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How to Back Up an Eighteen-Wheeler Truck

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Backing up an 18-wheel tractor-trailer rig is complicated because the truck is large and has several blind spots obstructing rear vision. Maneuvering requires practice and patience. While backing up the truck is challenging, with practice it becomes second nature.

Get into the 18-wheeler and adjust the seat. Put on seat belt and start the vehicle and warm up. Turn off the vehicle and unbuckle the seat belt.

Get out of the vehicle and check the area around truck, looking around for obstacles or potential problems, such as children or animals playing nearby. Determine the path for the 18-wheeler and check that the vehicle has overhead clearance. Get back into the vehicle.

Turn on flashers. Never back up without the warning flashers on. If the vehicle does not have a back-up alarm, tap the horn to warn others that the vehicle is backing up and continue tapping horn while backing.

Adjust and check all mirrors. Mirror placement is vital because there are several blind spots. Position the vehicle before backing.

Start the truck. According to The Truckers Report, there are two reverse gears on most 18-wheelers. Set the truck into the first reverse gear. Take the foot off break and ease off clutch.

Back up slowly and check the mirrors constantly while backing. Turn the steering wheel to the right to turn the truck toward the left; and steer left to turn rig toward the right. An 18-wheeler is a large vehicle and straightening takes extra time, so start to straighten early to prevent over-steering while backing.

Keep the 18-wheeler straight once it is in position and back up to stopping point, checking mirrors constantly. Always back slowly to prevent tipping, hitting curbs or other problems that might arise.

Stop the truck and reposition whenever necessary. If there are problems during backing, such as overturning, heading toward a curb or misjudging the turn and ending up in the wrong position, pull the vehicle out of the backing location and go forward. Reposition the vehicle and start backing again.


Whenever possible, have another person stand outside the rig and spot you during backing maneuver.

  • Whenever possible, have another person stand outside the rig and spot you during backing maneuver.

Helen Jain has been writing online articles since December 2009 for various websites. She has studied English and psychology and hopes to get a Ph.D. in English in the future.