Safety Advisor: Backing – The Most Common Preventable Accident

In most fleets, one out of every four collisions involves backing. Almost all backing accidents are preventable. But for the professional truck driver, backing is a daily occurrence filled with obstacles including size, narrow slots to back into and blind spots. The best advice about backing is to avoid it whenever you can, but of course that isn’t always possible.

Before backing, always get out of the cab and evaluate the situation. Look at the surrounding area and make sure you have enough room to maneuver. Check clearance on all sides. Don’t forget to look overhead for wires, tree branches or dock canopies. Note any existing damage to such structures before backing to avoid getting blamed for existing damage. Make sure there is nothing behind you including a pile of pallets, posts, barriers or parked cars. Never back around a corner.

Back from the driver’s side if possible. This allows you to use your mirrors and still be able to look out the driver’s side window and down the driver’s side of the vehicle. Start the backing movement as close to the dock as possible.

Use a competent spotter whenever possible. Get your signals straight with your spotter before you start to back and remember, you are still responsible for any accident.

If a spotter is not available, you may need to get out of the vehicle several times to reevaluate your progress.

You should also be aware that the situation may change quickly. The space that was clear only moments ago when you checked may now have a pedestrian in it or another vehicle that has pulled into the area. If you are using a spotter, make sure you can see the spotter at all times. He/she may have moved and now may be between the trailer and the dock!

Go slowly. Backing slowly and correctly the first time means you don’t have to take another shot at it. If you do need to make a correction, pull forward and try again.

Keep your mirrors properly adjusted. Proper mirror placement will result in a minimum amount of movement on your part while in the cab of the unit. If you are constantly having to lean forward or back in order to see well with your mirrors, they probably need adjusting.

Always back out of traffic, not into it. Never back across a street, especially at night, unless traffic in both directions has been stopped.

Most backing accidents are minor, but they can be very costly or even deadly.

The content of this material has been taken in large part from information published by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. For more information, go to

Sentry Insurance is committed to helping you protect your business by providing resources to manage loss-producing situations and prevent accidents. For additional information visit, or call 1-877-832-1835. 

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