Reflect on these handy tips to improve your visibility
December 1, 2012
As important as the view through a windshield may be, the threats beside and behind a truck can hardly be ignored. About one-third of all the collisions reported to Northbridge Insurance involve situations like sideswiping a vehicle or backing...
As important as the view through a windshield may be, the threats beside and behind a truck can hardly be ignored. About one-third of all the collisions reported to Northbridge Insurance involve situations like sideswiping a vehicle or backing into a stationary object.
A clear view – whether it is supported by unobstructed side windows or reflections in the West Coast mirrors – can help drivers to defend themselves from these threats.
Surprisingly, many mirrors tend to be improperly adjusted, leaving the reflective surfaces filled with a view of a trailer’s side panels rather than helping to spot hazards next to the truck. I remember sitting in the driver’s seat of a tractor during one safety audit and being able to see the fifth wheel reflected in the mirrors, without the slightest view of the surrounding space.
The ideal angles for any West Coast mirror will reflect as little of the truck or trailer as possible. For example, only a small sliver of the trailer should appear on the inside edge of a passenger side mirror.
The proper angles can be set using nothing more than a couple of cones or other markers that can be placed on the ground around the truck. One cone is placed a foot away from the truck, at the centre of the drive axles.
A second cone is aligned with the first, but set 20 feet behind the trailer.
In a properly adjusted West Coast mirror, the rear cone will appear about nine inches from the top of the main mirror. The cone sitting in the middle of the drive axles – about 20 feet from the truck’s bumper – will be reflected in the upper right of the convex mirror.
These views can be enhanced with fender mirrors, as long as the additional reflecting surfaces are not aimed too high.
A properly adjusted fender mirror will display an area from the centre of the steer tire to the middle of the drive axles.
Once everything is in the right place, the reflection of any hazard should be easily tracked as it moves from one mirror to the next, without any gaps in between.
But these angles can only be set once a driver is properly seated in a spot behind the steering wheel that both maximizes the view and makes it easy to reach every control. The best position has the seat far enough ahead so the clutch and brake can be comfortably depressed, while supporting 90-degree angles at the driver’s knees, hips and elbows. Those who are sitting too low will increase the size of the blind spot created by the hood.
There is also the matter of recognizing the limits of the mirrors. The West Coast mirror on the passenger side of the cab will always show less than the mirror on the driver’s side, simply because it is further away from the driver’s eyes. It’s just one of the reasons why it is always best to travel in a highway’s right lane as much as possible.
Of course, the battle against blind spots is not limited to reflections in the mirror. Anything mounted on top of the dash or hanging down below the visor will block some of the view through the windshield. At the very least, something like a CB cord can create a distraction as it swings from side to side.
Maintaining this clear view can be a challenge, particularly as an ever-growing list of electronic tools is planted in a modern truck cab.
But when these all-important electronic tools are installed, they can be mounted where they obstruct as little of the windshield, mirror or side glass as possible.
After all, the need for a clear view is not limited to the area covered by the mirrors. Every glance through the side windows can help to spot other hazards such as a traffic-weaving car found two or more lanes away.
Once everything is in its proper place, drivers are well equipped to keep a close eye on the hazards about 20 seconds ahead of the truck, and scan the mirrors every five to 10 seconds to spot the potential challenges that surround them.
The ever-scanning eyes will also keep them from locking onto any single threat at the expense of everything else.
A career in trucking offers a moving office with a view. Steps like these give drivers the chance to soak it all in.
– This month’s expert is Albert Zimbalatti. Albert is an executive risk services consultant for Northbridge Insurance, and has more than 35 years providing loss control and risk management services to the trucking industry Northbridge Insurance is a leading Canadian commercial insurer built on the strength of four companies with a longstanding history in the marketplace and has been serving the trucking industry for more than 60 years. You can visit them at www.nbins.com.