Safely backing up a vehicle
By Ashleigh Petersen

Safely backing up a vehicle

Take 5 for Safety is a monthly article designed to give equipment and event rental stores the information they need to conduct a five-minute safety meeting on a particular topic. Below are talking points for this month’s meeting. The Take 5 for Safety signup sheet can be downloaded below. This can be used to take attendance during the meeting. 

The following information is from RentalU — the American Rental Association’s (ARA) online learning platform. Visit for additional safety resources.


Most driving incidents happen at less than 5 mph and occur when drivers are backing up. This is due to:

  • Limited vision, such as no back window, a long vehicle body and/or a loaded trailer.
  • Failing to use typical driving precautions because the vehicle is being operated at low speed.
  • Relying too heavily on the mirrors, not recognizing that even with the best of mirrors, there are still blind spots on the sides and back of vehicles.
  • Changes in the environment such as people and vehicles entering the area.

Safe vehicle backing tips:

Assume that other vehicles or individuals do not see you coming.

Get to know your vehicle’s blind spots. Remember that mirrors can never give the whole picture while backing. In a medium-size truck, blind spots can extend up to 16 ft. in front and 160 ft. behind a vehicle.

Keep your mirrors clean. Dirt, frost, snow and other substances keep you from seeing the path your vehicle will take. Clean your mirrors before backing up.

Think in advance. Do not put yourself into unnecessary backing situations. Choose an easy-exit parking space that doesn’t crowd neighboring vehicles.

Do a walkaround. Walking around a vehicle will give you a firsthand view of the backing area and any limitations. Check for children, soft or muddy areas, potholes, tire hazards, obstructions, low-hanging trees, wires and other potential dangers. Never bypass this step when backing without a spotter. Return to your vehicle and back up within a few seconds after finishing the walkaround. This will allow very little time for people and/or obstacles to enter your vehicle’s path. Sound the horn to warn pedestrians and drivers of other vehicles of your intent to move if your vehicle is not equipped with an automatic backing alarm.

Back slowly and cautiously. Have complete control of the vehicle. Use the lowest possible gear or idle speed, and do not accelerate.

Every backing situation is new and different. You may visit the same location a couple of times a day, but that doesn’t mean the surroundings stay the same. Pay close attention each time for changes and/or new obstacles.

Use a spotter whenever possible. The driver and spotter should use hand and arm signals instead of verbal ones. Make sure each person understands the other’s signals.

  • As the driver, you should be in eye contact with the spotter while receiving instructions. If you lose sight of the spotter, stop until eye contact is re-established.
  • As the spotter, never assume that the driver can see you or knows where you are going. Never walk with your back to the driver.
Ashleigh Petersen

Ashleigh PetersenAshleigh Petersen

Ashleigh Petersen is the digital communications manager for Rental Management. She writes news and feature articles, plus coordinates the monthly Safety Issue and several sections in the magazine. Ashleigh loves spending time with her husband and young son, baking, gardening and listening to true crime and comedy podcasts.

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