Backing a vehicle, especially a truck larger than a van, is the most dangerous driving a vehicle operator may do on any given day. Straight trucks, dump trucks, bucket trucks, refuse trucks, utility trucks and others have very large blind spots that require the assistance of a "spotter" in order to be backed safely. When backing any vehicle larger than a pickup truck or minivan, the following procedures should be followed:
- A spotter should always be used when the act of driving forward involves movement in the vicinity of lateral, overhead or other obstructions.
- All employees, regardless of whether they are certified to drive, are required to perform spotting duties where necessary.
- A driver who is alone in the vehicle may make the backing maneuver without a spotter while taking reasonable precautions to ensure the safety of the maneuver.
- Backing maneuvers should not be made if drivers do not reasonably believe that they can make the maneuver in a safe manner. Precautions may include, but are not limited to:
- exiting the vehicle and making a visual inspection of the surrounding area,
- checking rear view mirrors and back-up camera if vehicle is so equipped, and
- activating the warning horn and making sure back-up alarm is working.
- The driver and the spotter should discuss the proposed maneuver before the driver begins and use highly visible and obvious hand signals at all times. Hand signals should be agreed upon prior to the commencement of the maneuver.
- The spotter should maintain eye contact with the driver's eyes in the mirror even if this requires changing position frequently.
- The spotter should continue to signal even when the driver's maneuver is unchanging or proceeding normally. Don't signal just when something different needs to happen or when the driver needs to stop.
- If the spotter needs to stop spotting momentarily for any reason, make sure the driver stops the vehicle. Resume the maneuver only after spotting is resumed.
- Maintain a safe distance or position from the vehicle while spotting and make sure there aren't any obstructions to your walking path prior to beginning the maneuver.
- Use hand signals, not verbal signals. However, in an emergency the spotter may supplement hand signals with a verbal warning.
- If the driver is unclear at any point about the spotter's signals the vehicle should be stopped immediately. Resume the maneuver when the driver and spotter have clarified the signals.
- The vehicle should be stopped while the driver is looking away from the spotter for any reason including checking the other mirror.
- When spotting, concentrate on spotting, not talking to someone in the vicinity.
Standard signals for spotters
- Straight back — One hand above the head with palm toward face, waving back. Other hand at the spotter's side.
- Turn — Both arms pointing the same direction with index fingers extended.
- Stop — Both arms stretched and palms facing outward. This signal can be reinforced by yelling the stop order loud enough so the driver can hear.
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