Back, Back, Back … Stop! Stop! Stop!

by Everybody Loves Alain

Backing accounts for about one-third of all fleet accidents. It’s a type of accident that many believe can’t be effectively addressed. I disagree. Here are some concepts you and your drivers can review during driver meetings and in-vehicle coaching.

1. Refrain from backing. It sounds simple, but too many drivers perform a backing manoeuvre when it’s not required. Around loading areas, remind them to look to position their vehicles in such a way that minimizes the need to back up.

2. Go slow. A driver has a huge blind spot to deal with, and mirrors offer limited viewing. Being able to stop on a dime is important. I tell drivers to creep. If backing was to be done at any great speed, the vehicle would have come with additional reverse gears.

3. Use both mirrors, not just one. Otherwise, an unseen threat could present itself and the driver would fail to pick it up. Get your drivers’ attention on this issue by reinforcing the fact that the unseen threat in the mirror could be a child. Drivers need to scan both mirrors from side to side while backing slowly.

4. Never back from your blind side. On completion of every delivery, get your drivers in the habit of walking around the back of the truck before getting back into the cab to depart. In other words, they should know what’s behind them.

5. Signal. Train drivers to use their horn and emergency flashers before they slip into reverse.

6. Ask for help. When there’s a second driver or a helper in the cab, make it your policy that he be required to assist. A safety-conscious shipper/receiver should expect to be called upon to help a delivering driver; it’s in his best interest, since safe backing reduces the risk of an injury on his premises.

Finally, new technologies deserve a hard look. Cameras and sensors can take the guesswork out of a driver’s blind spot. These technologies can be had for as little as a few hundred dollars. I’ve looked at two systems and their in-field performance is excellent. These technologies are seemingly bulletproof and will stand up in our work environment because of the advances made in electronics and hardware over the last few years.

Check out the Canadian-made Vehicle Backing Sensor System (C-Back), sold by CPL Systems (, and the Backing Camera System from Obserview ( If you’re looking for an effective teaching aid, consider what one fleet safety manager in the Maritimes did to increase driver awareness on safe backing. He followed his drivers around for weeks in the city with a video camera and “Bobby.”

Bobby was a blow-up kids’ punching bag with a clown emblazoned on it. Every time a truck parked at a delivery stop, Bobby was placed behind the sitting truck. Then the video camera started running. You’d be amazed at how many times drivers returned to their trucks, hopped up into the cab, put the unit in gear, and backed up over Bobby. This had to be one of the best safety videos ever done. It certainly got my attention.

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