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


Tractor-trailer semis simply can’t stop as quickly and efficiently as passenger vehicles and pickups. A fully-loaded semi’s average weight can run as high as 80,000 pounds, which is exponentially more than a passenger vehicle’s 3,000 to 4,000 pounds.

Passenger vehicles traveling 65 miles per hour take about 316 feet to stop under ideal road conditions. That’s almost the length of a football field. Tractor-trailers weighing 80,000 pounds and traveling at 65 miles per hour would need 525 feet to stop, which is nearly the length of two football fields.

When defense driving as a truck driver, it is necessary to consider the estimated stopping distance in many routine driving situations. The total stopping distance includes the time it takes for a driver to recognize a hazard and begin braking.

Factors that influence stopping distance

There are three distinct types of factors that impact stopping distance in every braking scenario:

  1. Perception distance: This is the distance traveled while a driver perceives the hazard or needs to begin braking.
  2. Reaction time: Depending on the driver’s reaction times, the distance traveled while you decide on the best way to handle an upcoming hazard is shorter or longer.
  3. Braking distance: This is the actual time it takes for the vehicle to stop from the first pressure on the brakes until the semi is brought to a full stop.

Trucks also have one additional factor that comes into play when braking — brake lag. Tractor-trailers use air brakes, which don’t react almost instantaneously as hydraulic brakes do.

Trucking industry regulations

The trucking industry has stricter driving regulations than passenger vehicles because of the more significant risks of catastrophic accidents that tractor-trailers pose. Some of these additional regulations include:

  • Onboard Computers: Most commercial vehicles are now equipped with onboard computers to store important information about how fast the truck was traveling before an accident. Computers often prove invaluable in understanding how an accident happened.
  • Limited Driving Time. Driver fatigue often causes the bulk of accidents, and truckers must follow a set of rules that include limits to how many miles they can drive throughout a day. Drivers must take breaks and limit their driving time.
  • Weight Regulations. Trucks are also limited to the amount of weight that they can haul. Weight is a critical factor that directly impacts stopping time.
  • Increased Duty of Care. Truckers are expected to maintain focus and provide an extended duty of care in avoiding accidents. For example, due to the cab’s height, truck drivers notice potential hazards faster than other drivers. Truck drivers are also expected to follow safety rules more diligently.

Truck-related accident statistics

Truck accident statistics include information compiled from multiple sources covering the 6.8 million commercially licensed drivers who operate in the United States. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), about 4.0 million of these drivers operate intrastate. That leaves the remainder of 2.8 million who work locally, and most intrastate drivers also spend a good deal of time driving in local environments.

The chances of being involved in a truck-related death are estimated at 11 percent, and 74 percent of truck deaths in 2018 occurred in crashes that involve tractor-trailers. A good percentage of those accidents are caused by tractor-trailers not being able to stop quickly enough. For more truck accident statistics, check out the link.

The need for legal representation

No matter which side you are on when involved in a truck crash, you’ll need legal representation to protect your interests. If injured in a truck accident, you should contact a truck accident lawyer immediately to get an evaluation of your case. It’s essential to act fast so that wounds don’t heal and the accident is still fresh in the minds of witnesses and those involved in the crash.

By: Samantha Alvord

Samantha Alvord is a legal expert and a passionate writer who works tirelessly to inform people about the field of personal injury, her area of specialty. She has a talent for making complex legal concepts accessible to the public. It is Samantha’s goal to present a clear and structured piece to the reader, which can easily be used as a guide to solving legal matters.

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