Backing Up Tractor-Trailer Rigs
big rig looks pretty straight forward, but the details can quickly
get you into trouble. It takes patience, practice, and good planning
to safely execute most backing maneuvers. In this topic, we will
describe the planning and some of the safety considerations, but
you will be the one who has to evaluate you situation and make
it all happen, accident free.
you can not control other peoples actions, you can focus and concentrate
on the backing effort, and this will help you to recognize a problem
as quickly as it develops. The tips in this section will not prevent
backing accidents, but they will help you to reduce the possibility
of backing accidents.
parts of the rig are typically involved in backing accidents?
side - This is pretty obvious because many backing situations
position the tractor so that you cannot see the right side of
the trailer. Most drivers will get out of the cab to check on
the left side (driver's side) of the rig, but will not go that
extra distance to get out and go around to the right (passenger's)
side of the rig to check.
top - A surprising number of backing accidents involve the
top of the trailer striking an overhang, or getting tangled up
with wires or building eves. It is a common mistake to look around
at eye level when surveying a backing location. Remember to take
a look up as high as the trailer top before deciding the chance
rear - Sometimes you can misjudge the distance and back into
something sooner than you expect. You can also be duped if something
behind you moves while you are backing. You can prevent both situations
by getting out of the cab to check and recheck if conditions are
Accident Prevention Tips
as many distractions as you can. Turn off the radio and CB,
and get totally focused with the backing maneuver.
check out the area you are backing into before you begin backing.
- Use your
mirrors properly. You may have to adjust them for this backing
situation. Take a moment and adjust as required.
- Keep you
body inside while the rig is in motion. It is tempting to hang
out the door to get a better look, but this looses the right
mirror because the angle changes, and places yourself in physical
danger if you get crushed by something you didn't see. It is
also very hard to step on the brake quickly while you are hanging
out the door.
- Keep your
right foot off the throttle, instead keep it over the brake
pedal. Loaded rigs usually don't need throttle to back, therefore,
that right foot can remain poised to jam on the brakes quickly
if you see a problem developing in the mirrors.
- When backing
across city and suburban streets, many motorists don't understand
or recognize what is happening until they get right up on you.
Most motorists are slow to recognize an uncommon situation.
Some will also try to dart around you, when there clearly isn't
safe room to pass. Any method you can use to draw attention
to you backing across the street will help.
the Tractor - Turning the tractor so it is out of line with
the trailer, causes the trailer to begin its turn. To start jacking
the tractor, turn the top of the steering wheel in the direction
opposite of the direction that you want the trailer to go.
the Trailer - After the tractor is jacked, keep the tractor/trailer
angle for the desired rate of turn by chasing the trailer to keep
the trailer rate of turn as desired.
- Once the trailer turning is no longer required, you straighten
the tractor so it lines up with the trailer. Then you chase the
trailer straight back.
you are backing to a dock, open and secure your trailer doors
before backing into the hole (restricted backing destination).
Always get out and inspect the hole for tire damaging debris and
other obstacles such as overhangs.
Back Preposition - This is the easiest and safest way to back
your rig. Always choose this option when it is available. It provides
clear view in both mirrors. As you slowly pass the hole, steer
hard at right angle to the hole which will take your truck away
from the hole until your rig straightens out in front of the hole.
Now back up straight and into the hole. As you approach the hole,
you should get out and make sure that you are lined up properly.
Preposition - Clear side refers to situations where you maintain
a clear view in your left mirror while backing. This is your most
common backing situation and is second choice to straight backing.
Drive past the hole and allow clearance on the right side of the
rig for the trailer to jack out. Now back up, jacking the tractor
by turning the top of the wheel right and then chase the trailer
into the hole.
Preposition - Blind side refers to situations where you can
only maintain a limited view in your right mirror while backing.
This is the most dangerous and most difficult backing choice.
Use the same steps as clear side backing. The only difference
is that it is harder to see what you are doing. As you back into
the hole, get out a few times to check on things. This is much
easier than filling out accident reports and repairing damaged
trailers and rammed objects.
in the Hole
the best prepositioning above for the circumstances at hand. If
you must dock from a blind side position, get someone on the ground
to help when possible. Most people who work in your profession
know how hard it is to back from the blind side, and will be glad
to help. Just make sure you can see and hear them at all times.
Now open the trailer doors, back into the hole, and stop short
of the dock. Get out, walk back and inspect behind the trailer
yourself, and estimate the remaining distance. Then back easily
until the trailer touches the dock.
straight and easy is how the trailer should land on the dock.
Just make it happen! Many docks require chocking of the wheels,
and for good reason. As a fork lift moves in and out of your trailer,
the start and stop forces try to move your trailer back and forth.
Imagine if your trailer moved out a foot or so, and someone standing
there falls into the crack, and then the trailer moves back against
the dock and crushes their leg or worse. Or imagine if the ramp
falls off the dock while the fork lift is backing out of the trailer,
and the fork lift falls between the loading dock and the trailer.
Always make sure that your parking brakes are set as soon as you
dock. And if chocking is a dock requirement, make sure that you
docks have a locking arm which attaches to the trailer and prevents
it from moving while the fork lift works inside.
curb parking is a difficult maneuver and should be avoided when
possible. It uses the blind-side backing procedures described
above. The wheel base of both your tractor and trailer determine
the parallel parking difficulty. Shorter tractors and/or trailers
are usually easier to handle, and require less space to maneuver.
You will most likely have to pull forward and adjust your position
a time or two before jacking in successfully.
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