Backing Help Needed: Turning Front Vs. Back Of Trailer

Topic 27081 | Page 1

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Marc Lee's Comment
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Sucking a bit less but still not great. Trying to figure out issues (beyond oversteering, not waiting long enough for trailer to move, chasing to fast or too slowly, etc..).

Wondering if part of my confusion comes from the apparent need to both move the ass end and the front of the trailer, and the need to get the tractor straight with the trailer. (Stay with me here!) It seems that each end moves differently (or at different rates, etc.). I don't know if I need to take a more holistic approach to this or just pay more attention to each end... DOES THE QUESTION EVEN MAKE SENSE???

Help please!

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Bobcat_Bob's Comment
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Sorry, not sure I understand what your getting at. I'd probably be able to help in person but over the internet is hard.

Personally I focus on the rear of the trailer, I get that lined up with the hole and then push the nose over. Not sure if that makes sense or helps you at all.

Brett Aquila's Comment
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Part of the problem with learning to back a trailer is that we're facing forward. We have to turn our head around to look behind us or watch the mirrors. This is not natural. We don't operate moving backward. Imagine yourself walking around the mall and how effortless that would be. Then imagine walking backward around a crowded mall while looking over your shoulder. Very different story. It's awkward and clumsy.

One trick that may help is to imagine yourself standing on the catwalk of the tractor with your hands on the trailer pushing the trailer into place. Picture doing this the same way you would push a large chair from one part of a room to another. That's essentially what you're doing. You're using the tractor to push the trailer into place, and you're changing the angle of the tractor to push the trailer in different directions.

Simplify what you're thinking about as much as possible. Try to forget about things like, "I have to steer left to make it move right" or "I'm over-steering so I have to keep my hands across from each other on the wheel" or any of that stuff. Just picture yourself pushing that trailer into place, and keep asking yourself, "What angle should I push this trailer at?" Create that angle with the tractor. That's it.

We all have different ways of visualizing what we're trying to do. Maybe that way will help you.

If that doesn't work, go to a grocery store and practice pushing shopping carts around backward. The wheels in the front of the cart can turn, the wheels in the back do not. So you must steer the shopping cart by moving yourself left or right.

A wheelbarrow is also the same as a trailer. You have to move yourself left or right to steer. You're steering the trailer the same way - by moving the tractor back and forth.

Marc Lee's Comment
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Thanks Bobcat.

Big thanks Brett! I will give that a try!

G-Town's Comment
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Mark the best solution to most all setup & backing issues is repetition. Take every available opportunity to practice. You've only been back at this for a couple of days...

One thing I will however suggest...

It's all about getting the setup right. I use the G>O>A>L> to also "size-up" my setup, thinking through it before hand. Unfortunately there isn't enough emphasis placed on this in school...but if done reasonably correct, it will make backing much easier. If you are setting up for an offset or alley back of any angle (sight-side), it's actually better to have the tractor somewhat "bent" in relation to your trailer, thus angling the trailer towards the hole. If it's a "straight back", indeed the tractor should be straight in relation to the trailer. Other wise, on an angle. Doing this enables the trailer to immediately track on an arc as you creep back toward the hole or target area. With the alignment as described, initial steering adjustments are slight, if not at all. Watch what it does, keeping your eyes on the end of your trailer and the hole you are aiming for, making only minor left or right adjustments. Make any adjustments/corrections by placing your hands next to each other on the bottom of the wheel, palms facing down, elbows in touching your sides,...moderate grip. This technique prevents too much input, thus reducing over-steer and the ensuing over-correction that must occur. Trust in this approach...learn it, and you should quickly realize you'll be able to achieve backing success with way less stress and fewer pull-ups.

Again, repetition is the absolute best teacher, better than any advice we could possibly offer. At this point in time you haven't had enough reps...they will occur. Learn from every attempt: G.O.A.L. for "a purpose", take your time, and do not rush.

And one other piece of advice...(OMG) relax the death grip on your steering wheel. You'll end up with tennis elbow and far greater fatigue if you hold the wheel like I saw in one of your postcard photos. It might also explain why your trailer got squirrel-y...less "squeeze" on the wheel and more finesse' allows smoother control as you manage your lane control.

Good luck!

PackRat's Comment
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On that death grip....You'll also end up with a stiff neck and shoulders.

