Tips to Avoid the Most Common Truck Crashes

by TJ on October 1, 2013

Most safety professionals spend most of their time focused on roadway collisions… and for good reason: higher speeds can mean more injuries and higher costs. But safety directors and fleet executives should also be focusing their efforts in another direction.

Close to two-thirds of a fleet’s collisions happen in a parking lot and involve a fixed or stationary object. And the sheer number of incidents and costs of parking-lo types of collisions mean you fleet managers cannot afford to overlook them, according to experts at Pro-TREAD Instructional Technologies, Inc.

The driver training experts offer the following tips to help you train your drivers to avoid parking lot accidents.

Pro-TREAD says from research and experience, the most common types of collisions and injuries are:

• Hitting fixed or stationary objects

• Backing and docking collisions

• Lift gate injuries

• Entry and exit from the truck injuries

• Slips, trips and falls

• Intersection crashes

truck crashesFixed and Stationary Object Collisions — When your driver hits something that is sitting still in plain sight, it’s frustrating . Whether it is a fixed object, stationary object or backing collision, these types of crashes are often caused by driver inattention or rushing.

The reality is that drivers, especially those in midrange truck fleets, often face tremendously tight time schedules and overlapping delivery windows. Delivery time slots have been narrowed to as little as a two-hour window, with as many as three deliveries sharing the same time window.

The medium truck fleet also contends with customer preference time windows and 30 minute call-ahead notifications, further contributing to time pressures on the road. Add in the same pressures every human with a family feels —a sick kid, tough financial situations, an annoying neighbor —and it’s easy to understand how they feel rushed and pressured. That leads to distraction and fatigue.

How do you help your drivers combat the pressure? Pro-TREAD recommends constantly reminding drivers about focusing, and finishing a task before moving onto the next one. For example, don’t start thinking about paperwork until the truck is in park.

Pro-TREAD training covers driver distraction in a standalone course, “Driver Distraction,” as well as chapters on distraction in “Backing and Docking,” “Backing and Docking Enhanced,” and “Avoiding Fixed Objects.”

Sometimes the differences between accidents involving a fixed object and backing collisions can become a little confusing, Pro-TREAD advises. A fixed object collision most commonly refers to collisions where the truck was in drive and moving forward when it hit with a fixed or stationary object. In contrast, a backing collision refers to any type of collision when the truck was in reverse and backing.

The two most common types of collisions involve other vehicles or trailers (stationary objects) and low clearance awnings (fixed objects). Despite the slow speeds in a parking lot, the size and weight of trucks can cause significant damage to anything they hit. It’s estimated that the forward-moving fixed and stationary object accidents can account for 30% or more of a fleet’s total annual collisions.

The best approach to avoiding fixed and stationary object collisions, Pro-TREAD says, is to:

• Approach slowly

• Scan the area you are approaching, including up

• Get out and look.

At low speeds, it is easy to stop, activate the truck’s flashers, and hop out for a quick visual scan before making a tight maneuver or pulling under an awning, Pro-TREAD suggests.

Another idea is simply to ban the truck from unusually busy or congested areas. For example, if you can keep your trucks out of busy fueling stations and tight parking lots, you’ll avoid a lot of incidents. When you know an area will be busy during a time frame, drivers of midrange trucks should work with store managers to avoid delivery windows during that time.

Backing accidents with a fixed or stationary object are always considered 100% preventable. Most backing accidents will occur within or in the immediate area of a parking lot.

They account for about 30% or more of a fleet’s total annual collisions. This easily brings the total potential for parking lot collisions up to 60% of the annual collisions for truck fleets, Pro-TREAD estimates.

While Pro-TREAD classifies backing accidents separately from fixed/stationary object collisions, they can and often do involve fixed or stationary objects. Trucks most often back into other vehicles, especially passenger vehicles. The next most frequent collision is with a narrow objects like poles that can be difficult to see. Finally, low-clearance awnings get torn off buildings when drivers misjudge their height or simply don’t look for them.

With regards to backing collisions, Pro-TREAD says the best defense is driver training. “The best option is to teach your drivers techniques for avoiding the need to back at all,” the white paper states. “This may require scouting a delivery area or talking to the manager of the facility beforehand. Of course, depending on your cargo or the type of facility, this is not always possible.”

When backing is necessary, drivers must be aware of their surroundings and know what is behind them. “Remember to apply the GOALden rule of backing; ‘Get Out And Look!’ “ Pro-TREAD says. Remind drivers that the company expects them to re- nspect their surroundings as often as needed. It is a good practice to “get out and look” several times on a long back or in a very tight lot.

“If drivers are rushed, they’ll finish faster if they get it right the first time. Nothing slows a driver down more than hitting a pole,” Pro-TREAD says.

Many medium truck fleets deliver products that require a driver and a helper or team driver. Despite having the addition of a second person, backing accidents still remain one of, if not the most frequent type of accident the fleet experiences each year. Training on how to back with a spotter is a key to reducing these accidents, sofleet managers should make this part of a road test. “You should require the driver and helper teams to properly demonstrate backing with a spotter as part of a safety meeting. Ask your experienced teams of drivers and spotters for ideas about close calls and tricky situations.”

Additionally, this practice needs to be supported by a strong and actionable policy that holds both the driver and spotter accountable for a backing collision, Pro-TREAD adds. If the truck is backing, the helper or team driver needs to be out of the truck and spotting the driver as he backs. Additionally, it’s never a bad idea for the driver to also “Get Out And Look.”

Pro-TREAD has a training lesson about avoiding fixed objects. The 30-minute course covers backing, spotters, getting out and looking, distractions, and several other common situations.

One last solution, is accident avoidance technology, Pro-TREAD suggests. Back-up cameras in particular have shown success in reducing backing accidents. But like with any new tool, training with the devices is absolutely essential, Pro-TREAD adds. “These items should not be considered or treated as plug and play devices. Even the best back-up cameras distort the image behind the vehicle to some degree. They should only be used in conjunction with good backing techniques.

For more information on Pro-TREAD’s driver training offerings visit or call 360-576-5976

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