Back, back, back it on up…

Back, back, back it on up…

If you have been through the process of acquiring a CDL, I am sure you remember the difficulties you experienced the first time you tried to back up your trailer and finish with it right where you wanted it.

It isn’t rocket science, but if you don’t know what you’re doing from the get-go, it may feel IMPOSSIBLE.

We are here to give you some pointers on how to get your backing skills dialed into the point where you could perform an alley dock maneuver in the middle of the 4th of July weekend in downtown New York City. (And if you have been around New York City at all, you know it is a madhouse that not even the most seasoned drivers would want any part of!)

I know some of you are thinking, “Okay, enough of the fluff guys! Tell me more about backing skills already.”

Just keep reading, it’s coming – we promise.

The backing skills test is completed after passing the written CDL test, being issued a permit, properly conducting the Vehicle Inspection part of the skills test and it consists of 3 maneuver skills assessments.

The first of these tests will require you to pull straight forward through a 100-foot alley that is 12-foot wide, then back the truck up all the way through the alley.

The second test you will complete is referred to as ‘off-set backing’. Offset backing is described as pulling straight forward in one lane, and then backing the vehicle up into a lane right next to where you started.

When you practice this maneuver, pretend there are vehicles or buildings on your boundary markers so you can feel the pressure of not hitting someone’s brand new Toyota Tacoma!

You should practice backing to both sides so you can successfully offset backing to the right or to the left. Because you don’t know which direction you are going to draw!

The third test you need to successfully complete is the alley dock, parallel Park Conventional, and Sights side parallel parking maneuvers.

If you draw the Alley Dock is a 90-degree backing exercise to the driver’s side. You start out perpendicular to the ally and back into a 40’ alley that is 12’ wide. When you finish we need to be straight and the backmost part of your vehicle needs to be within the last 3 feet of the back of the alley.

On the other hand, you could draw one of the parallel parking exercises as your final exercise. For this exercise, you are told to pull past the parking space, stop, and then back into that space. 

That space you get is the length of your vehicle plus 15 feet.  So, if you have a rig that is 75’ long then you get a total of 90’ for your space, and it would be 12’ wide.

Don’t freak out!

This is exactly like your parents taught you in the Chevrolet Cavalier when you were 16, but this time you are in a big rig, and you have a trailer hooked up behind you.

Your backing skills test is scored in a couple of areas. You are scored on crossing boundaries (encroachments), pull-ups (changing directions and pulling forward), vehicle exits, and your final vehicle position.

So, what is the first backing technique pointer?

It may sound strange but avoid looking at the back of your truck. But instead, look at the back of your trailer.

It might feel strange at first, but we do this because the way we turn the wheel will be the opposite way the trailer goes when backing. And because our brains are conditioned through repetition, we instinctively are going to want to look at the back of the truck.

If you’re still struggling to figure out which way to turn the wheel when backing a trailer. grab the steering wheel at the bottom of the wheel, palms up. Now stick out your thumbs, they should be pointing in opposite directions.


If you want the trailer to go right, turn the wheel toward the right hand. Your thumb should be pointing in that direction.

If you want the back of your trailer to go to the left, turn the wheel toward your left hand (your thumb should be pointed in that direction.

It seems everyone who has driven a trailer rig for a decent amount of time has their own tips and tricks.

For example, remembering the trailer will go the opposite way that you turn the wheel, only use the bottom of the steering wheel to keep from over correcting, etc.

Don’t feel obligated to follow our tips. If you have one that works well for you, knock yourself out! We all learn differently and what might help Dan perfect his backing skills might only confuse Samuel.

The final and most important technique tip we can provide on performing and practicing your backing skills test is to GO SLOW.

Let the truck do the work for you.  Put it in reverse, let off the clutch slowly, and go slow. You are simply the hand that guides or steers the ship away from the rocks, so to speak.

If you want any training, especially on CDL or backing trailers our team here at Eclipse-DOT is here to help you!

Want to complete some training, but don’t have a truck of your own to practice in? Not to worry, we have a truck and trailer available to rent for training and testing purposes.

So, no matter your situation, we have the tools and resources to assist you in getting licensed!

Please reach out to for more information on scheduling a day of training! 


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