Navigating a big rig in and out of various delivery locations is no easy task – and it’s no surprise that backing accidents have been the highest frequency accidents with the lowest severity in the industry for years. Although these are low severity accidents, the exposure for fatality, injury and physical damage always exists.
In order to enhance backing skills and reduce the frequency and exposure of such accidents, it’s important to follow these recommended safe backing procedures:
Conduct a thorough pre-trip inspection – Before starting your trip, check the vehicle’s brakes, horn, back-up lights, 4-way flashers and back-up alarm and video camera (if equipped) for proper working condition.
Clean windows and mirrors thoroughly – Cleaning your windows and mirrors provides a clear view. Never back a vehicle with a mirror covered in dirt, frost, snow or other substances.
Plan ahead, avoid backing whenever possible – Don’t put yourself in unnecessary backing situations. Avoid parking your vehicle in a way that will require backing up.
Blind spots – Get to know your vehicle’s blind spots; mirrors never give the whole picture when backing.
Adjust mirrors – Adjusting mirrors will allow for maximum visibility. Mirrors are key to any backing maneuver. Adjust your mirrors while in the driver seat and make sure the tractor and trailer are in a straight line. Get help adjusting the right side mirror.
Park defensively – By carefully surveying the parking lot when you arrive at a delivery spot, choose an easy-exit parking space that does not crowd neighboring vehicles. Avoid pulling into the most convenient location in order to speed up the delivery. In many cases, better defensive parking is available if you take the time to look and evaluate.
Situate your vehicle - in the best possible position before starting to backup. Make the turn on the driver’s side, if possible, in order to minimize turning and allow you to see the back of the vehicle swinging into position.
Plan your exit – When parking in an alley, if the alley does not permit driving all the way through or does not give you room to turn around, then back into it. This way when you are leaving, you can drive your vehicle forward into the street.
Check and re-check your path of travel – Before any attempt to backup is made, get out of the cab and look to see what lies between you and your backing destination. Check for workers, pedestrians, soft or muddy areas, potholes, tire hazards and equipment hazards. When backing long distances, it doesn’t hurt to stop mid-way and re-check your path of travel.
Look up! – Look for awnings, pipes, framing, fire escapes, wires, etc. that might be in your way. Look up, look down and all around. Be sure to check under the truck before backing. The truck’s entire path must be clear of obstacles.
Determine your space limitations – Make sure you have enough space. Check the loading dock platform to ensure that it is high or low enough. Be aware that the path my slope up or down. Measure and determine proper distances vertically and horizontally to safely park and unload freight.
Spotters – Use a reliable, well-trained guide or spotter whenever possible to assist when backing. Extra eyes could make the difference especially in situations where there are blind spots or someone or something could come in your path. When you must spot for yourself, return to your vehicle quickly and start backing within a few seconds after finishing a walk-around check.
Measure and mark distances – As you back into your space, get out of your truck and pace off the length of the space from the dock to the rear of the trailer. Then pace off the same distances from your driver’s door back to the end of the trailer area. Place an object on the ground as a measuring point. Using this method, as you backup, you will be at or near the dock when the driver’s door reaches the object.
Visually clear path – Once you are behind the wheel with the engine running and the vehicle in reverse, check the area again by turning and visually clearing the path that the vehicle will take. Use all side mirrors to constantly check your path.
Engage 4-way flashers and backup alarm (if equipped) – Periodically tap your horn prior to backing and as you continue backing. The warning devices are designed to alert others of your presence and make other drivers aware of your intentions. Always assume that other vehicles do not see you coming.
Back slowly and cautiously – Have complete control over your vehicle. Use the lowest possible gear or idle speed and do not accelerate when backing.
Remember, backing up is different in every situation. Even if you visit the same location several times a day or each week, be watchful during each visit.
Join in on the Landstar Safety Thursday Conference Call on the third Thursday of every month at 12 p.m. (noon) ET, Dial 877-717-5921.