90 Degree Backing

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Ask Your Truck Drivers Money Saving Questions HereHow do you mark your reference points from practice on an instruction course to the real course for the CDL test? Our instructors mark the stopping spot for set up. What do you use when you get to the real test?

Response from Vicki:

Hello, thank you for asking your question regarding taking a CDL road test and specifically how to back up a rig in a 90 degree backing configuration.

It could be different where you are, but when my husband Mike and I were student drivers, we had no “reference points” for a 90-degree backing except the white line (indicating what would have been a dock line) and a backboard (which symbolized the dock).

Mastering the 90-degree alley dock backing maneuver was the most challenging for me in truck driver training school.

What I didn’t know until I got out on the road was that due to a pretty wide variety in configurations (wheel base of tractor, length of trailer, tandem setting on the trailer and many different types of dock settings), I needed to learn how to back the rig I was driving without reference points. How did I do this?

I finally understood how to do the 90-degree alley docking procedure when I had an instructor named Shorty who told me to “Follow your tandems; they’ll never lead you wrong.” From that point on, I knew that there was no “magic formula” for turning the steering wheel so much to the left or right at a certain point or time.

Not only this, but there are 45-degree and off-set alley docking situations that you may encounter on the road that you’ll need to prepare for. Having reference points for only 90-degree alley docking will fail you in these real-world situations. Remember Shorty’s advice: “Follow your tandems; they’ll never lead you wrong.”

Please let me know how it goes for you on your CDL road test and in getting a job as a professional truck driver. When you get out on the road, we wish you safe travels and lots of money saving opportunities.

Best regards,
Vicki Simons


—– Comment —–
having trouble doing 90 degree alley dock by Anonymous
Date: Apr 20, 2015

I am in school right now and I cant seem to figure the 90 degree turn and put my trailer in the pocket I keep over steering and I end up chasing my trailer. I need it explained in basic talk step by step I really do not know trucker language yet . please I need help I am very frustrated. I did it all day and I still could not get it.

—– Comment —–
You can do a 90-degree alley docking! by Vicki
Date: Apr 20, 2015


I hope that this will help.

When you back up an articulated vehicle, when you turn the steering wheel to the left, your trailer goes to the right.

The harder you turn your steering wheel to the left and the longer you leave it turned as you back, the harder your trailer will break to the right.

The opposite thing will happen if you turn your steering wheel to the right (your trailer goes to the left).

You never want for your trailer to jack so hard that you have a “jackknife” situation. So you have to “get back under” your trailer with the back of your tractor. (In other words, you have to work to straighten out your rig.)

When you are in a (non-blindside) 90-degree alley docking situation, you have to envision in your mind where you want your trailer to be. Look out your driver’s side mirror or the window as you slowly back your rig and turn your steering wheel such that your driver’s side tandems follow the arc into the “hole”.

Unlike the stupid advice that we were given in truck driver training school, there is no set formula for how much to turn your wheel and when because every docking situation is different and your rig may have a variety of tandem settings over time.

In the words of “Shorty”, the trainer whose advice finally helped me nail the 90-degree alley docking, “Follow your tandems; they’ll never lead you wrong.” In other words, keep adjusting your truck based on where your driver’s side trailer tandems are — keeping your truck from jackknifing, of course — and angle your rig in the hole.

To Mike and me, it is much harder to get a rig into a 45-degree alley docking situation than a 90-degree one.

Some student drivers have a much harder time learning this maneuver than others. Do not allow anyone at your school push you — or limit your time on the range — to get this right. It is a difficult maneuver, but one that you need to learn and master.

Remember Shorty’s advice and go from there. Let me know how it goes for you. We are “rooting” for you. And when you get out on the road, we wish you safe travels and lots of money saving opportunities on the road.

Best regards,
Vicki Simons