Truck Crashes: More Stopping Distance Needed to Avoid Disaster

In order to operate a semi-truck or tractor-trailer, the driver must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). This is because driving these vehicles are much more difficult than operating a passenger vehicle. Turning, maneuvering, parking, and blind spots are dangerous if the truck driver doesn’t know what he or she is doing. Even stopping a large truck takes training and experience.

These vehicles are so massive in weight and size that it takes them longer to stop than a car and the driver needs to quickly calculate the time and space they will need in order to bring the truck to a complete stop. If you have ever been driving near a tractor-trailer and heard a hissing sign, that was an indication that the vehicle is slowing down or trying to stop.




Commercial trucks need double the distance to come to a complete stop as passenger vehicles do. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the stopping distance calculation for vehicles is:

  • A passenger vehicle driving at 65 mph needs approximately 300 feet to come to a stop.
  • A fully loaded tractor-trailer driving at 65 mph needs approximately 600 feet to come to a stop.

In addition to the reaction time of a driver to react to an oncoming danger or hazard in the road, there are other factors that can affect the stopping distance for a commercial truck:

  • Weight of the truck: The heavier the load the truck is transporting, the longer it will take for the truck to come to a stop. Trucks are about 25 times heavier than passenger vehicles and adding a load to that already heavy weight increases the distance needed to stop.
  • Speed: The faster the vehicle is traveling, the longer it will take for that vehicle to stop. This is true for trucks and passenger vehicles.
  • Brake systems: The brakes in passenger vehicles are usually hydraulic. Hydraulic brake systems are liquid and take less time for the vehicle to stop. Commercial trucks usually have air brake systems and these systems take longer. With air brakes, when the operator first hits the brake, air builds up across the length and width of the truck. When this air buildup is complete, the brakes will begin to slow the vehicle down.
  • Weather conditions: Bad weather – like rain, snow, and ice – can have an impact on how long it takes for a vehicle to stop.

Contact a Virginia Truck Accident Attorney

If you have been injured in any type of truck accident, contact a Virginia truck accident attorney to discuss what legal recourse you may have. Truck accident cases can be complex, and it is not uncommon for there to be multiple at-fault parties who are responsible for the payment of financial damages you may be entitled to for your injuries. Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn has successfully represented many injured victims and their families and we are happy to meet with you and offer legal guidance on what the best options may be for your circumstances.