Backing, Routing, and Scaling


Backing a tractor – trailer can be one of the most frustrating things a driver has to do. A thorough understanding of how and why a rig behaves when moving backward will make your job much easier.

Drive the Tandems by controlling where the 5th wheel goes. Most people have pushed a wheelbarrow. A wheelbarrow goes where the wheel goes, not where the handles go. To make the wheelbarrow turn you must swing the handles opposite. Similarly, a trailer goes where the tandems go, and you must swing the 5th wheel opposite to make it turn. The 5th wheel goes where the steering is set.

One Basic Idea

  • Small Distance – Small Wheel
  • Big Distance –  Big Wheel

Two basic maneuvers


  • The purpose is, as the name implies, to move the trailer in a straight line.
  • The goal here is to stay on the chosen line as closely as possible.
  • Use a minimum amount of steering, ideally less than a quarter turn either way.


  • The purpose is to turn the trailer so it is on a different line.
  • Use only the amount of steering necessary to achieve the goal.
  • Any time the tractor is at an angle to the trailer you are in a pivot.
  • The greater the angle, the faster the pivot will be.
  • Remember to open up the angle into a straight as the trailer approaches the desired line, if you wait until you are on it, you will overshoot and ‘chase’ the trailer.

Every back is some combination of these two maneuvers.

In Straight or Curve

  • To move Tandems Right, Steer Left.
  • To move Tandems Left, Steer Right.

In Curve or Pivot

  • To close Angle, or ‘Get Under It’, Steer away from Trailer.
  • To open Angle, or ‘Get in Front of It’, Steer toward the Trailer.

The three steps to any backing maneuver are:

  1. Put the trailer tandems where you want.
    • Turn Steering Wheel opposite direction to where you want the tandems to go.
  2. Put the trailer nose where you want.
    • Turn Steering Wheel same direction to where you want the trailer nose to go.
  3. Put the tractor nose where you want.
    • Turn Steering Wheel opposite direction to where you want the tractor nose to go.

Steering input should be proportional to attitude goal. As you get closer to the attitude you want, reduce steering input.

Types of Backing Maneuvers


  • Almost every back will include some straight. The key is to keep your steering movements small, and to stop, pull up, and straighten out as soon as you realize you are off track.


  • This is where you move the tandems right or left and keep going the same direction you were. It is essentially a small pivot, followed by a straight back, followed by another pivot opposite to the first.

Curve (45)

  • This is where the tandems follow an arc. Set an angle between the tractor and the trailer and hold it by adjusting the steering.

Pivot (90)

  • A pivot is where the focus is on swinging the trailer around the tandems by pushing the 5th wheel off of the centerline of the trailer.


  • Most backs will be some combination of the above moves. Plan your back by breaking it into the basic moves.


  • Anytime your tractor is swung to the right side of the trailer it is blindside. The basic moves are the same, but since your vision is more limited, it is more difficult. Try not to have to do blindside backs. If you have to, make sure you get out and look much more often.


Write down:

  • Where you are (City, ST).
  • All stops (City, ST).

Find all stops on State map then on U.S. map.

Use the index in back of Atlas

Starting from where you are, follow ROUTE SOLUTION on map.

Determine how directions merge with ROUTE SOLUTION.

Find all FUEL STOPS on map.

Daily Planning

Things to consider when planning your day:

  • What stops will you need to make?
    • Load / Unload
    • Fuel / Shower
    • Food / Shopping
  • What routes will you take?
  • How long will each leg take?
  • What time will you need to start each leg?
  • How much preparation time do you need in the morning?

Scaling Loads

The standard weights allowed are

  • Steering Axle = 12,000 lbs.
  • Drive Tandems = 34,000 lbs.
  • Trailer Tandems = 34,000 lbs.

The standard kingpin to center of rear axle setting is 40’ (CA setting).

Below is a list of other states that have kingpin measurements. The list identifies what the measurements are and how they are measured:

Kingpin measurements in feet-inches

Always Check Your Motor Carriers Atlas

(A) = to center of rear axle (B) = to center of tandem axle group

Arkansas 41’ (A)

Connecticut 41’ (A)

Florida 41’ (A or B)

Georgia 41’ (B)

Illinois 45’-6” (A)

Indiana 43’ (A)

Maine 43’ (A) Permit

Maryland 41’ (A)

Massachusetts Permit

Michigan 40’-6” (B)

Minnesota 41’ (B)

New Hamp. 41’ (B)

N. Carolina 41’ (A) W.

Pennsylvania 41’ (B)

Rhode Island 41’ (A)

S. Carolina 41’ (B)

Tennessee 41’ (B)

Vermont 41’ (B)

Virginia 41’ (B)

Virginia 37’ last trk axle to 1st trl. axle

Wisconsin 43’ (A)

What to do if you are over-weight:

If Trailer Tandems are too:
  • Heavy Move Tandems Rearward
  • Light Move Tandems Forward
If Drive Tandems are too:
  • Heavy Move Trailer Tandems Forward -OR- Move 5th Wheel Forward
  • Light Move Trailer Tandems Rearward -OR- Move 5th Wheel Rearward
If Steering is too:
  • Heavy Move 5th Wheel Rearward
  • Light Move 5th Wheel Forward

Adjusting the Weight

To move Trailer Tandems:

  • Set trailer brakes (pull RED valve).
  • Pull out lock SLIDER RELEASE LEVER (make sure all 4 pins are in).
  • Move trailer in the desired direction (each hole moves approx. 300 lb.).
  • Slide trailer until pins lock into place.

To move 5th Wheel

  • Set trailer brakes (pull RED valve).
  • Lower landing gear.
  • Unlock 5th Wheel SLIDER LOCK.
  • Move tractor in the desired direction (each hole moves approx. 200 lb.).
  • Lock 5th Wheel SLIDER LOCK.
  • Move tractor until pins lock.
  • Raise landing gear.