How to Back Up a Semi-Truck Trailer Safely

Image of semi-truck trailer backing up

One of the most challenging maneuvers of driving is backing up. However, backing up a semi-truck trailer is a whole other can of worms. If this is your first, second or even third time attempting, be patient with yourself. This maneuver is difficult for both beginner and seasoned drivers alike. Luckily, there are a handful of tried-and-true tricks to get you started and hopefully improve your semi-truck steering ability.

1.    Practice, practice, practice

You’re not going to improve if you don’t practice. Regardless of how many times you’ve failed, it’s important to get back behind the wheel and safely and slowly try again. It can be disheartening continuously screwing up, but practice is the only way you’ll ever improve.

Take advantage of a large empty parking lot with minimal parking stops and start there. Start by practicing backing up your semi-truck into an empty parking space with no cars behind or on either side. This will initially take a while. Then, once you’ve mastered that, attempt slowly backing into a parking space with one car beside. Then two cars on either side. A slow progression is always the best.

2.    Go slow

There’s no need to rush. In fact, rushing your progression could delay your improvement. Take it easy and only do what you feel comfortable doing. Take breaks and if you’re getting tired, come back tomorrow. Nothing is worse for your learning than pushing yourself when you have nothing left to give!

It’s important to learn at your own pace, but it’s equally as important to physically move the semi-truck trailer at a slow pace when first learning to back up. This will allow you to spot any errors early while moving and correct them before an error occurs.

3.    Pay attention to your steering wheel

It’s one of the first things you learned while driving: the direction your hands turn on the wheel is the direction your car will go. Place your left hand at the bottom of the wheel and whichever way your hand turns will be the direction your car turns as well. Just be sure not to oversteer as this can cause additional problems.

4.    Use spotters!

Employing your friends or family to help you out while backing up your semi-truck is incredibly useful, especially when learning! Have them stand at the foot of the parking spot and give you guidance so you know how close or far you are from the edges of the spot.

That, or purchasing miniature blind spot mirrors to help if there is no one to assist. Both are an excellent way to increase visibility and get a feel for how much space your semi-truck trailer takes up when you aren’t immediately sure.

Miniature blind spot mirrors are also helpful regardless of whether or not you’re an amateur and can help with guiding parking and making lane changes.

5.    G.O.A.L

Get Out And Look! If needed, get out of your vehicle and check. Although you might be tempted to avoid this hint, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you’re worried your semi-truck might be on the path to hit something, get out of your vehicle to check. It’s much better to slow down and line yourself up correctly than to rush through and hit something or someone. If needed, other drivers can always go around you. There is never any rush. Just focus on moving slowly and carefully until you’ve backed up to where you need to be.

6.    Make yourself seen

If you’re in a crowded area, it’s easy for other drivers to get distracted, even if you’re backing up a large semi-truck. Make yourself seen by making eye contact with other drivers or using your horn if needed.

7.    Avoid backing into parking spaces

Although it’s not always possible, try to avoid backing up into parking spaces in parking lots. It’s difficult for even seasoned drivers to back up into a parking space with a semi-truck and it’s not worth the extra stress and risk if there are other options available. If possible, always park in a slot that allows you to pull through to avoid the risk of hitting other vehicles.