you're in the hole, and all you have to do is straight line back- I lock in on my drivers side tandem and only watch that and my aiming point (which is always pretty much one in the same). Once you're safely in the hole, there's no reason to look at the other mirrors (I'm talking the final few feet before bumping the dock), just lock in on your aiming point and finish the job


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".

miracleofmagick's Comment
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Something that helped me was, only one hand on the steering wheel at the 12 o'clock position when you're pointed straight and only turning to the 3 and 9 positions when making adjustments. This will help keep you from oversteering.

Rob S.'s Comment
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The tip about using one hand reminded me of what they taught us. Use both hands AND keep your elbows at your sides. If you need to move your elbows you're over steering. Sorry for the conflicting advice, hopefully you can get something to help.

ProudArmyMom's Comment
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Thank you for your responses everyone. I was at the end of my rope. I wrote it during lunch at trucking school.

This is the hardest thing I have ever done. My life hasn't been a piece of cake as it is lol. The last 2 days have been hour by hour. Bailing has entered my mind more than once. I have to be honest.

When the afternoon rolled around, I was getting desperate. We had rapidly moved into parallel parking (yesterday) & offset parking (today). With the offset parking, straight line plays a big part in that.

I told every instructor I saw that I was having straight line backing issues. After a failed attempt (& a lot of suggestions lol) to help me, I said If someone watches me, they can tell me what I'm doing wrong. One of my instructors said he would watch me.

I was looking too far back on the truck & over compensating too late. I figured it had to be a lethal combination of errors on my part.

Today (as I said earlier) was off set parking. People that didn't have issues before were having issues.

We are all stressed out. The yard testing (straight line backing, off set parking & parallel parking (?) will be our test Fri. If you don't pass that, there won't be any driving out on the roads. I hope I will be able to pass. I feel like my straight line backing fiasco may have cost me some valuable time. It can go either way at this point.

Again, thanks everyone.


Errol V.'s Comment
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You are going through what nearly every student goes through: thoughts of escape, monumental frustration, despair for your future, all of it.

Remember school simply prepares you for your CDL test, barely that and nothing more.

It seems contradictory, but remember the mistakes of your last try, then do it again but only think of what you're doing this time.


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.
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