Backing and Docking

Backing and Docking

The likelihood that a driver’s first accident will involve a backing maneuver is very high – even for seasoned drivers with accident-free records. This is primarily because, for most drivers, backing is their least developed skill. Further complicating the backing maneuver is limited or zero visibility. Although highest in frequency, backing collisions tend to be lowest in severity, typically resulting in only minor equipment or property damage claims. But frequency breeds severity, drivers must still practice defensive driving when it comes to backing. Involving an unseen pedestrian can result in tragedy. Here are the steps to prevent a backing collision:

  1. Do not back at all; if possible, pull into an area that allows you to pull forward when leaving.
  2. If you must back, get the big picture; take a mental snapshot of the area before you begin.
  3. Avoid backing towards the blind (passenger) side.
  4. Back slowly, keep windows rolled down and radio off, check mirrors frequently.
  5. Use signals, flashers, horn and a reliable guide; agree on hand signals in advance.
  6. Set a G.O.A.L. before you begin to back; if uncertain "Get Out And Look!"
  7. Never back on a public highway or a high traffic area without the assistance of law enforcement personnel or other qualified persons who can control traffic while you are backing.

Check all clearances above for wires, tree limbs and overhangs; underneath for changes in ground elevation, railroad tracks or loading equipment; both sides – secure open cargo doors to prevent from swinging and striking other vehicles or people while backing into or pulling away from loading docks. Ensure forklift and loading personnel are clear of the vehicle; communicate with them before pulling away from the dock. Be aware of ice in the loading area that might cause the vehicle to skid or slide.

The #1 driver injury involves slips, trips and falls while on or about the vehicle. Backing and docking maneuvers typically require multiple entries/exits from the cab. Plan maneuvers to minimize the number of vehicle entry/exits. Wear protective footwear with slip-resistant soles. Ensure grab rails and cab steps are free from debris, oil, grease, ice, snow or rain. Always utilize three points of contact when entering/exiting the vehicle; have at least 2 hands and 1 foot -or- 1 hand and 2 feet in contact with vehicle at all times; never jump from the vehicle.

Backing collisions are PREVENTABLE. A driver is not relieved of their responsibility to back safely when a guide is involved in the maneuver. A guide cannot control the movement of the vehicle; therefore, a driver must check all clearances themselves. A good ship captain ensures that everyone is aboard and in agreement before docking or undocking.

Backing in Traffic

Backing in traffic is a highly hazardous maneuver and should be avoided. If the only alternative is to back up in traffic, apply the above 7 steps that apply to Backing and Docking with the following 2 additional steps:

  1. Never back in traffic without assuring that it is clear behind and that the area that you are backing into has been secured against encroaching traffic or pedestrians that could be jeopardized while you are backing. Such securement includes placement of triangles or flares and visual recognition that traffic behind has stopped far enough back to allow a safe back. Ideally, before backing on a public highway, obtain the assistance of the local law enforcement representatives.
  2. If backing across traffic, obtain assistance to block traffic while the backing maneuver is completed. Typically, this will require the assistance of law enforcement or other qualified personnel.

When stopping behind another vehicle in traffic, keep enough distance between you and the vehicle ahead where you can see their rear tires touching the ground. This will allow enough room for you to pull your vehicle around them without having to back up should their vehicle become stalled or disabled. Never back up on an interstate and never use an emergency-vehicle-only crossing to turn around on an interstate. If you miss your exit, continue on to the next exit. Backing through intersections, out of an alley, parking lot and into traffic should never be attempted without the assistance of a reliable guide to keep pedestrians and vehicles clear from your path of travel. Placement of reflective triangles and/or orange safety cones to block cross traffic is highly recommended. Backing-in-traffic collisions are PREVENTABLE.