Tips and Hacks for Backing Up Semi-Trucks and Trailers Like a Pro

Go forth and reverse.

how to back up a semi truck trailer
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In this guide we’ll cover:

Backing up a semi-tractor trailer into a spot can feel like threading a needle in the wind. 

how to back up a semi truck trailer

But it’s nothing to feel embarrassed about. Even the most seasoned pro, at one point or another, wasn’t exactly sure which way the trailer would pivot based on how they turned the steering wheel. 

Fortunately, there are several tricks and methods that can make directing your trailer as easy as slipping on a pair of boots. Let’s look at some of these tips, tricks, and mindset hacks to simplify backing up your truck’s trailer.

Don’t Worry About Onlookers

Many truckers feel as though every other truck driver is watching them and judging their ability to back up a trailer. This can put an incredible amount of pressure on any driver. But don’t forget that every driver went through what you’re experiencing as a new driver. 

If you notice someone watching you closely, remember that they’ve been in your seat. They’re not there to judge but are likely to provide support or a helpful heads-up about something you may not see. 

Though truckers can seem like a bunch with a hard shell, you’d be surprised by how warm and helpful your trucking community actually can be. 

The “Steer Into Your Problems” Trick

A common bit of advice from many truckers is to “steer into your problem.” It sounds counterintuitive, but if, for instance, you’re attempting to avoid hitting something on your left, turn your steering wheel to the left. 

This may feel completely backward but the physics dictate that your trailer will pivot in the opposite direction of your truck. If you steer your truck toward it in gentle corrective movements, your trailer will pivot away from it. 

The Six O’Clock Trick

This trick has to do with reverse perception. Place your hand at the “six o’clock” position of the steering wheel—toward the bottom. Whichever direction you turn your hand, that is the direction the trailer will go. Though it sounds like voodoo, it’s not. It’s just a great hack for changing your frame of reference between your steering wheel and your trailer. 

The Virtual Trucker

truck driving simulator programs

Nothing beats practice, but digital practice via a driving simulator is better than no practice at all. Some rookie truck drivers or aspiring truckers have reported getting a substantial leg up in the form of trucking simulators—such as American Truck Simulator or Euro Truck Simulator and a few hardware elements—such as a gaming console, gaming steering wheel, pedals, and the like.

Some of the benefits of using a trucking simulator include, but are not limited to—

  • No need to have a semi-truck, trailer, or location to use
  • No wasted fuel
  • No potential for damage or injury
  • No pressure from onlookers (unless you decide to stream the experience online—yikes)
  • A better understanding of perspective due to unique birdseye views, etc. 

While a simulator can’t replicate every detail of the truck driving experience, many students have reported how simulators have contributed to many “Oh, now I get it” moments. Even if they’re mostly good for “lightbulb moments,” that’s not all too bad.

Practicing at Mervyn’s

Even though simulators can speed up some of the learning processes, there’s no true substitute for learning how to back up a trailer besides actually backing up a trailer. But how can you practice while not getting in the way or being judged?

If you’re not eager to practice on the job or under the judgemental eye of others, some truckers recommend taking a truck and trailer to an abandoned loading dock—possibly at a closed mall, department store, or warehouse. There, you’ll get the feel for a real loading dock situation without fear of clogging the lot or otherwise being judged.

Go Forth…and Reverse

Your friends from My Little Salesman hope that these tips help you on your path backward toward being a truck-driving pro. If you know someone who may benefit from these tricks, feel free to send them this article—or send it over to virtual trucking online streamer in lieu of smack talk in the comments section. 

Learn more about My Little Salesman today.

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About Ken Lane
Ken’s affinity for the heavy equipment industry was fostered as a curious youngster—becoming happily lost on his grandfather’s tractor sales and service lot (his favorite color is still Allis-Chalmers Orange). Since then, he’s perfected the art of turning black coffee into helpful buyer resources and marketing materials for My Little Salesman.
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