Although truckers focus on the road, a lot of damage is caused when trucks collide with objects behind the trailer. Tom Boehler, Erb Group Senior Director of Safety and Compliance, offers several tips that can help eliminate reversing accidents.
1. Go out and watch
The process begins with a central OBJECTIVE, which Mr. Boehler describes as “Go out and look”. This is vital every time you backtrack, especially when it comes to a new location.
2. Use technology to study context
Use a smart phone or computer and the Google Maps platform to survey an area before you arrive. Checking out routes and ways in and out will relieve a lot of stress before you arrive.
3. Check your surroundings when you arrive
Keep your head on your shoulders. You cannot focus only on the left side of the semi-trailer. People will try to bypass you on the right. Before you begin to back up, see if someone is moving near you. This includes shunting trucks, other vehicles, forklifts and pedestrians. Wait for them to clear the way for you. Walk a
4. Look for tire tracks
If someone has ever walked in and out of the dock on a hot day, you will be able to see the tire tracks they left behind. These will be a marker to follow to the platform door. Similar marks are created in gravel and snow.
5. Learn to use the position ‘12 and 9‘
Boehler recommends a “12 and 9” setup for easier backing. Imagine that you are going backwards on the face of a clock. If your loading dock is between two trailers, for example, at the 6 o’clock position, approach with your semi-trailer perpendicular to the loading dock. Once the drive tires are aligned with the edge of the parking space, turn the steering wheel to the right, aiming for the 12 o’clock position. When you see your trailer wheels in the rearview mirror, turn the steering wheel to the left towards 9 o’clock. Once you hit 9 o’clock and your practice tires are straight, the trailer should be about 15-20 feet from the opening. Straighten the trailer then back up to the parking space.
6. Don’t be afraid to start over
Yes, everyone would love to get the reverse right the first time. But don’t be afraid to go around and start over if you feel like the trailer is misaligned. Too many drivers try to reverse using an S-curve in these situations and run into trouble.
7. Avoid blind backtracking as much as possible
The best way to get a clear view is to avoid blindly backing up if possible. If you can’t avoid it, once again remember to get out and watch. Check your location. See where you are going. Stop, get out and check again. Don’t assume you are lined up with your parking spot. And take advantage of people who can guide you. Just discuss what they should watch for, where they should stand, and what signals they should use.
8. Take your time when backing up from a street to a platform
If it is not possible to back up on the left side without going around the block, do so. Watch the mirrors and don’t feel like you have to rush when the process begins. Ignore the horns or the exasperated looks of other drivers.
Roll your windows down for the duration of the reverse process. Turn off the radio and listen. Your ears help you monitor your surroundings and can give you the first signs of an oncoming or backing up vehicle.
10. Know when to say no
Ultimately, if you can’t back up in one spot, ask to be assigned another dock door. The shipper or receiver may also offer a shunting service that will help you. And don’t listen to derogatory comments that suggest another driver did it. Use your own judgement. Successful drivers may have had a city cab or a single axle tractor, while you work with a highway tractor.