Following Distance

Scott Jensen – Director of Fleet Training

Tailgating is the number one complaint the motoring public has against the trucking industry. Maintaining a proper following distance not only helps improve our image as an industry, but is also a key to preventing rear-end collisions. A large number of trucks at Epes are now equipped with the ON-Guard Collison Avoidance System. While this is a great piece of technology, the driver is still the key in preventing rear end collisions. I would challenge each driver that if your ON-Guard ever activates, you should reevaluate your own driving patterns and techniques.


The easiest method for checking your following distance is to use the time and reference point method. As the vehicle in front of you passes a stationary object such as a road sign or bridge begin to count. The length of your vehicle determines how many seconds you should maintain as proper following distance. Each 10 feet of vehicle length requires 1 second of following distance and at speeds greater than 40mph an extra second is needed. (The absolute minimum distance is 4 seconds).


Example: A tractor with a sleeper pulling a 53 foot trailer is going to be approximately 70 feet long. This vehicle should constantly be working to maintain an 8 second following distance.

During adverse driving conditions more space will be required.


Congested Highways


On highly congested highways, you have the additional challenge of cars moving into your following distance space faster than you can capture it back. We all know that this will happen, that’s where the “Low Profile Driving” technique should be utilized. All that is required is for the driver to select a speed that is a few miles per hour slower than surrounding traffic. The driver will constantly be working to achieve a following distance, even as other vehicles continue to move in prohibit this from happening. The added benefits of low profile driving include keeping cars from sitting in the blind spots on the side of your truck, less wear and tear on brake components and reduction of driver stress.


Look Into the Future


Scan at least 15 seconds on the road ahead and be aware of indications that traffic is slowing. Also, give extra space to drivers who may be unaware of the area you are traveling in and therefore make sudden stops or lane changes. These can be cars loaded with luggage racks, out of state plates, rental trucks, etc.


Don’t Run With the Pack

Simply stated the more traffic and cars around you the more likely you are to be involved in a collision if something unforeseen happens. Vehicles running bumper to bumper are in for a rude awakening if only one person makes a critical mistake.


While Stopped


When stopping behind other traffic at lights and stop signs be sure to allow enough space between yourself and the vehicle you are behind. A good rule of thumb is to give enough space so that you can see the tires of the vehicle in front.


Keeping a proper following distance is not only a key to preventing rear-end collisions, but it is the law. If a driver is cited and convicted for “Following the vehicle ahead too closely”, it is considered a serious moving violation as defined in FMCSA Safety Regulation 383.51. A CDL driver who receives two convictions for serious moving violations in a 3 year period will be disqualified from operating a CMV for 60 days.

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