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  • Writer's pictureFront Range Compliance

Stopping Distances in Big Rigs

Passenger vehicles, busses, truck-trailer combinations, big rigs or even dump trucks, every vehicle has a different stopping distance. No matter what vehicle you are operating, you need to know the time it takes for your vehicle to come to a complete stop.

This is especially true for drivers of larger vehicles, or vehicles with higher weights, because it will take them substantially more time to stop than the small sedan driving besides you on the highway. Drivers of commercial vehicles MUST know their stopping distance.

Semi truck driving on wet roads in mountains

Stopping distances in commercial vehicles As stated above, the larger and heavier the vehicle is the longer it will take for the vehicle to come to a complete stop. On average, a semi-truck traveling at 65 mph in good conditions takes 525 feet, or five to six seconds, to come to a complete stop. That is roughly equal to the length of 1½ full football fields, and 40% more time than the average passenger vehicle takes to stop. Other factors weigh into this as well such as weather, road condition and vehicle conditions.

Impacts on stopping distance:

  • Weight: The heavier the truck, the longer the stopping distance. The extra weight makes it more difficult for your brakes to fully engage, making it more difficult to stop. Your stopping distance also depends on the weight of the load you are hauling.

  • Weather conditions: Snow, rain and fog can make roads slick and lower visibility.

  • Road conditions: Wet, icy and/or uneven roads can increase stopping distances because it's harder for tires to grip the road.

  • Tire/brake conditions: Worn/damaged tires and brakes will make it harder for commercial vehicles to stop because the brakes won't fully engage or the tires won't be able to properly grip the road.

  • Load distribution: Unevenly distributed cargo makes it harder to brake effectively.

  • Reaction time: Being distracted or not paying close attention to what is happening around you will also impact your brake time because of your reaction time.

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Safe Following Distance For Commercial Vehicles The recommended following distance for semi-trucks is seven to eight seconds, this changes depending on the size of your vehicle and your load. Drivers of pickup-trailer combinations should maintain a following distance of six to seven seconds. Remember that your stopping distance increases with weight. Drivers should maintain their recommended following distance and be ready to double it when the weather gets worse.

To calculate your following distance, you can:

  1. Watch the vehicle in front of you pass a fixed object such as a road sign, line on the road, pole, fence post or tree.

  2. Count the seconds until the front of your vehicle has reached the same object.

The seconds you count are the number of seconds behind the vehicle in front of you that you are.

Practicing safe following distances and stopping practices will help you avoid accidents, both caused by you and caused by those around you.

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Make sure to check also out our online DOT Training platform, DOT University! We currently are offering Reasonable Suspicion for Supervisors, Cargo Securement, Defensive Driving, and Pre/Post Trip Inspection. In the coming months, we plan on releasing DOT Compliance Essentials and Periodic Annual Inspection Qualification Training (Appendix A).

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