Mystery Damage Abounds
A smashed clearance light here. A bent door there. A dent in the top, rear corner. A scrape on the bumper. A gouge across the side of the truck. A lot of nickle and dime stuff, and on occasion . . . an injury or even a fatality.
Any driver will tell you, backing can be challenging. There is no windshield when reversing (rear-mounted cameras and sensors are becoming an option — but may be only a partial solution at best).
Any insurance company will show you their claims files: from about a quarter of all collisions (National Safety Council), to just under a third of all claims are backing related. In most cases the claims are small — property damage to buildings, structures, or other vehicles.
Small or large, backing collisions can be the easiest to control. The main cause of all backing accidents is human error.
Backing collisions are 100 percent preventable.
Even though most backing collisions do not result in severe injuries, the large number of backing incidents make this type of crash a significant safety and cost problem.
Special Backing Safety Programs are Needed
Motor carriers and organizations deploying commercial motor vehicles need to develop special programs to help prevent backing collisions (which typically account for 10 to 40 percent of many companies’ motor vehicle accidents¹). A 2009 study for Caltrans found that 95% of their backing incidents and collisions could have been prevented.² Caltrans experienced backing incidents that cost over $500,000 a year in vehicle repair costs alone.
Start with a Clear Backing Policy
A backing policy should include the following:
To establish safe practices to ensure vehicles are safely moved when backing.
- Whenever feasible, eliminate backing. Example: use pull through parking rather than backing in or out a spot.
- Always back slowly, at idle speed. Never rush backing up.
- Never back on a roadway, highway, expressway, etc., unless directed by police.
- Use the four-way flashers and tap the horn twice before reversing — once for attention and the second time for direction.
- Before backing any vehicle, the driver shall exit the vehicle and perform a visual inspection. (GOAL: Get Out And Look)
- If a vehicle has been stopped or parked for any length of time, the driver shall exit the vehicle and perform a visual inspection.
- Any time a vehicle is backed, if another employee or person is present, that person will act as a spotter.
- If pedestrian or other traffic is anticipated, a spotter shall be utilized while backing. Use a spotter for situations where children are present or nearby.
- One or more spotters shall be employed as guides in all situations where the driver does not have a clear vision of the path of travel. If necessary, two spotters should be assigned when backing in a difficult spot–one covering each side of the vehicle.
- The spotter(s) shall be on the ground, to the rear of the vehicle, and shall remain visible to the driver at all times. If the driver loses sight of the spotter(s) at any time, the driver shall immediately stop the vehicle.
- When someone is there to assist the driver they must be clearly informed that company policy states that the driver is still responsible. Drivers are to use the advice of the helper; not to depend upon them. If a driver backs into a fixed object or otherwise has a collision, the driver will be held responsible despite the use of a helper.
Every backing accident should be considered driver error or responsibility. Employees need to understand that they must take personal responsibility for their actions and will be held accountable. Violations of safety policies will be met with disciplinary actions that are immediate, certain, and applied equally to everyone.
Use Technology to Help Prevent Backing Collisions
Effective backing collision prevention systems integrate multiple technologies such as sensing devices that sound an alarm when an object is near the vehicle or closed-circuit television cameras.
One study found that only 20% of drivers looked at the rear-view camera before backing, however concluded “rear-view cameras can mitigate the occurrence of backing crashes, particularly when paired with an appropriate sensor system.”
Radar and sonar systems may not be dependable in snow and cold, or in cluttered areas. Sonar systems do not work well in congested areas.
For lighter trucks, the Ford 2016 F-150 has a backup assist that helps in steering when backing a trailer, but drivers should still walk their intended path and use a spotter, if needed.
Thank you for reading this.
¹Backing Incident Prevention, D.W. Chappell
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