Essential Rules for Backing Up Your Big Rig

Professional truck drivers learn very early in their careers just how important it is to remain aware at all times on the road. But it’s equally important to remain aware of safety issues while off the road. Many accidents occur while backing up a tractor trailer, particularly big rigs with sleeper berths. Since you’ll need to back up your big rig each time you get to a loading dock, you’ll need to master this skill before you graduate from truck driving school.

Watch the steering wheel.

If you’re driving a car, the car moves in the same direction that the top of the steering wheel is moving in. This is true regardless of whether you’re moving forward or in reverse. It’s totally different with a tractor trailer, since big rigs are articulated. Instead, watch the bottom of the steering wheel. The bottom will always move in the same direction as the trailer when backing up. Keep this in mind to help you visualize the proper mechanics of backing up.

Don’t rely solely on your mirrors.

This is another major difference between driving a car and a big rig. Your side mirrors on a big rig won’t let you know where the trailer is or where it’s going. You’ll only see the side of the trailer. Instead, when you pull up, try to position your trailer to the most ideal place for backing in. This ideal spot is wherever you can back up with a minimum of maneuvering. At frequent intervals, park the rig and get out to examine your position. Don’t worry if you have to get out every few feet—it’s far better to take your time backing up than to risk an accident.

Pull up more than once if you need to.

If you notice that you’re maneuvering more than you’d like, or if you’re at risk of an accident, stop what you’re doing. Pull up again and reposition the trailer. Then, start the process of backing up over again.


After graduating from a CDL training program at Yuma Truck Driving School, you’ll be a pro at handling a big rig. Call our office in Yuma, AZ, at (888) 647-3239 to find out about enrolling in our flexible learning programs!