Errol V.'s Comment
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Marc Lee looks for meaning:

Wondering if part of my confusion comes from the apparent need to both move the ass end and the front of the trailer, and the need to get the tractor straight with the trailer. (Stay with me here!) It seems that each end moves differently (or at different rates, etc.). I don't know if I need to take a more holistic approach to this or just pay more attention to each end... DOES THE QUESTION EVEN MAKE SENSE???

I teach backing all the time. The paragraph above has the seeds of a good understanding of what the trailer is doing, in my opinion. I use the term "twisting" to refer to the trailer changing direction (There's too many other things that turn, like wheels & steering.)

It would be really good to go to a toy store and buy a small toy (Ertl/Matchbox size) tractor trailer. Then you can see how it all happens in the comfort of your kitchen table. Or second, get a broom, hold the handle end against your hip, and walk around and even (not on a carpet!) push it backwards.

As for the real trailer itself, you are doing three things at once: Moving closer to your goal (that cone over there), changing the direction of the trailer (twisting) and moving the back end/tandems to where you want them. And you might think rubbing your belly and patting your head is hard!

A straight line and the offset have little setup because you have to start in a particular position. The real setup is for the 90. My description is very close to G-Town's. In setting up for the 90, you will be pushing the trailer in a big arc. This is where repetition helps: always try to set the back of the trailer in a scene with the target cones in a consistent way. Yes, change things as you need to, but be consistent in how your eyes and mind see the situation. I'm not going to duplicate G-Town's work. But let me add a few additional thoughts:

The inside cone/target of a backing maneuver will be eaten by the tandems in no time! If there's any error in your backing, the trailer will most likely head for that inside cone. So as you start out from your setup point, aim for a place a bit away from the target. If you find you are rolling too far outside, a simple clockwise/right turn of the steering will get you closer to the target when the time comes.

Depending on the backing situation, use your GOAL wisely. Usually for your exam you can get out twice. You'll need one of those in your 90 to make sure the tailgate is right in the box.

A pullup is not a failure, it's an adjustment! Don't be afraid to switch to forward and move out for another chance. A secret: if you must pull up, make your path in an S fashion (mostly start out turning left, and them turn right before you stop). I'm developing a set of instructions on how to use a pullup successfully, but it's too much for this topic. Just don't pull out then back up the same path - that does not help your situation!

Finally, treat each try at it as it's own job - learn from your mistakes, but don't get frustrated or dwell on your failure. Trust me, you learn from failure, not so much from your successes.

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".

TWIC:

Transportation Worker Identification Credential

Truck drivers who regularly pick up from or deliver to the shipping ports will often be required to carry a TWIC card.

Your TWIC is a tamper-resistant biometric card which acts as both your identification in secure areas, as well as an indicator of you having passed the necessary security clearance. TWIC cards are valid for five years. The issuance of TWIC cards is overseen by the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Seabee-J's Comment
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Using a die cast model is a great a idea , I use that method and it really helps to understand what's going on and helps you visualize what to do with the different angles and how it will react. Spot on tip .

Marc Lee's Comment
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Thanks Errol. Had a pretty good, cheap flatbed toy... helped a bit at the time. Occasionally look at orhers... trying to avoid spending big money on a toy truck (ahem, I mean learning aid!). Buried it a couple moves and months ago. Guess I need another! Not sure I get the broom thing....

Marc Lee's Comment
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Errol... one quick clarification...

I have my CDL. This is week 2 of training with Veriha. Week 1 was orientation, onboarding, yard (S L. and offset) and a bit of road driving. This week (and next) is/are "home daily" with trainer. Really pretty much "dark to dark" training. But other than the one "guide cone" he dropped to help me back... these are live loads. Real trailers... real potential for damage DAC reporting... the whole thing. This is for real!

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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.

DAC:

Drive-A-Check Report

A truck drivers DAC report will contain detailed information about their job history of the last 10 years as a CDL driver (as required by the DOT).

It may also contain your criminal history, drug test results, DOT infractions and accident history. The program is strictly voluntary from a company standpoint, but most of the medium-to-large carriers will participate.

Most trucking companies use DAC reports as part of their hiring and background check process. It is extremely important that drivers verify that the information contained in it is correct, and have it fixed if it's not.

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