Truck Braking-Stopping Distance

In 2009, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued new regulations regarding braking of commercial trucks, such as tractor-trailers. The new rule phased in by 2012, requires trucks to stop within 250 feet when loaded to their gross vehicle weight rating while traveling 60 miles per hour. This is a 30 percent reduction in stopping distance. The NHTSA estimates these requirements apply to 99 percent of the commercial fleet in the United States. The new rule further requires heavy trucks to stop within 235 feet when traveling at 60 miles per hour while loaded to their light load vehicle weight. Additionally, a small number of tractor-trailers will be required to stop within 310 feet. The new braking requirements do not include using the truck's emergency brake system in the event of a sudden stop. The rule previously required trucks to stop within 504 feet to 580 feet. The NHTSA believed this requirement was achievable with the addition of the newest braking systems. The truck accident attorneys of Kenneth J. Annis & Associates understand the braking issues relating to heavy trucks.

The reasoning supporting the rule is two-fold. The NHTSA first wished to reduce the number of lives lost in heavy truck accidents. The NHTSA estimated that the new regulations would reduce the number of fatalities by 227 per year. The NHTSA also estimated that the number of accidents involving serious injuries would be reduced by 300 per year. As an additional bonus, the NHTSA expected the rule to reduce property damage by $169 million dollars (US) annually.

Most braking systems in heavy trucks are air-brakes. The NHTSA recommended that compliance with the rule would be achieved by installing enhanced drum brakes, air disc brakes, or a hybrid drum/disc system. Air brakes are slower to react than the standard braking system found in passenger cars. Passenger cars use a hydraulic braking system. The hydraulic braking system reacts nearly instantly from the time the brake is pressed. In contract, one second passes from the time when the driver steps on the brake pedal for the air braking system to respond.

The change was needed according to the NHTSA because 385,000 heavy trucks were in accidents in the United States in 2006 alone. 4,732 large trucks were involved in fatal crashes, resulting in 4,995 deaths. This number accounted for 12 percent of all fatal crashes. In 83 percent of the fatal crashes, the person or persons who died were not an occupant of the truck. 75 percent of those killed occupied another car while eight percent were described as "non-occupants." Additionally, 106,000 people were injured in heavy truck crashes during the same period

The NHTSA determined that decreasing the stopping distance of large trucks would prevent or diminish the severity of many accidents involving large or heavy trucks. The NHTSA new stopping requirements are helpful in avoiding or diminishing the severity of rear-end accidents when the truck strikes another vehicle. Accidents will be less severe with reduced braking distances when the a passenger car turns in front of the truck. Similarly, crashes will be less severe when the truck drives in a straight line into the oncoming car. The NHTSA figured that 26 percent of these described rear-end accidents were fatal. The agency estimates that reducing the severity of the impact of the described crashes will save approximately 655 lives per year. Furthermore, the NHTSA anticipated that head-on collisions would be less severe because of the reduced speed at impact.

Heavy truck crashes are devastating. The truck accident attorneys at Kenneth J. Annis & Associates possess the skill and experience to represent you for injuries suffered in a truck accident. Call Attorney Annis today at 202-785-2244 to schedule your free consultation.