In Focus: Backup warning systems

Backing accidents happen because tractor-trailers inherently are blind to the rear, and drivers sometimes seem to forget that fact. Every fleet manager knows such accidents can nickel-and-dime a fleet to death because of how common they may be, and all the ensuing downtime.

Several technologies provide various kinds of rearward visibility or warnings when objects are nearby. And for fleets that experience numerous, minor backing accidents because rigs constantly must be backed into pickup and drop-off points, such technology can reduce costs and headaches significantly.

Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems
Bendix Rear Vision Systems

The Bendix rear-vision camera is designed to reduce blind spots when backing up or changing lanes. It’s an LED-assisted camera that provides superior low-light performance. It also has an integral microphone that allows the driver to hear what is behind him. The image appears on a flat-panel display that uses up to five cameras and is situated on the dash in the driver’s line of sight. The display has a 6.8-inch diagonal screen and built-in speaker.

While normally mounted at the rear of the trailer and used for rear vision, the camera also can be mounted on the right-side mirror to help the driver see in the blind spots on the rig’s side. The camera combines CCD (charge coupled device) technology for daylight use with infrared night vision and integrates them into a single system, allowing the driver to see at all times of the day. An optional switcher unit allows the camera selection to be automated; when the driver puts the vehicle into reverse, the rear camera’s image can be displayed automatically.

Delphi Corporation
Forewarn Back-up Aid

The 24 GHz Forewarn radar-sensor assists the driver in detecting, and also provides an active warning of, vehicles or objects behind the vehicle. The system also features a monocular camera, which provides a wide view of the immediate area behind the vehicle. The sensor has the ability to detect objects up to 16.4 feet away from the camera, one of the longest-range detection zones in the industry, according to the company.

The system will alert the driver with both audible and visible warnings when any object is in the target zone. It’s automatically turned on as soon as the driver engages reverse. The sensor can be hidden behind the rear bumper since radar will pass through a solid object. This ability enables the radar to work under a wide range of environmental conditions, including ice, rain or fog, and when the unit is dirty.

The unit can operate through an existing dash display or one provided by the aftermarket. It enables the driver to estimate an object’s distance from the vehicle because the frequency of its alerts increases as distance decreases. The camera provides a wide angle of view, but “fish-eye” type distortion is removed by integral technology.

Eaton Vorad

The Eaton Vorad BackSpotter features radar-based technology that can detect objects under poor-visibility conditions, including rain, snow, sun glare and darkness. It is housed under a “radome” cover and has a robust commercial vehicle wiring harness and connector. The unit is designed for straight trucks and motor coaches. It activates when the driver engages reverse and will detect stationary and moving objects in an area 15 feet wide by 15 feet long behind the vehicle.

When the unit detects an object, the display unit illuminates one of five range indicators that show the distance of the detected object from the vehicle. If a separate speaker is purchased and connected, an audible warning is activated at the same time. Different indicators are lit progressively as the vehicle approaches the nearest object. At the same time, the rate at which the buzzer tone beeps continues to increase as the vehicle gets closer to the object, so the driver knows what is happening even if he needs to look away from the dashboard.


Power-Linx technology allows a rear-mounted camera to be installed using an existing power wire to transmit a live wide-angle video image. This eliminates the need to install or maintain any cabling. Installation can be performed quickly, and there are no extra cables for the driver to connect during trailer hookup. Because the connection is made with the regular trailer electrical connector, equipping all the trailers in the fleet with cameras and all the tractors with monitors means every combination is interchangeable.

Rear-vision cameras can be installed to the rear of the trailer and also can be installed on the right side to give the driver vision in the blind spot. The system includes a modern, flat-screen monitor that mounts on the dash or anywhere in the cab so it won’t block the driver’s visibility or interfere with his comfort. The system also includes night vision technology to enable the driver to see in darkness.

Rostra Precision

RearSight is a passive-alert, rear-camera mounting kit designed specifically for straight trucks in Classes 3-7. The system is said to be useful in local delivery, cargo vans and utility vehicles, including those that have equipment extending from the rear such as generator decks, buckets and booms.

RearSight is comprised of a compact, high-quality color camera mounted on the rear, and a 3.5- or 5-inch high-quality LCD color monitor that can receive images from one or more cameras. It provides a 150-degree wide-angle view from the rear, thus helping drivers avoid dangerous blind-spot obstacles while also identifying objects closer to the ground, the company says. Other optional monitors can display information from other vehicle navigation or GPS systems, eliminating the need for more than one monitor on the dash.

The system powers up when the driver engages reverse gear. It is said to have a low LUX rating or light energy requirement, meaning that it will work well at night and in poor weather conditions. An optional microphone lets drivers hear behind them as they back.

Safety Vision LP
SV-CLCD-65-810 color shuttered camera and LCD mounting kit

This is a rear-vision color camera with various mounting options available, including locating it for either a rear or side view. It is connected to a cab-mounted LCD monitor via cable. According to the company, the color camera yields the crispest possible picture in bright light, and features infrared illuminators for low light. A motorized lens cover shields the camera from dust and debris when turned off.

An automatic heater turns on when the temperature falls below 50 degrees F to maintain performance in cold weather. Installation is said to be simple.

Trucker’s Eye
Trucker’s Eye

Specially designed video cameras, provided by a major supplier, are mounted on the side mirrors or rear of the trailer to allow drivers to monitor traffic constantly by viewing a small dashboard-mounted monitor. The cameras are designed to be weatherproof, and the system is claimed to be maintenance-free. It receives its power from the truck’s existing electrical system.

The screens are placed directly in front of the driver, allowing him to monitor traffic or what is behind the trailer without taking his eyes off the road. Cabling is used to connect the camera or cameras to the monitors. The system is suitable for installation on a tractor-trailer with the camera at the rear of the trailer. A disconnect is provided so trailers can remain interchangeable.

The company sends technicians to your location for installation in about two hours. When factory installed, the system is warranted for two years.