Blind spots behind all moving vehicles and equipment can cause serious physical harm and financial damage. The problem will soon be addressed for passenger vehicles. In May 2018, a decade after the enabling legislation was passed, a law will go into effect requiring that all automotive vehicles be equipped with backup cameras and monitors. The Department of Transportation (DOT) law will apply to new vehicles under 10,000 pounds. It is not hard to imagine that these same requirements will soon be extended to medium- and heavy-duty vehicles.
Backup Alarms Not Solving the Problem
Legislative efforts to require backup cameras on passenger vehicles began in 2002 after a father tragically backed over his 2-year-old son. NHTSA currently estimates that there are 210 fatalities and 15,000 injuries caused each year by backing accidents. According to OSHA data from 2005-2010, dump trucks were involved in the most backing accidents, followed by tractor trailers, trucks, forklifts, garbage trucks and pick-up trucks.
For years, heavy duty-vehicle operators have depended on rear-view mirrors, back-up alarms, training, cone placement and spotters to mitigate these accidents. Research shows that operators have difficulty detecting hazards through their rear-view mirrors. Studies have also shown that workers —and the public—have become desensitized to backup alarms and often cannot hear alarms above surrounding noise
Backup Cameras Prevent Accidents—and More
Backup cameras and monitors, when integrated with an active safety solution such as object-detection sensors, provide equipment operators with an optimal solution for active blind spot monitoring. (Leading providers make it easy to integrate sensor technology into existing passive camera systems to provide both audible and visual information to operators.) For the cement truck backing into a construction site or the garbage truck backing down an alley, the visual information these cameras provide can reduce injury to people and damage to property.
Equipment World notes that backup cameras have other uses beyond safety. These cameras can help operators quickly hook up to other equipment and get better views of digging areas. When backup cameras are connected to digital recording systems, companies can use that information to analyze accidents and near misses. And by improving visibility while backing up, the cameras can help equipment operators stay on designated roadways and reduce wear on expensive tires.
What to Look for in Backup Camera Systems
As with other heavy-duty vehicle safety systems, backup cameras must be able to resist the dust, moisture and vibration of most workplaces. When encased in ruggedized waterproof housings, the cameras can withstand high-pressure washing and, when equipped with built-in heating, can present a clear image despite icy and snowy conditions. It is also vitally important that the camera-monitor system is integrated with object-detection sensors. Operators are not always looking at the monitor and need to be alerted to potential danger in their blind zones, regardless of where their attention is focused.
Providing Additional—If Not Absolute—Accident Protection
While backup cameras and monitors can improve blind spot monitoring, they are not a perfect solution. NHTSA figures indicate that between 2008 and 2011 the number of vehicles with back-up cameras more than doubled from 32 to 68 percent. But injuries fell less than 8 percent—although fatalities dropped by more than 30 percent.
Kidsandcars.org is an organization dedicated to passenger vehicle safety issues. A comment in a recent article easily applies to heavy equipment operators as well. “Sure, drivers can see more of what's behind them… but they keep hitting things. And with a camera, they might even see themselves do it.”
This highlights the fact that backup cameras—like all safety devices—are only as good as the equipment operator. Backing accidents happen because operators fail to stop to look and around them or get distracted as they reverse. Despite the added information that cameras and sensors provide, it will always come down to the basics of driving. To operators: Go slow and watch where you’re going, especially when backing. To company management: Provide regular backing safety training and invest in devices that reduce the risk of backing accidents.