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Understanding the longer stopping distance of semi-trucks

On Behalf of | Mar 29, 2024 | Motor Vehicle Accidents

Semi-trucks, also known as tractor-trailers or 18-wheelers, are an essential part of the transportation industry. They feature unique characteristics, including longer stopping distances than smaller vehicles.

Understanding the factors contributing to these longer stopping distances is crucial for promoting road safety.

Factors influencing stopping distance

Some of the factors that impact how long it takes a semi-truck to stop include:

  • Weight and momentum: Semi-trucks are significantly heavier than passenger cars, often weighing up to 80,000 pounds when fully loaded. This substantial mass results in greater momentum, requiring more force to stop the vehicle effectively.
  • Braking systems: While modern semi-trucks are equipped with advanced braking systems, including air brakes. These systems still require more time to engage fully due to the larger size and weight of the vehicle. The delay in brake response contributes to longer stopping distances.
  • Road conditions: Adverse road conditions, such as wet or icy surfaces, further exacerbate the stopping distances of semi-trucks. Reduced traction increases the time it takes for the truck to come to a complete stop, posing additional challenges for drivers.
  • Reaction time: The reaction time of semi-truck drivers plays a significant role in stopping distances. The larger size of the vehicles means drivers must anticipate potential hazards well in advance and react swiftly to apply the brakes, minimizing the risk of collisions.

Each of these factors significantly impact how long it takes a semi-truck to stop.

Safety Implications

The longer stopping distance presents several safety issues. These include:

  • Increased risk of accidents: Longer stopping distances increase the potential of hitting a vehicle from behind. This is especially true when passenger vehicles underestimate the braking capabilities of semi-trucks or follow too closely.
  • Importance of defensive driving: Drivers sharing the road with semi-trucks must remain aware of their surroundings and what large trucks are doing on the road.

Understanding the factors that contribute to the longer stopping distances of semi-trucks is essential for the safety of both truck drivers and other road users. Know that if you are involved in an accident with a semi-truck, you may have legal rights and options to recover compensation if you were not solely responsible for your own harm.