According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a fully loaded tractor-trailer traveling 55 mph needs 196 ft. to come to a full stop under the best conditions. Other factors can increase the distance needed for a truck to stop.

The following provides important information regarding the stopping distance of semi-trucks. We will discuss the complications and legal implications of an improper stop by a semi-truck. Wagner Reese, LLP is a leading personal injury law firm helping clients who have been injured due to a truck accident. Selected as one of Indiana’s Top 25 Super Lawyers®, an Indiana truck accident lawyer from our firm is ready to help you seek full compensation for your injuries.

Semi Truck in a Port Getting Loaded with a Container

The Physics Behind the Stopping Distance of a Semi-Truck

An empty semi-truck will come to a stop much faster than a truck loaded to capacity. There is a simple reason for this: physics. The additional cargo weight creates more momentum for the truck when in motion. This necessitates additional time and distance to bring the vehicle to a full stop. Therefore, a fully loaded semi-truck will generally require a longer distance to reach a complete stop than an empty one.

Factors that influence stopping distance

Vehicle weight and load

The heavier the truck, the longer it takes to stop. The extra weight causes the brakes to need more friction to bring the truck to a complete stop.

Speed and road conditions

The faster a truck is going, the longer the stopping distance needed. Speed is even more of a concern when the truck travels on wet, icy, or uneven roads because the tires have a harder time gripping the road.

Braking systems and maintenance

If a truck has damaged or worn brakes and tires, it can be harder for a tractor-trailer to stop.

If you or a loved one suffered injuries or wrongful death due to a semi-truck that misjudged its stopping distance, an Indiana truck accident lawyer at Wagner Reese can help you seek justice.

Source: How long does it take a semi to stop? What drivers need to know (

Legal Responsibilities of Truck Drivers and Trucking Companies

Trucking companies must follow all state and federal commercial truck regulations. They can be held legally responsible for any accidents that result from not following those guidelines.

Regulatory compliance and industry standards

According to US Compliance Services, truck drivers are required to carefully document proof that DOT standards and regulatory compliance are being adequately met. Those standards include:

  • Performing pre-and post-trip inspections
  • Carrying proper DOT registration
  • Authorization for interstate travel
  • DOT physicals
  • DOT numbers for trucks carrying a gross weight over 10,001 lbs

Potential consequences of unsafe stopping distances

A big rig can rear-end a vehicle, leading to a multi-car accident. Improper braking can cause jack-knifing between the trailer and the cab.

In a crash, the occupants in the passenger vehicle are at a much greater risk of suffering serious injuries or fatalities due to the weight and size difference between the two vehicles. Insufficient braking distances can lead to significant property damage, including severe damage to any vehicles involved in a crash and possible damage to surrounding roadside structures.

Additionally, trucking companies and their drivers could face financial and legal consequences following a collision caused by insufficient braking distances. These consequences could include lawsuits, increased insurance premiums, fines, and the potential loss of their commercial operating permit or driving license.

How to Determine Stopping Distances in Different Scenarios

No matter the weather or road conditions, trucks need adequate time to stop their vehicles, and the time and distance differs dramatically from that of passenger vehicles. Trucks have longer stopping times in snowy, icy, and other slippery road conditions.

Calculating average reaction times and braking distance

Three factors affect the stopping distance of a big rig:

  • Perception distance is the distance the vehicle will travel while the truck driver identifies, predicts, and decides to slow down for a hazard.
  • Reaction time is the time it takes a truck driver to execute the decision once they recognize a danger. The reaction distance is how far the vehicle travels while they react.
  • Braking distance is how far a vehicle will travel from the time the brake pedal is pressed until the vehicle comes to a complete stop.

Dealing with emergency situations

In emergencies, it is critical that there is enough distance between a passenger vehicle and the semi-truck, often allowing for twice the stopping distance in an emergency.

Steps to Take in a Truck Accident

It is important to remain calm and focused following a semi-truck accident. If your injuries are not life threatening, there are several things you can do to help preserve evidence and your legal rights in case you choose to file a lawsuit.

Importance of preserving evidence and seeking legal representation

If you are physically able to do so, you should gather as much evidence as possible using photos or video, including:

  • Damage to the involved vehicles
  • Injuries you and your passengers sustained
  • Road conditions and surrounding road signs and lights

You should also collect information from all involved drivers, including:

  • Driver’s license information
  • License plates
  • Insurance company information

Semi Truck on Top of a Bridge

How Wagner Reese, LLP Can Help Victims Recover Compensation

In conclusion, when truck drivers and trucking companies properly maintain their vehicles and other drivers give an adequate distance between themselves and semi-trucks, the roads are safer for everyone. An Indiana truck accident attorney from Wagner Reese can help you. Call us today or contact us using our secure online form to be connected with a lawyer from the exclusive Rising Stars list.