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Following Distance for Trucks & Fleets – Safety Tips from Matrack

image showing truck and fleet safe following distance

A bunch of trucks speed down a busy highway just outside a big city. These goods-carrying vehicles follow each other closely. The truck in front hits break to avoid running over some debris on the road. The one behind it can’t stop in time because it’s too close, so it crashes into the truck in front of it. 

Although ghastly, this example is not an isolated incident but a scenario that unfolds too frequently on America’s roads. Maintaining safe following distances for trucks and fleets is not just a recommendation; it’s a crucial component of road safety that can dramatically reduce the risk of accidents. The distances between vehicles on the highway can be the difference between a close call and a call to emergency services.

The following distance becomes even more critical for trucks, especially those carrying heavy loads. A fully loaded commercial truck has a significantly greater stopping distance than a smaller, lighter passenger vehicle. Truck drivers and fleet operators must understand and implement safe following practices.

In this blog, we focus on the dangers of inadequate following distances and the impact of such practices. We will also offer actionable tips directly from our panel of experts for making traffic safer. 

Understanding Following Distance and Tailgating

As a truck driver, tailgating occurs when you follow another vehicle too closely, creating a risk of collision if you need to brake suddenly. Tailgating isn’t the sole cause of highway accidents—driving too slowly can also present dangers.

Why Is Tailgating Risky?

You might think tailgating is safe if you feel in control of your truck, but this overlooks the essential aspect of maintaining a safe following distance. The distance required to safely stop increases with your speed and your truck’s weight, meaning heavier vehicles need more space ahead.

The dangers of tailgating extend beyond the risk of rear-ending the vehicle in front of you. It can also lead to being rear-ended, causing traffic jams, or colliding with others in adjacent lanes.

Apart from tailgating, distractions like using cell phones or not focusing on the road significantly contribute to accidents. Following too closely reduces your reaction time, making it harder to respond to sudden changes.

Read More: Can Dash Cam Footage Be Used Against You in Court?

Top Safety Tips for Truck and Fleet Drivers

If truck and fleet drivers want to avoid passing and stay safe on the road, here are some safety tips they can follow:

Setting the Right Following Distance for Truck Drivers

You should maintain a following distance of 3-4 seconds between your truck and the vehicle in front. While some drivers base the minimum following distance on the length of the vehicle ahead, either method also works for road use. As a truck driver, you must allow extra following distance due to longer stopping times.

Typically, one truck length equals one second of the following distance. It means you need at least three to four truck lengths—and thus seconds—to safely react and stop in emergencies, especially at higher speeds where more distance equals more time.

For speeds at or below 40 mph, ensure a minimum of three to four seconds to stop your truck safely, equating to about three or four vehicle lengths.

Increase Following Distance Over 40 mph:

Speed increases your required stopping and reaction times. Add an extra second to your following distance for every 20 mph increase in speed.

Adjust for Your Truck’s Length:

Longer trucks need more time to react and stop. Add one second to your following distance for every 10 feet of your vehicle’s length, ensuring you’re farther back from the vehicle ahead.

In adverse conditions—like bad weather, nighttime driving, or poor road conditions—extend your following distance even further to stay safe on the road.

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Calculating Follow Distance in Seconds While Driving

For those unfamiliar with calculating the appropriate minimum following distance, it can be tricky to judge if they’re maintaining a safe space on the road. A straightforward method to determine your following distance in seconds involves using landmarks on the pavement or roadway.

First, observe when the vehicle ahead of you passes a specific landmark, like a signpost or a painted line. Then, count the seconds until the front wheels or the nose of your vehicle passes the same marker. This technique allows you to measure your correct following distance in seconds, ensuring you’re keeping a safe distance from the truck or any other vehicle in front to react appropriately.

Use Technology to Maintain Safe Follow Distance 

Technology can be a crucial ally in preventing drivers from following too closely. Systems, like Matrack’s AI-enabled dashcams, can detect when drivers are not maintaining a safe distance, record such events, and alert both the fleet manager and the driver. This feature helps identify frequent unsafe practices, eliminating the uncertainty in assessing driving safety. With the help of this information, drivers can immediately adjust their behavior, enhancing safety for everyone on the road.

Fleet managers have the flexibility to configure technology solutions to address reckless driving effectively. DashCams, for example, can alert drivers when they’re nearing a critical follow distance or if they’re following too closely, allowing for timely corrections. Additionally, capturing video when a vehicle is tailgating offers another layer of feedback. Through instructional videos on maintaining proper following distances, coupled with radar and AI-driven camera technology, it’s feasible to verify that drivers are keeping a safe distance on the highways.

Dashcams can also provide insights into the driver’s reactions, such as irritation or annoyance when following too closely. This feedback loop, through video reviews and alert notifications, enables drivers of heavy commercial vehicles to self-correct and maintain adequate spacing, preventing unsafe tailgating situations.

Read More: How Much Does a DashCam Cost?

Be Cautious When Driving

Although driving is generally safe, there are always significant risks to be aware of. Thousands of individuals die in motor vehicle crashes on American roads, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. Also, the NSC shows that human error is responsible for over 90% of collisions.

Because of these facts, it’s critical to drive defensively. When you are aware of this, you can take proactive measures to lower the risk when driving. Frequently checking your mirrors, keeping an eye out for blind spots, tracking speed variations, and remaining alert to other drivers’ unsafe behavior can help avoid accidents. 

Control Your Rage 

The best way to stay safe on the road is to keep your mind calm and stable. Reckless driving increases the risk of an accident. Because of this, it’s necessary to teach drivers how important it is to stay focused while driving. It helps keep people from getting angry, making driving safety a greater priority.

Read More: 5 Best Front And Rear Dash Cams With Night Vision

How Matrack’s DashCam Can Help in Ensuring Safe Driving 

AI-powered DashCam technology from Matrack allows you to assess and analyze driving data in real-time. Our system can alert the DashCam device to potentially risky behaviors, offering customizable settings for tagging specific incidents for the driver or fleet manager’s attention.

For example, in cases of tailgating where a driver is following too closely behind another vehicle, the camera employs machine vision to detect objects like the vehicle ahead. The AI then processes this data, along with other factors, such as speed, to determine the level of risk involved. If the system judges the driver’s following distance as critically short and not promptly adjusted, it flags the situation as hazardous.

With proper setup, the DashCam device can immediately alert the driver, advising them to increase their following distance, thus enhancing road safety.

Final Thoughts

Maintaining a safe following distance should always be your top priority when driving. You can avoid collision by staying alert and ensuring enough time to react. It is only possible if you keep a sufficient gap between your vehicle and the one in front. Thus, avoiding tailgating is essential to prevent potential dangers. 

While we’ve outlined various safety tips for fleet managers and truck drivers, using high-quality equipment and technology can elevate safety standards even further. Tailgating incidents can be effectively detected and alerted through Matrack’s dashcam and comprehensive fleet management system. Ensure your safety on the road by adhering to these guidelines and utilizing the right equipment.

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