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The Forgotten Rule: What the South Carolina Tractor-Trailer Trucker Manual Says About Tailgating

If you’ve never felt the hair raise on your neck as a massive semi-truck roars up too close behind you on the interstate, you probably haven’t driven long enough.

You’re right to wonder if some truckers get any training on keeping a safe distance in traffic. Well, they do. That’s a good thing since what it takes to stop a big rig is eye-popping. And when they can’t stop, the consequences can be tragic or even fatal.

In South Carolina, truckers can’t get licensed to drive an 80,000-pound road rhino without passing a test based on the state Commercial Driver’s License manual.

Here’s what the manual says about 18-wheelers keeping their distance from us.

Trucker Anti-Tailgating Guidelines

The manual calls it “managing space.” It instructs truckers:

  • The most important space on the road is the space in front of the truck. That’s because statistics reveal the vehicle big rigs run into most often is the one in front of them. And it’s no surprise why: it’s from truckers following too closely.
  • An important fact to remember. The manual instructs truckers that smaller vehicles ahead of them can stop faster, and that actually increases the risk of a rear-end crash. 
  • Space is needed to prevent tailgating. A 60-foot semi-truck driving under 40 mph should keep six seconds of space between itself and the vehicle ahead. For over 40 mph, add another second.
  • How to measure that space. This is so important the manual doesn’t leave it to guesswork. It tells truckers to wait until the lead vehicle passes a shadow or landmark, then literally count off the seconds as “one thousand-and-one, one thousand-and-two,” until the trucker reaches the landmark.
  • Bad weather means double the distance. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the arm of the federal government overseeing truck driving safety, tells truckers to double that distance to adjust for weather, road conditions, visibility, and traffic.

The Law

South Carolina Code Section 56-5-1930 prohibits tailgating. It basically outlaws following more closely than reason and wisdom require, taking into consideration speed, traffic, and road conditions.

So there’s no mathematical formula, but it does require truckers to do the wise, safe thing. That should come naturally to them because they’re professionals, right?

What to Do When Tailgating Turns to Tragedy

Sadly, trucker tailgating is a key cause of trucking accidents that maim and kill innocent motorists. If you’re a victim, you’ve got important rights, but you need to protect them fast. You can arm yourself with info to combat the trucker’s insurance company’s determination to impose its will on you and get out cheap. Download my free book, which has a chapter on tractor-trailer accidents, and check out our web page devoted exclusively to these wrecks.

You can always fill out our Get Help Now form to get your questions answered by an 18-wheeler accident attorney, or call toll-free 888-230-1841.

 

Rob Usry
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Rob is a South Carolina personal injury and criminal defense lawyer.

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