Safe Backing 101
No amount of forward-driving experience can help you with backing your sweeper.
by Ranger Kidwell-Ross
According to the National Safety Council, one out of four vehicle accidents can be blamed on poor backing techniques. Backing accidents cause 500 deaths and 15,000 injuries per year - and are almost entire preventable. Following are some practical tips to make sure you don't become another statistic.
- Get to know your blind spots. In a medium-sized sweeper, these can be up to 16 feet in front and 160 feet behind your vehicle. Keep in mind that your mirrors can never give you the whole picture.
- Think in advance. Don't put yourself into unnecessary backing situations.
- Park defensively. Choose easy-exit spaces that don't crowd neighboring vehicles, and take care to park in the center of your lane.
- When sweeping in an alley. If an alley doesn't permit driving all the way through or turning around, back into it (if local ordinances permit) so that when you leave you can pull forward into the street.
- Rear-vision camera systems eliminate rear blind spots. Investing in a rear-vision camera system for your vehicle will put you in full visual control of the rear of your vehicle, and removes the 'How close am I?' dilemma.
- Use a spotter. Make sure you understand each other's signals. Rely on hand signals instead of verbal ones. Don't have your spotter walking backward.
- Do a walk-around. This gives you a firsthand view of the backing area and your limitations. Check for children, soft or muddy areas, potholes, tire hazards and other dangers.
- Every backing situation is new and different. Even if you go to the same place several times a day, be watchful every time for changes and new obstacles that might be there.
- Know your clearances. When performing your walk-around, check for obstructions, low-hanging trees and wires, and any other potential clearance-related problems.
- When spotting for yourself, get in your truck and start backing within a few seconds of finishing your walk-around. This will allow very little time for people and obstacles to change behind your back. Backing without a spotter should take place only after you have as much information about the area as possible. If it doesn't seem right, it probably isn't. In any event, before backing up it's always safer to double-check your clearances, your space and your surroundings.
No amount of forward-driving experience can help you with backing your truck. You need to practice, practice, practice in safe surroundings until you become familiar with every nuance of the counter-intuitive way your truck backs up compared to the direction your steering wheel is turned.
Create and support a company-wide training program. Include a driver's course to teach and review backing techniques, as well as covering equipment usage, hand signals, dangers to avoid and other risk-lowering topics.
Safety Vision, Inc. is one of the largest rear-vision camera consultants in the US, and is a master distributor of Clarion camera systems. These include models suitable for mounting onto sweepers. For more information, contact the company at 1-800-880-8855, or visit the company's website located at: www.safetyvision.com.