Stopping Distances for Semi-Trucks

Semi truck on road

Operating a semi-truck requires a great deal of training, skill, and care. Because of their immense size and weight, 18-wheelers don’t maneuver or stop like a regular passenger vehicle. Instead, truck drivers must always remain aware of their surroundings and plan ahead to safely slow down or stop their vehicles, especially when they’re in traffic. 

Truck drivers and other motorists can help stay safe by familiarizing themselves with the stopping distance required by semi-trucks.

What Are Braking Distances?

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, a fully loaded semi-truck traveling at a normal highway speed of 65 mph will need upwards of the length of two football fields to come to a complete stop. Passenger cars typically require only about half the distance. 

Of course, this braking distance applies to ideal driving conditions. In rain, snow, or ice, a truck will require much more distance to come to a stop. 

About Truck Braking Systems

Semi-truck also typically have different braking systems. Passenger vehicles such as cars, pickups, and SUVs have hydraulic braking systems. Conversely, most semi-trucks use air brakes, which have greater stopping power than hydraulic brakes but work more slowly than those systems. 

In a truck air braking system, air builds up along the brake lines when the driver depresses the brake pedal. Once the system reaches the appropriate pressure, then the brakes can begin to slow down the truck. This buildup time contributes to the stopping distance of semi-trucks. 

How Long Stopping Distances Contribute to Semi-Truck Accidents

The long stopping distance of semi-trucks can contribute to crashes in many ways, including:

  • Truck drivers have a greater chance of causing a rear-end collision when approaching stopped traffic or in stop-and-go traffic.
  • Truck drivers may also fail to adjust their driving behaviors in adverse road or weather conditions, resulting in the insufficient room to stop safely.
  • Overworked, tired truck drivers may have slowed reaction times, which could result in them not starting to brake quickly enough when hazards arise. 
  • Accidents may also occur when other vehicles cut in front of a truck and then hit the brakes too close for the truck driver to slow down or stop safely.

Who Is Liable for a Truck Accident?

While many motor vehicle accidents only involve the motorists of the vehicles in the accident, in a truck accident claim, many more parties may have responsibility for the crash or may bear some share of fault, including:

  • The truck driver
  • The trucking company
  • The truck’s owner, if not the truck driver or trucking company
  • The truck’s mechanic
  • The truck’s manufacturer or the manufacturer of parts used in the truck (such as brake pads)

What Morris, King & Hodge Can Do for Me

If you have been injured in a semi-truck accident, the attorneys of Morris, King & Hodge, P.C. can help you pursue a financial recovery by:

  • Recovering and reviewing relevant evidence in the accident, including electronic data recorder information and inspection and maintenance logs.
  • Working with accident reconstruction experts to determine how the crash occurred and identify the parties that can be held legally responsible for your injuries.
  • Aggressively pursuing a negotiated settlement with the trucking companies and insurers that pays you fair and full compensation for your losses.
  • Advocating for your rights and interests in court and at trial, if necessary, to give you the best opportunity at maximum recovery.

Call or contact our firm today for a free, no-obligation case review to discuss your legal rights and options for obtaining compensation for the injuries you have suffered in a truck crash.

Harvey B. Morris is a lifelong Alabamian who has been practicing law in Huntsville since getting his law degree and passing the state bar in 1966.