Backing Up During Training

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Truck Operations IdeaThe wife of a trucker is frantic over the fact that her husband is having trouble backing up a truck — and he’s in his last two weeks of training with his hopefully-soon-to-be trucking company.* She wants help.

Response from Vicki:

Hello. Thanks for reaching out on behalf of your husband. You are to be commended for being a supportive home support team member.

The most difficult trucking maneuver for many truckers is how to back up a truck safely. This is an ultra-important truck operation that many truckers must deal with daily (and sometimes multiple times a day).

My husband Mike and I had different experiences in truck driver training schools about backing up.

Hopefully the school your husband attended was of sufficiently high enough quality to require him to do basic tasks like a stop line, serpentine, 90-degree alley docking, etc. All of these maneuvers and more are generally required on a CDL road test.

I don’t know what your husband’s situation is, but I truly wonder how he managed to graduate from truck driver training school — and get his CDL — if he didn’t know how to back up the truck he was driving.

You didn’t specifically say what “kind” of backing up your husband is having trouble with, but I’ll hazard a guess that it is the 90-degree alley docking maneuver.

The backing advice (trick) that worked the best for me in the 90-degree alley docking maneuver was given to me by a trucking school trainer named Shorty: “Follow your tandems; they’ll never lead you wrong.” (I referenced him on this page, too.)

While I agree to a point that your husband should have learned to back up the truck in school, it is a bit reckless of his driver trainer not to let him practice in the company truck.

Why do I say that?

Because if your husband “lucks out” in backing up a truck during training, but doesn’t really “get it,” then the chances of his being involved in a backing accident once he hires on with his trucking company are higher.

It isn’t just in shipper and receiver locations where backing is required. If your husband will have a regional or OTR trucking job, then chances are very good that he’s going to have to park in a truck stop during his breaks. Many parking spots in chain truck stops are designed to be backed into.

Please tell your husband to insist on taking the time he needs to practice this skill. If his driver trainer won’t let him, he should go over his head to the trainer’s supervisor to make sure that he learns it. If neither one “permits” your husband to practice, he should think twice about going to work for that company.

Bear in mind: One backing accident early on in your husband’s trucking career could end it anyway. So, he has nothing to lose by standing firm on this.

I wish him well. It would be nice to hear back from you through our site to let us know what happened.

I trust that your husband will eventually hire on as a professional truck driver. When that happens, I wish him safe travels and lots of money saving opportunities on the road.

Best regards,
Vicki Simons

* (no longer online)