Side mirrors on semi truck cab

Properly adjusted mirrors can significantly reduce blind spots and improve reaction time.

This article is from the Summer 2015 issue of The Quill. To view the full issue, visit The Quill archive.

The most important rule for safe backing is to back only when absolutely necessary. The objective is to reduce the number of times the driver needs to back their vehicle and to get out and look (G.O.A.L.) when they do have to back. They should never take a chance, even if they think they’re sure. A couple of seconds of safety could keep them from catastrophic results. Share the tips below with your drivers to help keep them as well as those around them safe.

How to perform a safe backing maneuver

First, determine if you will need to back prior to arriving at your stop. Scan the area as you approach, looking for overhead hazards, adequate clearances and obstacles, then get out and look to be sure. If possible, back to the driver’s side as it has fewer blind spots and use a co-driver or helper to assist if available. Your guide must check not only the ground path but the overhead path as well to prevent collisions with overhead objects. Discuss your communication signals in advance to prevent misunderstanding. If your guide disappears from your view, STOP!

Roll down your window and turn off your radio, heater or anything that may prevent you from hearing a potential warning of danger. Signal your intentions and alert pedestrians and other vehicles using your 4-way flashers and horn and make eye contact with those in the area. Continue to tap your horn as you back and periodically get out and look yourself to make sure conditions haven’t changed, even if others are telling you it’s safe.

Back at a slow and controlled speed, equivalent to a walking pace, to allow time for you and the truck to react should the environment change abruptly. Use all of your mirrors, checking them during the back as well as checking over your shoulder to minimize potential blind spots.

Proper mirror adjustment

Properly adjusted mirrors can significantly reduce blind spots and improve reaction time. As part of your daily pre-trip inspection, note defective, loose, cracked or broken mirrors and brackets. Here are some tips for adjusting mirrors:

  • Sit in your normal driving position with your seat adjusted and your seat belt buckled.
  • Adjust the side convex mirrors horizontally (move side to side) so the side of the vehicle is barely visible. Adjust vertically (tilt up and down) so the horizon is just out of sight.
  • Adjust the side flat mirrors horizontally so the rear corner of the vehicle is barely visible. Adjust vertically so the horizon is in view in about 1/3 of the mirror and the ground in 2/3.
  • Consult with your safety director so you fully understand the different functions and proper adjustments for each mirror configuration.
  • Keep mirrors clean at all times so your view is not distorted.
  • Every mirror has its limitations. Moving your head slightly from side to side and forward/backward will help blind spots come into better view.
  • Categorized in:
  • Driving Techniques
  • Vehicle Inspections
  • Transportation Safety