A large percentage of commercial vehicle accidents involves backing up. While the severity of these types of accidents is typically less than those on the roadway, they still can be very concerning.
Any backing accident where property damage is involved can also result in injury or death. Unfortunately, injuries and deaths resulting from backing accidents occur far too often. According to the National Safety Council, backing accidents cause approximately 500 deaths and 15,000 injuries annually.
For most commercial drivers, less than 1% of their time behind the wheel involves backing up. When you factor in driver inexperience and high levels of activity in parking lots and at typical shipping locations, you can understand why there are estimates of over 500,000 backing accidents every year in the U.S.
Most backing accidents are preventable and can be attributed to the driver either being unaware of an obstacle or using improper backing techniques. Fortunately, there are steps one can take to prevent this type of accident.
Get out and look: Always get out and look before backing up… always.
Plan your trip: Plan your route and research your destination to reduce the number of times you must back up. If possible, avoid backing up altogether.
Avoid blind-side backing whenever possible: If possible, try to change your approach and set yourself up to be able to back up from the left side. If you absolutely must back up from the blind side, then get out and look as often as needed to ensure safety. Take as much time as necessary and don’t feel rushed. Pull forward frequently and slowly work the trailer into the desired spot.
Always evaluate the situation: No matter how many times you’ve been to a shipper or a delivery location, you must re-examine the area each time before positioning your vehicle and backing up. Clearances may have changed… or new obstacles may have been placed in that area since your last visit. Walk around your vehicle and evaluate the area before moving your vehicle.
Don’t delay your movement: Once you have completed a walk-around and evaluated the area that you are going to back into, don’t allow time for a hazard to move in behind you. If you wait too long, you should get out and look again to make sure that the area behind your vehicle is still free of obstacles.
If possible, use a spotter: A spotter is always helpful, but never rely solely on that person. You may not know how much experience the spotter has… remember that any accident will always be the fault of the driver.
Remove distractions: Before backing up, turn off the radio, stop conversations with passengers, and roll down your window.
Sound your horn: Alert others that your truck is about to move and keep your four-way flashers on
Keep your eyes moving: Make sure that your mirrors are properly adjusted and check them frequently.
Move slowly: Don’t be rushed… get out and look as much as needed.
Remember the adage “You can’t un-ring a bell?” The same is true about an accident. You can’t undo an accident once it has happened. But, fortunately, most backing accidents can be avoided in the first place.
Always remember… safety first!