Florida City Combines Good Training with Good Equipment to Keep Incident Rate at Zero
Less than six months after he took over the City of Bunnell’s solid waste department, Perry Mitrano was subbing for one of his drivers and came within inches of killing someone. It was an anguished, unforgettable moment. And it reaffirmed to Mitrano, his department, and the residents of Bunnell that their modest investment in a PRECO Electronics PreView® Radar System was worth much more than the cost of the equipment itself.
Despite OSHA regulations calling for back-up alarms on large commercial vehicles, people continue to be injured and, tragically killed when trucks are being driven in reverse. For Perry Mitrano, Director of Solid Waste for the City of Bunnell, Florida, this is not an abstract observation. While backing up his trash truck in a condominium parking lot one day, he nearly ran over an elderly man who had knelt down behind the truck’s massive rear wheels to retrieve his car keys.
It Can Take More Than Being a Good Driver to be a Safe Driver
Mitrano has been around large commercial vehicles most of his life. In fact, in 2012 he out-performed 450 other drivers to take first place in the Mack Truck Driving Skills contest at the annual WasteExpo conference. He knows his way around trucks. Even so, he says, if it wasn’t for the PRECO radar system on his truck, the outcome in the parking lot that day could have been very different.
Beware the Back-end “Bubble”
“Backup cameras are wonderful. We use them and they help us avoid a lot of incidents,” Mitrano says. “But there is a zone between the bottom of the cameras and the ICC bar that I call the ‘bubble.’ It’s a blind spot where any objects that are lower than the bar don’t show up on your monitor. That’s where this gentleman was when the PRECO system picked him up and starting going off.”
“It might sound like a silly test. But we’re out in the community all day long and we want to make sure we know instantly if anything lower than the bar passes behind us. That could be a kid on a tricycle or a dog or who knows what. We navigate our vehicles around a lot of people, cars and objects every day, so we need to stay very alert.”
“We navigate our vehicles around a lot of people, cars and objects every day, so we need to stay very alert.” -Perry Mitrano
“If your radar picks them up, then you’ve got time to put your foot on the brake. And a stopped truck is a safe truck. Plain and simple.”
“The PRECO alert is what reminds my drivers that they need to stop, get out and look for themselves.”
When It Comes to Safety, Pedestrians Can Become Creatures of Habit
In his career and as director of the city’s Solid Waste Department, Mitrano says he has learned a few things. He knows that his drivers spend more than a third of their average working day driving in reverse. And he knows that most people pay little attention to the beeping sound of a large truck backing up. In fact, research published years ago by NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) concluded that people get used to the sound of alarms, not taking them as seriously as they should. Mitrano says his drivers see proof of this every day.
“Sometimes you see people in your rear view mirror. They hear you backing up. They’re waiting to give you the right of way. You’re waiting to let them go by. Finally you decide you’re going to move the truck—just as they decide to try and beat you across the street. You look back again and they’re gone. Maybe you spot them on your monitor screen, maybe not. But if your radar picks them up, then you’ve got time to put your foot on the brake. And a stopped truck is a safe truck. Plain and simple.”
At the End of the Day, It’s Up to Drivers to Take Safety Very Seriously
Situations like this point to another conclusion from the NIOSH report: Drivers who rely on backup beepers for safety can “lose the perception of responsibility for vigilant behavior.” Mitrano says it’s not unusual for some drivers to get lulled into complacency thinking that as long as their beeper is going off, people will get out of the way. The in-cab audible and visual alerts of the PRECO radar system make sure that complacency doesn’t set in.
Good Drivers + Good Equipment = Good Safety
Mitrano is proud of the fact that his department has gone more than six years now without an accident. He attributes this in part to the training he passes on to his drivers, and in part to the investment his department has made in safety equipment.
“I’m 58 years old, so I’m not an old guy. But I’m an old school driver. I was taught by a guy who said, ‘if you can’t see behind you, get out and look.’ That’s a pretty simple idea, right? The PRECO alert is what reminds my drivers that they need to stop, get out and look for themselves.”