What is the stopping distance for semi-trucks?

By Nick Economu May 17, 2019
Stopping distance for semi trucks

Truck drivers, imagine this scenario: It’s a beautiful sunny day and you are traveling along with traffic at 60 mph, when the vehicle in front of you suddenly slams on its brakes.

You won’t have time to read this important info then, so use this quick guide on the stopping distance for semi-trucks to prepare well.

How long does it take to stop a semi-truck?

At 60 mph, on a clear day, a fully loaded tractor-trailer will need approximately 370 feet to stop, which is more than a football field.

The heavier the vehicle and the faster it is moving, the longer it takes to safely stop, so a loaded truck will take longer to stop than an empty truck — which brings us to the next question:

What is the proper following distance for truck drivers?

The proper following distance is seven to eight seconds. Strive to maintain that and be ready to add to it, up to double that amount when the weather is deteriorating.

How do you calculate and determine following distance?

Stopping distance for semi trucks

Watch the vehicle in front of you pass a fixed object such as a tree, light pole or a sign on the side of the road.

When the vehicle in front of you passes the fixed object, start counting the seconds until you have reached the same object. That will tell you how many seconds of following distance there is between you and the vehicle in front of you.

If you ensure you have enough space between you and the vehicle in front of you, there will be ample time to slow down or change lanes to avoid a crash.

How much following distance should you maintain when stopped at traffic lights?

Another part of space management is to stop 20 feet behind other stopped vehicles at traffic lights, stop signs and railroad crossings. This practice will allow you to have enough room to get around the vehicle in front of you in case that vehicle becomes disabled.

Bonus truck driver space management tips

  • In order to make your presence known to other vehicles, use your headlights half an hour before dusk and leave them on until half an hour after sunrise.
  • Use your turn signals 100 feet in advance of a turn, and leave the signal on until the turn is completed and you are straight in the lane you are turning into.

Take a moment to commit to yourself, your family and the motoring public that you will do everything possible to give yourself enough following distance to stop your semi-truck if something happens in front of you.

A truck driver’s perspective on following distance

Not convinced? Neither was one of Schneider’s drivers … at first, but then he considered this:

Read a Driver's Perspective

Do you have any questions about truck driving situations we can answer for you? Comment below.

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About the Author

Nick Economu IMG

Nick joined Schneider in August 1990 as an Over-the-Road truck driver. He later became a lead driver for a Dedicated account and worked as a Customer Service Engineer before becoming a Driver Manager. In 2003, he assumed the role of Safety and Training Manager for the Dallas Van Truckload Division and in 2011 became the Safety and Training Manager for Bulk Energy. Currently, Nick is the Safety and Training Manager for the Bulk Southern Divisions and HSSE Program Manager for Schneider Logistics.

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