How to drive a tractor with a trailer in reverse

semi trailer image by max blain from

When learning to back a trailer, it might be easier to think of it as pushing the trailer where you want it to go, which is what is really happening. When you push left on the front of the trailer, the rear swings to the right and vice versa.

Therefore, you must learn to steer the tractor, truck or car that is pulling the trailer in the opposite direction than you would if backing without a trailer. It takes a little practice, but isn't difficult once you get the hang of it.

Find a long stretch of pavement and set up two lines of cones parallel to each other and about 100 yards in length. Leave 15 feet between the lines of cones to create a roadway.

Enter between the lines of cones and drive the tractor-trailer to the opposite end of the cone roadway to where the cones end. Stop when the tractor is even with the last set of cones. You should see a straight line of cones in each side-view mirror and the tractor should be aligned with the trailer.

Put the truck in reverse and, looking in your mirrors to help you navigate, release the clutch completely and allow the truck to idle backward while you steer to keep it straight. If the rear of the trailer begins to drift to the left, correct by turning the steering wheel slightly to the left until the trailer straightens, then bring it back to the centre position. If it rear of the trailer drifts right, correct by turning slightly right then recovering to centre. Be patient. If you back through the cones then pull forward, reset the cones and try again.

Set up cones to resemble a dock. There is no specific way to do this, but you need to have at least two cones set 15 feet apart to back your trailer through.

Pull the truck toward the cones at a 90-degree angle, approaching parallel to the cones on the driver side of the truck. As the tractor passes the cones, cut hard to the right until the trailer is at a 45-degree angle to the cones. Cut hard to the left to put the tractor at an angle slightly greater than the trailer so you can see the left side of the trailer and the cones from the driver-side mirror. The cones should be behind and to the right of the trailer.

Aim the left-rear corner of the trailer at a point just inside the cone closest to the driver's side and slowly back up. Make adjustments with the wheel to keep the trailer and cone lined up. As the trailer passes the cone, begin straightening the trailer until the tractor and trailer are aligned with each other and the trailer is inside of the cones.

Use the same cone set-up as used in Section 2, Alley Docking.

Pull the truck toward the cones at a 90-degree angle with the cones on the passenger side of the tractor. As the tractor passes the cones, cut the wheel hard left until the trailer is at a 45-degree angle to the cones, then hard right until the tractor is angled slightly sharper than the trailer.

Use the passenger-side mirror to line up the right-rear corner of the tractor with the inside of the passenger-side cone. Back slowly, steering to keep the trailer lined up with the cone. When the trailer passes the cone, straighten the tractor and trailer until they are aligned.