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How many feet does it take a loaded semi-truck to stop?

Every day, thousands of large trucks and semis travel on Virginia highways and interstates. These vehicles not only are larger than standard vehicles, they weigh considerably more too. In fact, a fully loaded semi can weigh 80,000 pounds, much more than a standard 4,000-pound passenger vehicle. So, if a large truck becomes involved in a serious traffic accident, that can lead to devastating consequences: someone can suffer serious injuries and die.

One of the biggest factors that drivers need to keep in mind when sharing the road with large trucks is that they need significantly more distance to stop. In fact, here’s how the stopping distance for a semi-truck and a standard passenger vehicle compare:

Standard passenger vehicle

4,000 pounds

5 feet high, 5-6 feet wide and 12-18 feet long

Stopping distance at 40 miles per hour: 124 feet

Stopping distance at 55 miles per hour: 225 feet

Stopping distance at 65 miles per hour: 316 feet

Large semi-truck

80,000 pounds when fully loaded

14 feet high, 8.5 feet wide, 65 feet long for a tractor-trailer combination

Stopping distance at 40 miles per hour: 169 feet

Stopping distance at 55 miles per hour: 335 feet

Stopping distance at 65 miles per hour: 525 feet (two football fields)

So passenger vehicle drivers sharing the road with semis always need to keep in mind that truck drivers need more space to maneuver and stop. Here are some safety tips drivers can follow to avoid a crash with a large truck:

  1. Always keep a four-second stopping distance when following a large truck, so you have space to stop if the semi in front of you stops suddenly or a semi’s tire blows out.
  2. Give a semi at least 700 feet of space to pass you and slow down slightly when a truck passes you.
  3. Pass a semi quickly, so you don’t lag in a trucker’s blind spot long.
  4. When passing a semi, make sure you wait 200 feet before you reenter the same lane as a truck you just passed. You don’t want to make a truck slow down too quickly when you reenter the same lane.

Making sure you don’t force a truck driver to maneuver or stop quickly not only can avoid causing a terrible crash, it can save your life. More often than not, it is those in passenger vehicles who suffer significant injuries and die in accidents with large trucks.

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