45/90 Sight Side Angle Backing, How Do You Pros Do It?

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Deonte M.'s Comment
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Hey guys , some of you already know me but for the ones that don't , I've bend driving for 7 months exactly now. Now that being said I feel like I have a decent understanding on the basics of how to back a truck, however I am not content with this and I really like to polish my backing skills, particularly my 45/90 degree backing skills. Now before I go on let me say this :

in my 7 months of driving experience I have never angle backed my truck into a tight parking spot (think loves ,ta,pilot past 5pm) At Night solo. I have did it a few times with my mentor and the help of a few friendly trucker spotters , but never attempted solo. This is because I feel my skills are not where the need to be and it is an uneccesary risk if I don't feel confident. You might ask well how the heck do you park at night? Let's just say I'm creative ;)

I practice angle backing any chance i get in parking lots where I have 2 spots open so I'm sure i don't hit anything. During these practice sessions I break out my little cones I bought and let's just say while I don't kill them every time , I kill them often enough to where I feel it is risky to angle back . Also I get out and look a gazillion times and still kill them. I mostly kill them on my blind side and it happens when I'm in the process of straightening out (when I can't see there )

Let me tell you guys my setup and perhaps you can diagnose a issue or perhaps even recommend a better set up :)

1. I approach the spots as close as I can safely get my truck to the spot. And always my truck is parallel with the parking spots.

2.i line my shoulder up with the driver side line of the parking spot , then I travel approximately 1 and half spaces ahead of my targeted spot , and line my shoulder in the middle of that one. (Some old guy told me this and it has made me more consistent , but perhaps you guys know something better )

3. I turn the wheel all the way to the right and travel until my truck is at 12 o clock. ( which I almost never get to do in a real situation because space is limited )

4. I turn the wheel hard left until the truck goes maybe about 9 o'clock and I can see my driver side tandem with reference to the driver side parking Line. At this point my truck is at a 45 degree angle . Sometimes slightly more sometimes slight less.

5. When I begin to back I crank the wheel hard right , to sharpen the angle in efforts to make my tandem aim for the driver side yellow line . Usually I go for my tandem right in the inside of it. (Which also makes me nervous because the back of my trailer at this point is 3-5 feet from hitting the passenger side yellow line/trailer )

6. I usually go as deep as I can without hitting anything of both sides.

7. When I begin to crank left and straighten up my trailer begins to swing right more and occasionally killing a Cone about half way to 3/4 deep in the box on the passenger or my trailer continues to swing and kills a cone on the driver side (but Usually I can avoid killing a driver side cone with a pull up.)

8. Get out of my truck and perform cpr on my cones or celebrate :D

One thing I've noticed so far that is that a good 50% of the time in angle backing at a typical truck stop a 45 degree setup isn't going to cut it most times and that a 90 degree set up is the best from me just watching other truckers park, and also doing it accidentally myself. How I did it accidentally was there was a empty row and I practiced on them and I did the set up above and I noticed that I instead of hitting the spot I wanted I hit the spot right before it . Rookies luck ! Lol

And another thing I've noticed is that when I try to ride the drivers side yellow line with my tandems sometimes that doesn't leave enough space to straighten out safely.

Well that's about it. I've tried to be as thorough and step by step as possible. All help and tips is appreciated guys!

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".

Robert B. (The Dragon) ye's Comment
member avatar

From what I'm reading, your setup on your 45 is pretty well in line with how you want to do it. The only difference for me is as soon as my shoulder is in the next spot beyond where I want to park, I'm cranking hard right. Then once I'm straight and have enough room I'll go hard left but leave enough room on the blind side for when I get back under it while backing (if possible).

For a 90, I'll run right down the middle of the row for all the real estate I can get or even a bit more to the driver side. Then once I'm where I want my trailer to track, I'll go hard left to bring the tractor at about a 45 and stop. This gets me in a better position to make the trailer pivot quicker, plus I'm in a longer wheelbase truck so I need all the room available and then work it in from there.

Personally, I think you just need more practice. You're doing fine, don't let it frustrate you but remember to just take your time. Backing isn't a race, it's a dance between you and the trailer, where the trailer leads and you follow.

Pianoman's Comment
member avatar

Deonte I love your attitude man! I think I might get some cones too now so I can practice!

I can't offer much advice as I'm a newbie too, but it seems to me that maybe part of the reason you tend to knock out cones on the blind side is that you're trying too hard to center your trailer in the spot before your tractor-trailer is straight with itself. On really tight spots, I've noticed experienced (presumably, anyway) drivers tend to hug the driver side alot on their way into the spot. Their sight side tandems hug the driver side line until the tandems are about half way into the spot and their vehicle is almost or all the way straight with itself. That way they can straight back at a very slight angle until their tandems are where they want them and then turn their wheel slightly right then slightly left to be perfectly in the spot. It's hard to explain without seeing it, but the idea is that you get as close as you can to the truck on your driver side and then straighten out with yourself while your whole vehicle is still at angle to the spot (pointing slightly towards the middle). I've seen it done and it works really well.

