Construction signals

Driving heavy equipment like a motor grader poses special risks, especially when it comes to backing up. Because of the size of the vehicle, it can be difficult to see what’s behind it. As a result, a high proportion of accidents involve backing up – and the leading cause of backing accidents is driver error.

Improved vehicle designs and technologies can help reduce mistakes, but they can’t eliminate the need for operators to exercise proper judgment and follow safety principles when behind the wheel.

Safety when backing up a motor grader

The first and best way to prevent backing accidents is to avoid the need to reverse altogether. For example, aim to park a motor grader only in spaces you can drive forward to exit.

If you have to back up, however, you can significantly improve safety by first walking around the grader and checking the route you plan to reverse along. This ensures you’ll see any hazards or obstacles that might be hidden to you once you’re in the driver’s seat.

Also make sure you:

  • familiarize yourself with the motor grader’s blind spots
  • switch off your cell phone and minimize other distractions before starting to reverse
  • if the grader includes a system for alerting you to nearby obstacles, use this technology (although never rely on this system alone)
  • always back up slowly – as a rule of thumb, no faster than someone would walk; if you reverse fast, you’ll increase the risk of an accident and the potential harm it could cause.

Last but not least, if you need to reverse a motor grader in situations with low or obstructed visibility, use a spotter – a designated person to guide you.

Basic spotter hand signals

Hand signals
© Image via Osh Academy

Spotters typically use hand signals to communicate with vehicle drivers. It’s vital for the driver and spotter to agree on particular hand signals and their meanings. This prevents misunderstandings that could cause accidents.


The commonly accepted signal for “stop” is to raise one or both hands, either closed into fists or held palm forward.

Proceed or continue

The usual signal to tell a driver to keep moving the vehicle is to raise an arm with a bent elbow and repeatedly draw the top part of the arm and hand in a motion away from a vehicle.

Move right

To signal a driver to move to the right, a spotter typically holds out a straight arm with a finger pointing to the right, while using the other arm to signal that the vehicle must continue to back up.

Move left

Holding out a straight arm with a finger pointing to the left while using the other arm to signal that the driver must continue to back up is an accepted signal for moving to the left.

Distance remaining

Holding both hands a particular distance apart, with palms facing inward, is an accepted way of signaling how much further a vehicle can back up before it will hit an object, such as another vehicle.

Slow down

To signal a driver to slow down, a spotter typically holds the right arm out at the elbow, with hand held flat and palm down, and moves the hand up and down.

Spotter safety tips

Even if you use a spotter, remember that as the driver of a motor grader, you’re still ultimately responsible for the vehicle and its safe operation.

Also, if you lose sight of a spotter, stop your vehicle immediately. This could mean that the spotter is behind your grader – if you continue reversing, you risk backing into or over this person.

Spotters should wear high-visibility clothing, such as reflective vests, and they shouldn’t use personal cell phones, headphones or other items that could distract them from their duties.

At KH Plant, we specialise in reconditioning Caterpillar motor graders, restoring them to as-new condition. Contact us for more information or a quotation.

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