Backing techniques and tight maneuvers for truck drivers

Many veteran drivers have spent thousands of hours behind the wheel honing their backing skills and continue to learn every day. Backing skills that many may take for granted can be a challenge for someone new to the industry and just getting their driving career off the ground. Last month Driver Training Instructor, Ross Christensen, took three office employees who have never driven semi and taught them how to back. Each employee was guided through our Accelerate Training Program course and given the opportunity to park their trailer in-between two tractor-trailers. All three employees were able to complete the assignment safely and incident-free by following the procedures and instructions of our Driver Training Instructor.

Procedures to follow when backing

In reality, the life of a truck driver includes many docks and deliveries that require backing a large vehicle into a narrow opening. When faced with a situation that requires backing the following are a few procedures to follow to ensure a safe outcome.

  • Size up the situation as you approach and start developing your plan.
  • Turn on your fourways to make your vehicle more visible to others and alert them to be cautious.
  • Roll down your windows, turn off the radio and any other distractions so you can hear clearly and be focused on the task at hand.
  • Set your brakes and Get Out and Look – G.O.A.L – for any hazards around, above, behind, and below your truck. Make sure to pay attention to the path you will be backing along behind the vehicle and check for overhead wires and low overhangs.
  • Make sure your tandems are properly positioned.
  • Open your doors. Nothing is much more aggravating than successfully completing a backing maneuver only to realize you get to do it all again because the trailer doors are still shut.
  • Check your mirrors frequently for hazards behind you – situations can change quickly.
  • Don’t delay backing once checks are complete and use the G.O.A.L. process as often as needed.
  • Use a spotter. While the safest way to avoid a backing accident is to not back up at all, the second safest way is to use a spotter. A spotter is a person who watches your trucks as you are backing and guides you safely into position.


Utilizing the above procedures will help ensure safe backing. However, there is no substitute for practice to become a backing pro—backing is a skill that is acquired over time—it may be frustrating at times but remember even the grizzled old veterans struggled when they first started. Keep working on it and soon it’ll be second nature to you too!

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