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What is the Stopping Distance of a Commercial Truck?

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December 14, 2022 Truck Accidents

Large commercial trucks aren’t just large in size – they also weigh much more than regular vehicles. This can lead to very long stopping distances for the truck. Here, we want to review the most common stopping distance for trucks as well as whether or not individuals can recover compensation if they have been injured in a truck accident because of truck driver failed to stop quickly enough.

Large Trucks Need Time to Stop

Information presented by the Federal Highway Administration indicates that large commercial trucks can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds when they are fully loaded with cargo. This is much more than traditional passenger vehicles that typically only weigh approximately 4,000 pounds. Commercial trucks, particularly when they are loaded with cargo, are going to need a much longer distance to stop than most people are used to in their regular vehicles.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates interstate commercial trucking, and they consider longer stopping distances to be one of the main safety challenges for larger vehicles, including trucks and passenger buses.

According to the FMCSA, a commercial truck that is fully loaded with cargo and traveling under good conditions at typical highway speeds will require a stopping distance of approximately 200 yards. This is nearly two full football fields in length that are required before a commercial truck can come to a complete stop.

So how does this compare to the stopping distance of a traditional passenger vehicle?

The FMCSA has calculated the stopping distance of commercial trucks versus traditional passenger cars, and states that:

  • A traditional passenger vehicle that is traveling at 65 mph would need approximately 316 feet to come to a complete stop.
  • A fully loaded commercial truck traveling at 65 mph would need about 525 feet to come to a full stop.

All these calculations are based on ideal roadway conditions and vehicles traveling at usual highway speeds. In the event there are any adverse weather conditions or otherwise out-of-the-ordinary roadway conditions, this can significantly change the stopping distance of a larger commercial truck.

Additionally, careless or negligent driving on the part of a truck driver will also change these factors. Drivers who are distracted behind the wheel, impaired by alcohol or drugs, drowsy, or otherwise failing to follow traffic laws may not be able to stop within the confines of the distances mentioned above.

Additionally, the stopping distance of a commercial truck highlights the dangers of these trucks following other vehicles too closely. Under no circumstances should a commercial truck driver tailgate any other vehicle on the roadway.

It is important to point out that large commercial trucks do not have the same type of brakes that passenger vehicles do. Typically, passenger vehicles have hydraulic brakes, which respond much quicker. Semi-trucks have air brakes, which come with a lag time. If you have ever heard of a whooshing air sound when you’re traveling next to a larger truck, this is the sound of air escaping the truck’s brake system after it comes to a stop. When a truck driver first applies their brakes, the air has to build up and spread the length of the vehicle before the brakes can actually start to slow the vehicle down.