What You Need to Know About an 18-Wheeler Stopping Distance

Rear-end truck wrecks


rear end truck accidents

Every day on highways across America, big rigs, 18-wheelers, and tractor-trailers share the road with the motoring public. The trucking industry is vitally important to the American economy. The American Trucking Association projects a banner year for the sales of the most massive class of 18-wheelers for 2022.

The only impediment to the stellar growth projected for motor carriers is the shortage of qualified drivers. In short, this year and for years to come, the trucking industry will be growing and putting more and bigger rigs on the highways.

Big Trucks Stopping Distance Generally

According to the DOT, a tractor-trailer traveling at 65 mph will take 200 yards or 600 feet to stop. The stopping time and distance for a big rig are much higher than those of cars.

Adverse weather conditions and other factors can affect the stopping distance of a big truck.

The total stopping distance for a car going 65 miles an hour is just over 100 yards or about 345 feet.  A car accident can be avoided with the car in the rear with less safety cushion simply by the stopping distance.

Factors in Stopping Distance of Big Rigs

Several factors are involved in calculating a particular event’s stopping distance. Every driver has a perception lag and reaction time before the driver can react to activate the brakes. Thus, the distinction between how long the vehicle takes to stop after the brakes are engaged and the total stopping distance.

While the accident reconstruction expert can fine-tune the stopping distance for a specific vehicle on a particular roadway, general guidelines are often used for baseline calculations of stopping distance.

Things such as tires, the weight of the vehicle and load, and the coefficient of friction are all used for reconstruction purposes to determine the actual stopping distance in a particular accident.

The Difference in Equipment and Stopping

Commercial trucks use air brakes, while passenger cars have hydraulic brakes. Hydraulic brakes are faster to engage than semi-truck air brakes, with a time lag before they engage.

Also, the weight of the load carried by the big driver is a factor that can make a slight difference in the total stopping distance.

Trucks take longer to stop.

18-Wheelers Can’t Stop as Fast as Cars

The most important thing that everyone needs to know is that commercial tractor-trailers take longer to stop than passenger cars. An 80,000-pound vehicle, even with perfect brakes, cannot stop as quickly as your car or pickup truck.

With this in mind, drivers need to be mindful of the need for an extra safety cushion between their vehicle and a truck behind them. At the same time, keeping a truck from tailgating or following that unsafe distance is often difficult, particularly on busy highways; maintaining a safe distance is critical for your safety.

Because the truck can take 40% longer to stop than your vehicle, you need to ensure that your vehicle is far enough in front of the truck behind you. Driving friendly may involve letting the professional truck driver pass, allowing you to control the distance between your vehicle and the big rig.

Big Rigs Mean Bad Accidents

The devastation from being hit in the rear by an 18-wheeler is not easy to overstate. Many rear-end 18-wheeler accidents injure or kill every person in the vehicle that is struck from the back.

Of course, it should be the professional truck driver who takes extra caution to avoid a rear-end truck accident.

Truck drivers must try to stop gradually if possible because sudden stops will lead to a jackknife accident.

How Truck Drivers Can Avoid Rear-End Accidents

Truckers can avoid rear-end collisions by:

  • allowing an assured clear distance between the vehicles in front of them
  • driving friendly
  • maintaining a speed safe for conditions
  • preventing driving in hazardous conditions
  • following the hours of service rules to avoid driving while fatigued or sleepy
  • making sure that the brakes are working optimally on their rig.

Trucking Companies Can Help


Trucking companies can reduce the number of rear-end accidents by:

  • Ensuring compliance with the safety regulations
  • developing policies aimed at monitoring compliance with equipment safety
  • hiring qualified and experienced truck drivers
  • having adequate personnel for monitoring logbooks
  • making safety education a part of company protocol.


Talk Directly With a  Top-Rated Trucking Accident Attorney

If you or a family member has been rear-ended by a big truck and needs a lawyer- call the specialists in 18-wheeler accident lawsuits today. Speak directly with truck accident attorney Greg Baumgartner -call (281) 893-0760!

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