Anyways I'm looking forward to hearing what the experienced drivers have to offer on this as well.

Good luck!

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".

Chris the stick slinger's Comment
member avatar

Robert hit my trick right on the head.

Kicking the tractor around a few degrees means a lot less space you need to start the trailer turning. A very valuable bit of information in small parking lots.

I don't drive my tandems as it is too far away from the rear of the trailer for my liking. I drive the rear of the trailer myself.

Good reply Robert....

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".

VivaciousVal's Comment
member avatar

Backing Video

I've been out of the truck for a few days now, and in my desire to keep up with my training I've been using a lot of youtube. (The internet is always right, ya know?!) Anyways I found this video a while back and now I totally want a "toy" truck to practice backing with. But while I can't say that I know that this methodology works, it certainly makes sense.

Errol V.'s Comment
member avatar

Deonte, it's great to get in practice. In my opinion, using cones is OK, but in real life you'll be looking about 3 feet higher, at trucks and trailers.

If you can, practice backing at your company's terminal -between some trailers. Two advantages: if you bump into a trailer, no one (but you) really cares. And bumping into "nobody's" trailer is less traumatic than bumping into the fender of somebody's Kenworth!

Terminal:

A facility where trucking companies operate out of, or their "home base" if you will. A lot of major companies have multiple terminals around the country which usually consist of the main office building, a drop lot for trailers, and sometimes a repair shop and wash facilities.

Errol V.'s Comment
member avatar

VivaciousVal said:

and now I totally want a "toy" truck to practice backing with. But while I can't say that I know that this methodology works, it certainly makes sense.

Yes! I've often recommended the toy truck. You don't need the drawings used in the video. But the bird's eye view helps your brain wrap around all that goes on when you back between two table knives.

Justin N.'s Comment
member avatar

I got the kind of job where I have to back up into crazy configurations a dozen times a day so I learned pretty quick.

You have all these formulas. Illustrations and setups that a football coach could fill an entire blackboard with. In theory it works when practicing in a perfect and controlled environment, but like you said that you are rarely ever able to do this at a truckstop. All this turning the steering wheel all the way this way and that way.

Pay attention to where the tires on your rear axle are at and what happens with them when you move. It slowly seeps in without you even trying. Keep the practice up. The amount you need to turn the wheel will get easier and easier to figure out just by looking at your tandems and what you need to do with them.

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".

G-Town's Comment
member avatar

Justin wrote:

I got the kind of job where I have to back up into crazy configurations a dozen times a day so I learned pretty quick.

You have all these formulas. Illustrations and setups that a football coach could fill an entire blackboard with. In theory it works when practicing in a perfect and controlled environment, but like you said that you are rarely ever able to do this at a truckstop. All this turning the steering wheel all the way this way and that way.

Pay attention to where the tires on your rear axle are at and what happens with them when you move. It slowly seeps in without you even trying. Keep the practice up. The amount you need to turn the wheel will get easier and easier to figure out just by looking at your tandems and what you need to do with them.

Deonte you got some really great advice here. Since we tend to be better at visual learning, I lean towards Errol's suggestion and trying to take some of the instructions offered here by putting them into practice using the toy truck. Justin's suggestions above are also spot-on. Although I am not there to see how you are backing, it seems like you are working too hard by applying too much steering wheel requiring an equal or greater adjustment to compensate. As a result you are out of "runway" before touching the dock. Find out how your trailer is going to respond before applying any exaggerated steering input. Remember it must travel several feet before you will ever see a response. Practice wherever and whenever you can and like Justin said, more gradual steering input.

A couple of other thoughts:

The set-up. I am of the strong belief that the set-up is the better part of the backing, meaning minimally; 60% setup, 40% backing. When you are approaching a backing maneuver that you are not familiar with, if possible stop, pull your brakes and GOAL before you even begin your setup or are into the backup. This gives you time to think about how you will set-up and visualize a set-up that positions your trailer for a far simpler backing maneuver. If you can learn how to more efficiently set-up, the backing part becomes elementary and more repetitive.

Confidence. Based on what you wrote I think you might be better at this than you think and maybe have a bit of a confidence issue. As you practice, chart your results and I think you will see that given some time, much of this will become second nature.

Good luck and safe travels.

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".

Chris K.'s Comment
member avatar

I used a toy truck when I was learning to drive back in 05. I also practiced backing in Stevens yard when I was called to the terminal , bumped a trailer and I got a preventable.

Terminal:

A facility where trucking companies operate out of, or their "home base" if you will. A lot of major companies have multiple terminals around the country which usually consist of the main office building, a drop lot for trailers, and sometimes a repair shop and wash facilities.

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