So far in 2017, LTI has spent more than $150,000 repairing tractor-trailer preventable damages to trucks and trailers. One of the leading causes of tractor-trailer damages is backing accidents. Backing up a tractor trailer can be one of the most difficult maneuvers for a truck driver. This move is very challenging and is a very common cause of truck and property damage.
Most truck drivers on the road can drive a tractor-trailer straight ahead, but not everyone can successfully back a tractor-trailer without causing damage to their own truck, the truck parked next to them, or customer property (dock doors, fences, barriers, etc). Nevertheless, backing up a tractor trailer properly, is an essential skill for a professional LTI driver that must be taken seriously. The ability to perform this maneuver well, separates the professionals from the amateurs.
We’ve discovered that most accidents occurring at customer locations or truck stops are caused when the driver is backing up. Performing this maneuver improperly is usually caused by not spending the time to complete the backing up process properly.
Keep in mind that all backing maneuvers have the potential to become dangerous. In most backing situations, a couple of seconds is enough time for someone or something to get in the path of your trailer.
A driver should perform the following tasks before starting a backing maneuver:
- Get out of the vehicle and check to the rear – visually look for any obstructions that could be a problem. Many times, parking lots will have concrete barriers, dumpsters, or storage material hidden between parted trucks.
- Check above, under, and to the sides of the vehicle – this is especially true when backing inside covered docks or underground warehouses.
- Don’t forget to check the truck parked next to you. Did they back in straight, or did they cross the yellow line putting you at risk of an accident? Are their mirrors sticking out to far?
- Check for adequate trailer swing clearance – keep in mind your trailer swing changes depending on your tandem placement.
- Check in front of the vehicle (if pulling forward is necessary) – failing to get out and look prior to pulling forward has caused a lot of bumper and front finder damage. Always remember to check for concrete stairs and curbs.
- Communicate with others that the truck is backing – Use your four-way flashers and your horn before backing. Always wear your highly-reflective vest when working around other vehicles.
As a truck driver you should always avoid backing if possible, but if you must back, remove all distractions, follow the tips above, and move very slowly. Following these tips will eliminate vehicle damage and keep your professional driving record clean of accidents.
For more information on backing, or to request more training on handling difficult backing maneuvers, please contact the Safety Department. Also feel free to contact us if you’d like training on our new simulator, which will give you a real-feeling experience and build your comfort and skill through repetition.