Electronic video technologies make it possible to operate your trucks and heavy equipment on crowded jobsites and roadways, while simultaneously lowering risk factors. Cameras and event recorders are tools that, when properly used, can lead to a safer working environment.
Camera technology offers several benefits. "While safety is the primary consideration, additional benefits include avoiding increases in insurance premiums resulting from injuries to pedestrians or destruction of equipment and/or other vehicles," says Sibyl Ringsdorf, manager of marketing and national accounts, Rostra Precision Controls. "In addition, downtime associated with damage to the vehicle or equipment could affect completion of a project, resulting in additional profit loss."
Tom Clark, account executive, Safety Vision, agrees, noting, "The advantage that gets the most publicity is safety. You are trying to give the driver an extra set of eyes. Another advantage that people don't really realize until they start using the cameras is just extra visibility. If you have a driver who has to maneuver through a tight situation and he is by himself, instead of getting in and out of the vehicle many times, he can use the cameras with the extra visibility to maneuver. That increases efficiency on the job."
In the case of Safety Vision, the cameras also incorporate microphones. "You can have communication from somebody behind the vehicle up into the cab," says Clark.
Many cameras are available with either black and white or color monitors. "We have black and white camera systems, which are the traditional cathode ray tube (CRT)," says Clark. "In the last few years, we have really seen a push toward the color liquid crystal displays (LCDs) just because they take up so much less space in the cab. You are also getting the advantage of color vs. black and white. On a jobsite, that comes in real handy, because a lot of the safety vests just jump out on screen."
Another consideration is low light conditions. "Our cameras have infrared illuminators to help them perform in low light situations," says Clark. "Even if it is pitch black outside, where they would be blind with just mirrors, it will help light up the area behind the vehicle just like broad daylight."
Keeping drivers in the cab
Cameras can do a lot more than provide rear visibility. "You can use them for lining up to a trailer," says Clark. "Some customers use them to watch conveyor belts. You can use them to check the load in the bed of a trailer. It is really unlimited what you can use them for - it is just wherever you need extra visibility."
This extra visibility is exactly what Vulcan Materials desired to help achieve its safety objectives. Vulcan Materials Company is one of the largest aggregate producers in the United States. Its Western Division has a total of about 390 ready-mix trucks. "Here, in Southern California, we operate about 120 ready-mix trucks," says Ed Luce, area operations manager for ready-mix operations in Southern California.
The company safety goal is zero injuries. "Some of the ways we achieve this goal in the ready-mix area is to require all drivers to review pre-job checklists before every job, and to have our job service reps go to the jobsites in advance to assess hazards before jobs," says Luce.
But the company is always looking for ways to improve. For example, Luce and his drivers were aware of the hazards posed for drivers at concrete pumps. "Risks exist because the pumps operate at high pressures." Elbows and areas along the hose line can burst under this pressure.
"In the past our drivers got outside their trucks to watch the flow of the concrete and make necessary adjustments in the rate of speed at which it came down the chute," says Luce. "Even though the drivers wear all required PPE (hard hats, glasses, shields, gloves, etc.) - protecting them from the debris of possible explosion - a pump explosion might also lead to other injuries," Luce notes. "Some drivers have incurred injuries to their knees and shoulders when they twisted or jumped to get away from a pump explosion."