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Operating a Semi-Truck Safely: Tips for Backing Up

Driving a semi-truck or large vehicle is not as easy as it looks. Experts have dedicated hours to practicing and more practicing. Although operating a large vehicle is like operating a more compact vehicle, it can require extra precaution and safety. Here are some helpful tips on driving a semi-truck, trailer, or large vehicle and some recommended ways to back up safely. Many truck drivers or large vehicle driving operators dread backing up because it can be challenging. Skill in this area of operation is typically acquired from practice, paying attention, and experience. Just like driving in a smaller vehicle, paying attention to the vehicle's surroundings is necessary. The driver should be aware of debris, other vehicles, and anything else that can be hazardous. A semi-truck, bus, and other large vehicles have two mirrors on either side of the vehicle. Here are the best ways to operate a semi-truck safely and some helpful tips on backing up.

Operating a Semi-Truck

When operating a large vehicle or semi-truck, monitoring mirrors and surroundings is always highly recommended. The mirrors are in place for safety only and should be used during every drive as often as possible. The mirrors on a semi-truck are often called rear vision mirrors and provide the driver with a visual of both sides of the truck. Blind spots are inevitable when operating any vehicle, and it is highly suggested to be alert and aware that nothing nor any other vehicle takes up this space. The blind spot area of a semi-truck is much more challenging to see than in a smaller, more compact vehicle. Expert semi-truck professionals suggest checking the mirrors every 8-10 seconds to ensure no one is entering or near the blind spots of the truck. It is also recommended to look further ahead for 15 seconds or more for traffic that has stopped or slowed down, road work, or any other hazards.

Tips for Safety

When operating a large vehicle or semi-truck, drivers are encouraged to take many other steps before, during, and after driving. These helpful steps include: 

  • Completing a thorough pre-trip inspection
  • Adjusting the headlights
  • Paying attention
  • Always using turn signals
  • Staying clear of blind spots
  • Being aware of the trailer 24/7
  • Giving the truck some space to pass other large vehicles safely
  • Avoiding distractions
  • Looking back at the truck after operation

This list consists of some steps that experts encourage drivers to take whenever any large vehicle, like a semi-truck is being driven. Every action can eliminate unwanted collisions with the driver and others on the road.

Backing Up a Semi-Truck

In addition to operating a large vehicle like a semi-truck safely is the skill of backing it up properly. It has been found that some of the most common accidents when backing up a semi are caused by not spending enough time to focus on safety by implementing some of the previous steps during operation. The most common cause of improper reversal in a semi-truck is due to blindsiding. A semi-truck is provided with mirrors on each side. These mirrors give the driver a visual of both sides of the trailer but not the back. Frequently, semi-truck drivers have begun backing up the truck into a spot that is not visible. Because of this, experts encourage drivers to take a thorough mental picture of the area they wish to back into to ensure enough space is permitted and they are aware of every hazard that may be around. Professionals also recommend getting out and looking around the rear and perimeter for the best visual of the area. When a driver is backing up a large vehicle or semi-truck, semi-truck experts suggest these essential steps:

  1. Get out and look
  2. Avoid using spotters
  3. Move slowly
  4. Make sure others can see and hear you
  5. Remember your training

These steps when backing up a large truck can help an operator limit unwanted accidents. Stepping out of the vehicle and examining the space gives the driver the ideal mental picture of if the trailer will fit, how tight it will be, and if anything hazardous is around that was not visible when looking out of the rear vision mirrors. Driving a large vehicle like a semi-truck can be challenging and backing up can take practice to master. However, making safety the number one priority during operation can limit accidents and make for a skillful driver.