I have been driving tractor trailers for three years. Backing up a trailer is not as difficult as it looks or sounds, there are generally three reasons why people have such a difficult time.
1. And the most common, over steering. When you turn your steering wheel to much in one direction
you are forcing your pivot point to push the front of the trailer to far.
2. Going to fast. Backing up with a trailer attached is a slow process, the faster you go the faster you have to turn, and it is harder for you to compensate for over steering.
3. Setup. Most people believe that they should backup at an angle. Let me say this now, a straight backup is always easier than an articulated backup.
Now that we have covered the three most common mistakes in backing up a trailer, lets go through the proper procedures.
1. The setup. If your are going to be backing into a driveway at home, as you approach your driveway,turn on your hazard flashers, look at your road, is it wide enough for you to do a straight back, or can you use a driveway across from yours? If your road is wide enough,start close to your driveways side of the road,go about 3/4 of the way past your driveway then turn hard to the center of the road then turn your wheel back to center to line up the back of your trailer with the driveway. If you are not perfectly straight thats o.k
2. Here's where most people make their mistake. You have your vehicle in reverse and immediately you start to turn your steering wheel before you start moving. This is a mistake, you should always start backing up BEFORE you start turning, the reason for this is that if you turn your steering wheel before you start moving you have most likely already turned it to much. Start backing up slowly and turn your steering wheel VERY little in the opposite direction. A tractor trailer truck has a larger back-end so steering to compensate is turning the wheel a 1/4 turn then back to center, but in a pickup truck or car you want to turn less than 1/4 then back to center.
If you go slow you can usually guide the trailer in to position. Use your mirrors, if you see that your trailer is moving to far to the left, turn your steering wheel left. If its going to far to the right, steer to the right, this is called steering into trouble. turning the wheel in the direction the trailer is going forces the pivot point to push the trailer back to center.
If your road is not wide enough for a straight back, as before, turn on your flashers and pull your vehicle close to the curb on the side of the driveway you need to back-up into.
Once your trailer is 1/2 way past the driveway, turn sharply to the center of the road then quickly back towards the curb. This maneuver causes the trailer to be at a slight angle to the driveway. try to keep the trailer tires as close to the curb as you can,you can use the curb as a guide.
O.k now your trailer is articulated at the proper angle,again DO NOT turn your steering wheel until you have started moving, now, slowly turning your steering wheel in the opposite direction,watch your mirrors and compensate by turning back to center, and to the left to compensate for drift.
Congratulations you have just successfully backed up a trailer.
One more thing to remember, when in doubt the best word to remember is GOAL. GOAL stands for