CDL Skills Test backing techniques

By big-rig-admin | CDL Licensing

cdl skills test backing techniques

CDL Skills Test – Backing Techniques

One important aspect of your CDL testing is the CDL skills test. After obtaining your permit you need to complete training and be tested on the CDL skills test and also the CDL road test. Key elements of your skills test is pre-trip inspections and backing maneuvers. This article will focus on backing techniques with the help of video.

It is important to understand the key concepts and then complete practice under skilled instruction. Hopefully these videos and descriptions will assist you in understanding the concepts required.

Straight Backing

This first video is brought to you courtesy of Kirkwood Community college continuing education. You can check out the link to their school on our CDL Schools page here

As you saw, the first step is to pull forward putting the steer tires on the boundary start to make sure that the truck has the maneuverability distance to properly complete the exercise.

Idle forward in third gear, making sure the equipment stays between both lines.

Put the truck in reverse and ease off the clutch… allowing equipment to back on its own.

Watch your mirrors ensuring that the rail of the trailer stays parallel to the lines as you are backing.

If any adjustments need to be made you steer towards the problem by watching the rear of the trailer to tell whats going on.

So for example, trailer is drifting back towards the left… turn towards the left waiting approximately 5 seconds and then come back to center allowing truck to get back underneath the trailer.

It’s the same thing on the right… trailer is backing towards the right steer towards the right, waiting approximately 5 seconds and then back to center.

Once tractor and trailer clear the rear cone/line you depress the clutch and stop, completing that maneuver.

Offset backing – Right

This video is brought to you courtesy of Mooney CDL training.

For this exercise the course layout is 180 foot long by 24 feet wide. Within the course are two alleys each 12 feet wide by 40 feet deep.

The exercise is to pull straight forward from one alley to the course boundary then back into the other alley.

Beginning in the left alley pull forward to the far end cone. You are allowed two free pull-ups and can get out and look (G.O.A.L.) twice before being any points being counted against you.

Once you reach the forward cone boundary, put it in reverse, but before you begin rolling turn hard counter-clockwise (left) as far as it will go.

Take foot off the clutch and brake and let it roll back. As it does wait three seconds and then turn hard right until the tractor and trailer are in line. They will be in a diagonal on the course.

When the tractor and trailer are in line you should be able to see the middle row of cones in your left mirror.

Back until the rear of the trailer crosses the extended imaginary center line. At that point start the turn into the alley.

Turn the wheel clockwise (Right) about three turns . When trailer is 90 degrees in alley – correct turn by turning counter clockwise (Left) . This will allow truck and trailer to re align.

Back straight into the alley until the nose of the tractor passes the passes the front set of cones.

Set brakes – sound horn.

Additional Help - Offset Backing

This additional video, brought to you by our friends at CDL College will help you to understand how to successfully offset back. 

Alley Dock Backing

This video was brought to you by the Tennessee Truck driving school. You can find their contact information here…

First step is to make sure you have adequate clearance to back the trailer in. The standard trailer width is 8 and a half feet wide.

One tip the instructor gives is to pull forward a slightly larger distance and then use a smaller cut over a longer distance.

Maneuver or cut the back of the trailer towards the right, just until you can see the landing pad foot in your left rear mirror.

Lean out the left window looking back.

As the trailer comes back, adjust slightly then follow the trailer into the space.

As your trailer prepares to enter between the two parked trucks, get out and look paying special attention to your blind side spot in the back.

Continue to back into the space keeping towards the right side where you can better judge the distance.

Last, ensure you don’t hit the driver’s side mirror on the truck parked next to you.

Parallel Parking – Driver side

This video was also brought to you by Mooney CDL training.

The dimensions for the parking space are 12 feet wide by 15 feet longer than the truck and trailer.

Pull past the parking spot until the rear of the trailer is parallel to the front cone.

Turn wheel clockwise (Right) as far as it will go. While in reverse, take foot off brake rolling back while counting to three.

Begin steering back (Counter-clockwise /left) until tractor and trailer are back in line.

Back at an angle until the rear of the trailer crosses the boundary of the parking space, then turn counter-clockwise (left). The trailer will turn into the box.

Once the rear passenger axle of the trailer gets in the box, turn the steering wheel clockwise (right) until the trailer is 85 percent into the box.

Now while pulling forward steer counter-clockwise (left) to get back in line with the trailer.

Set brake, get out and check alignment.

Successfully completing your skills tests

It is imperative that you obtain a copy of your State CDL Handbook. We have provided a link so that you can obtain a FREE copy. Go here to get yours now:

Your backing maneuvers are scored in the following manner (again, check your State CDL manual to ensure that these guidelines are applicable.

You are scored on the following four areas:

· Crossing Boundaries (encroachments)

· Pull-ups

· Vehicle Exits

· Final Position

Encroachments: The examiner will score the number of times you touch or cross over an exercise boundary line or cone with any portion of your vehicle. Each encroachment will count as an error.

Pull-Ups: When a driver stops and pulls forward to clear an encroachment or to get a better position, it is scored as a “pull-up”. Stopping without changing direction does not count as a pull-up. You will not be penalized for initial pullups. However, an excessive number of pull-ups, will count as errors.

Outside Vehicle Observations (Looks): You may be permitted to safely stop and exit the vehicle to check the external position of the vehicle (look). When doing so, you must place the vehicle in neutral and set the parking brake(s). Then, when exiting the vehicle, you must do so safely by facing the vehicle and maintaining three points of contact with the vehicle at all times (when exiting a bus, maintain a firm grasp on the handrail at all times).. If you do not safely secure the vehicle or safely exit the vehicle it may result in an automatic failure of the basic control skills test. The maximum number of times that you may look to check the position of you vehicle is two (2) except for the Straight Line Backing exercise, which allows one look. Each time you open the door, move from a seated position where in physical control of the vehicle or on a bus walk to the back of a bus to get a better view, it is scored as a “look”.

Final Position: It is important that you finish each exercise exactly as the examiner has instructed you. If you do not maneuver the vehicle into its final position as described by the examiner, you will be penalized and could fail the basic skills test.

Follow these examples, tips, and guidelines and your CDL Skills testing will be a successful endeavor.

Check out our page on CDL test cone layout so that you can get the exact dimensions as well as diagrams for the backing maneuvers.

Don’t forget to be sure to pick up our FREE guides on:

6 Hacks for boosting pay as a new Truck Driver

Avoiding the 11 biggest mistakes before starting CDL School

And our Cheat sheet checklist of what to ask trucking company recruiters.


About the Author

Trucking career enthusiast...all around nice guy!

Leave a Comment:

(3) comments


This is great information that new cdl drivers should print out that have trouble reversing. Thanks for sharing this.

Marc Rock

I’m a new driver and kind of nervous about my state test. This video helped a lot because for most most new drivers backing and the concept behind it, gets confusing, A video on how to correct common mistakes would be helpful too…..thanks guys.

Add Your Reply

Leave a Comment: