Why long stopping distances make trucks more prone to accidents

On Behalf of | May 1, 2024 | Workplace Accidents

Large trucks are vital to the economy, transporting goods across vast distances. However, sharing the road with these behemoths can be intimidating. Their sheer size can be a concern, but a lesser-known danger lies in their extended stopping distance.

Compared to passenger cars, trucks take significantly longer to come to a complete stop. This can dramatically increase the risk of accidents. Understanding why this happens and how to stay safe on the road with trucks is crucial for everyone.

The physics behind stopping power

Imagine a car and a truck traveling at the same speed. When the brakes are applied, both vehicles experience a force that opposes their forward motion. This force, friction, acts between the tires and the road surface, converting the vehicle’s kinetic energy (energy of motion) into heat. However, the effectiveness of friction depends on weight.

A car, significantly lighter than a truck, requires less force to overcome its inertia (resistance to change in motion) and stop. On the other hand, a truck carries immense weight, requiring a much greater force to achieve the same stopping distance. This translates to longer braking times and a greater distance needed to come to a complete halt.

Factors affecting stopping distance

Several factors influence a truck’s stopping distance. The first is weight; the heavier the cargo, the longer the stopping distance. A fully loaded truck can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, compared to a car’s average weight of 4,000 pounds. This immense difference significantly impacts the braking force required.

Adverse weather like rain, snow or fog reduces friction, making the road surface slippery. This can significantly extend a truck’s stopping distance. Similarly, uneven roads or worn-out pavement can also affect braking effectiveness.

The increased risk of accidents

The extended stopping distance of trucks creates several dangers on the road. The first risk is rear-end collisions. When a car cuts in front of a truck or suddenly brakes, the truck driver may not have enough space to stop in time. This can result in a rear-end collision.

Additionally, in severe braking situations, a truck’s trailer can skid and lock up, causing it to swing outwards in a jackknife fashion. This can block multiple lanes and lead to devastating multi-vehicle pileups.

Understanding the science behind a truck’s long stopping distance can help passenger vehicles share the road more safely with these essential giants of commerce. But remember, should a passenger vehicle get involved in a trucking accident due to a truck driver’s recklessness, the driver can pursue compensation for their injuries.