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Avoiding Truck Accidents with Automatic Reverse Braking Systems

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

Garbage Truck backing accident

Learn how waste collection fleet owners can significantly reduce backing accidents and improve driver safety through the implementation of automatic reverse braking systems. Backing accidents pose a considerable risk, resulting in financial costs and, more importantly, personal injuries and fatalities. By leveraging advanced technology, fleet owners can mitigate these risks and ensure a safer working environment.

The Challenges of Backing Up in a Garbage Truck

Truck drivers, even those with extensive experience, encounter unique challenges when operating in reverse. While driving forward can be relatively safe, the act of backing up presents an entirely different set of obstacles. These challenges include:

Depth Perception:

Mirrors and video cameras can distort depth perspectives, leading to unintended contact, even when there is a mere inch or two of difference in perception.


Sudden Movements:

View Obstructions:

Physical Obstructions:

Low Visibility Conditions:

High Activity Areas:

Distracted Pedestrians:


Adding to these challenges, modern waste truck cabs introduce further complexities that can momentarily divert a driver's attention. Constantly monitoring the left mirror, right mirror, and video camera above the driver necessitates frequent head and eye movements, potentially compromising the driver's reaction time.

Factors Affecting Stopping Distance while Reversing

Understanding the factors that influence stopping distance is crucial in comprehending the risks involved in backing accidents.

Garbage truck inside cab

Perception Time

Perception time refers to the duration it takes for a driver to visually or audibly perceive a hazardous condition and recognize the need for immediate action. Even in optimal conditions, where a hazard develops directly in front of the driver, it can take anywhere from half a second to three-quarters of a second to consciously decide to apply the brakes. However, when a driver's attention is divided between mirrors, video cameras, and an object suddenly appearing in the unobserved corner of the truck, even the most experienced drivers may take one to two full seconds to recognize the hazard and respond.

Reaction Time

Once the decision to react is made, the reaction time becomes crucial. This refers to the interval required for the driver to lift their foot from the accelerator (if applied) and fully engage the brakes. Typically, this activity takes approximately half a second to one second.

Event Distance

The event distance represents the distance a truck will travel before coming to a complete stop, based on the combined perception and reaction times. Any object unexpectedly appearing within this distance will be struck. It's important to note that the event distance is directly proportional to the backing speed of the truck.

Figure 1 demonstrates the reality of this mathematical relationship, indicating that any object within the defined event distance will inevitably be impacted. However, with the advent of electronic automatic backup braking systems, this chart becomes irrelevant.

Driver Reaction time chart

Figure 1

Automatic Reverse Braking: An Innovative Technological Solution

Automatic reverse braking systems utilize cutting-edge electronic technology to prevent accidents and safeguard drivers.

How Automatic Reverse Braking Works

Automatic reverse braking technology employs infrared sensors that detect objects in the path of a backing truck. Upon detection, the system instantaneously applies the brakes, reducing the event distance from several feet to mere fractions of an inch.

Types of Detection Systems in Automatic Braking

Automatic reverse braking systems employ different detection technologies, including infrared (IR), microwave, or ultrasonic sensors. The choice of the sensor depends on the specific requirements of the fleet.

Optimizing Sensor Configuration

To maximize effectiveness and minimize false alarms, sensor configuration plays a crucial role. It is essential to design and calibrate sensors to focus on the specific area directly in the truck's path. For waste removal trucks, this coverage area should extend approximately 12 inches beyond the width of the truck and at least 60 inches behind it without making contact with the ground. Excessive false alarms can frustrate drivers and cause unnecessary delays during backing maneuvers.

Figure 2 illustrates a recommended sensor pattern for refuse/recycling trucks.

Sensing area of Global's Automatic Reverse Braking Systems

Figure 2

Override and Defeat Control

To accommodate specific situations, it is imperative to incorporate temporary override or defeat controls. These controls enable drivers to acknowledge certain objects behind the truck, such as docks or refuse containers, without triggering the sensors during the backup maneuver. However, it is essential that any override or defeat setting automatically reverts to normal operation as soon as the backing procedure is completed. Installing a switch that entirely disables the automatic braking system is discouraged, as the absence of this safety feature could have severe consequences.

Advantages of Automatic Reverse Braking Systems

Equipping fleet vehicles with automatic backup braking systems offers numerous benefits for both fleet owners and drivers.

Industry Recognition and Standards

Recognizing the importance of automatic braking technology, 20 auto manufacturers agreed in March 2016 to make it a standard feature in all vehicles by 2022. However, the trucking industry has been slower to adopt these standards. Nevertheless, many waste collection truck manufacturers provide third-party automatic backup braking system options upon request. In fact, several of North America's largest municipal-operated waste collection trucks are already equipped with such systems.

Cost-Effectiveness and ROI

Implementing third-party automatic backup braking systems represents a cost-effective investment for fleet owners. The expense of installing such a system is only a fraction of the average repair costs incurred during a collision. Furthermore, considering the tragic consequences that can arise if a person is involved in a backing accident, the financial investment pales in comparison.

Taking Action: Evaluating Safety Options

In light of the numerous advantages and pressing need for enhanced safety, waste collection fleet owners should assess the available options for providing their drivers with automatic backup braking systems.

Manufacturer Provisions

Truck manufacturers now offer third-party automatic backup braking systems as an option, allowing fleet owners to enhance their vehicles' safety features.

Municipal Implementations

Leading the way in safety, numerous municipal-operated waste collection trucks have already adopted third-party automatic backup braking systems, demonstrating their commitment to protecting drivers and reducing accidents.

Raising Awareness and Adoption

Given the government's focus on automatic braking technology in the automotive sector, it is essential for the trucking industry and fleet owners to catch up and prioritize the implementation of automatic backup braking systems. Until broader industry-wide adoption occurs, waste collection fleet owners must take the initiative to safeguard their drivers by evaluating and implementing these crucial safety measures.

In conclusion, by embracing automatic backup braking technology, waste collection fleet owners can significantly reduce the occurrence of backing accidents, protect the lives of pedestrians, and safeguard their drivers. With the recognition of industry standards and the cost-effectiveness of these systems, there is no reason to delay the implementation of automatic backup braking. By evaluating safety options and taking proactive measures, fleet owners can enhance driver safety, mitigate financial losses, and contribute to a safer environment for all.

Get your fleet a free demo of Global's Automatic Reverse Braking Systems today

Show your concern and book a discovery call today with our team of specialists.


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