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Florida CDL Handbook: Coupling and Uncoupling

With the Florida CDL Driver Handbook, you can study up on the issues that specifically relate to earning your CDL endorsement.

Florida CDL Handbook: Coupling and Uncoupling

Table of Contents

7. Doubles and Triples

Knowing how to couple and uncouple correctly is basic to safe operation of doubles and triples. Wrong coupling and uncoupling can be very dangerous. Coupling and uncoupling steps for doubles and triples are listed below.

7.2.1 - Coupling Twin Trailers

Secure Second (Rear) Trailer

If the second trailer doesn't have spring brakes, drive the tractor close to the trailer, connect the emergency line, charge the trailer air tank, and disconnect the emergency line. This will set the trailer emergency brakes (if the slack adjusters are correctly adjusted). Chock the wheels if you have any doubt about the brakes.

For the safest handling on the road, the more heavily loaded semitrailer should be in first position behind the tractor. The lighter trailer should be in the rear.

A converter gear on a dolly is a coupling device of one or two axles and a fifth wheel by which a semitrailer can be coupled to the rear of a tractor-trailer combination forming a double bottom rig. See Figure 7.1.

Coupling twin trailers
Figure 7-1

Position Converter Dolly in Front of Second (Rear) Trailer

Release dolly brakes by opening the air tank petcock. (Or, if the dolly has spring brakes, use the dolly parking brake control.)

If the distance is not too great, wheel the dolly into position by hand so it is in line with the kingpin.

Or, use the tractor and first semitrailer to pick up the converter dolly:

  • Position combination as close as possible to converter dolly.
  • Move dolly to rear of first semitrailer and couple it to the trailer.
  • Lock pintle hook.
  • Secure dolly support in raised position.
  • Pull dolly into position as close as possible to nose of the second semitrailer.
  • Lower dolly support.
  • Unhook dolly from first trailer.
  • Wheel dolly into position in front of second trailer in line with the kingpin.

Connect Converter Dolly to Front Trailer

  • Back first semitrailer into position in front of dolly tongue.
  • Hook dolly to front trailer.
  • Lock pintle hook.
  • Secure converter gear support in raised position.

Connect Converter Dolly to Rear Trailer

  • Make sure trailer brakes are locked and/or wheels chocked.
  • Make sure trailer height is correct. (It must be slightly lower than the center of the fifth wheel, so trailer is raised slightly when dolly is pushed under.)
  • Back converter dolly under rear trailer.
  • Raise landing gear slightly off ground to prevent damage if trailer moves.
  • Test coupling by pulling against pin of the second semitrailer.
  • Make visual check of coupling. (No space between upper and lower fifth wheel. Locking jaws closed on kingpin.)
  • Connect safety chains, air hoses, and light cords.
  • Close converter dolly air tank petcock and shut-off valves at rear of second trailer (service and emergency shut-offs).
  • Open shut-off valves at rear of first trailer (and on dolly if so equipped).
  • Raise landing gear completely.
  • Charge trailer brakes (push "air supply" knob in), and check for air at rear of second trailer by opening the emergency line shut-off. If air pressure isn't there, something is wrong and the brakes won't work.

7.2.2 - Uncoupling Twin Trailers

Uncouple Rear Trailer

  • Park rig in a straight line on firm level ground.
  • Apply parking brakes so rig won't move.
  • Chock wheels of second trailer if it doesn't have spring brakes.
  • Lower landing gear of second semitrailer enough to remove some weight from dolly.
  • Close air shut-offs at rear of first semitrailer (and on dolly if so equipped).
  • Disconnect all dolly air and electric lines and secure them.
  • Release dolly brakes.
  • Release converter dolly fifth wheel latch.
  • Slowly pull tractor, first semitrailer, and dolly forward to pull dolly out from under rear semitrailer.

Uncouple Converter Dolly

  • Lower dolly landing gear.
  • Disconnect safety chains.
  • Apply converter gear spring brakes or chock wheels.
  • Release pintle hook on first semi-trailer.
  • Slowly pull clear of dolly.

Never unlock the pintle hook with the dolly still under the rear trailer. The dolly tow bar may fly up, possibly causing injury, and making it very difficult to re-couple.

7.2.3 - Coupling and Uncoupling Triple Trailers

Couple Tractor/First Semitrailer to Second/Third Trailers

  • Couple tractor to first trailer. Use the method already described for coupling tractor-semitrailers.
  • Move converter dolly into position and couple first trailer to second trailer using the method for coupling doubles. Triples rig is now complete.

Uncouple Triple-trailer Rig

  • Uncouple third trailer by pulling the dolly out, then unhitching the dolly using the method for uncoupling doubles.
  • Uncouple remainder of rig as you would any double-bottom rig using the method already described.

7.2.4 - Coupling and Uncoupling Other Combinations

The methods described so far apply to the more common tractor-trailer combinations. However, there are other ways of coupling and uncoupling the many types of truck-trailer and tractor-trailer combinations that are in use. There are too many to cover in this manual. Learn the right way to couple the vehicle(s) you will drive according to the manufacturer and/or owner.

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