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A recurring craze on the highways across America is “drafting” a tractor-trailer to save fuel. Although this practice is not new, it is a bad idea because of the extreme danger involved. It is what many experts are calling a “lethal trend.” Tractor-trailers and combination trucks are carrying a lot of weight.

What’s more, despite the small fuel-savings as shown on MythBusters, law enforcement officers (LEO) will see it for what it is, tailgating or following too close. Some might even label it reckless driving, depending on your distance, though that might be difficult to prove in court.

MythBusters showed that, “In road tests, the testers achieved an almost 20% improvement in gas mileage at a distance of 100 feet (at 55 mph) and a 45% improvement at 10 feet.” However, to realize any real fuel-savings, you would need to tailgate a truck for hours, risking life and limb. Therefore, if you typically get 20 miles per gallon and follow a truck for 100 miles (about two hours) at 100 feet behind, you could save 5 gallons.

Here is the MythBusters video. Even the Freightliner engineer they spoke with called drafting, “suicidal” at 1:22 of the video. This video is old and kind of blurry, but the message is clear. If you want to watch the YouTube video, it is available at

It typically takes them a long time to stop, and if someone cuts them off on the highway or cuts back in too soon after passing another vehicle, the semi-truck might need to stop abruptly.

Likewise, there are multiple blind spots on a tractor-trailer where the driver cannot see you. Many of these drivers have been on the road for hours. A car on their rear bumper would make any driver nervous. When the driver can’t see you, lots of bad things can happen.

Following Too Close & Reaction Times

There are typically three elements involved to determine your average stopping time: perception (realizing there is a danger), reaction, and braking distance. These three have several variables that could shorten or lengthen each.

Perception time could lengthen if the driver is distracted or fatigued, as could their reaction time. Braking time will primarily depend on the weight of the vehicle and the brakes.

According to an article commissioned by West Bend Insurance, Allow Adequate Following Distance, on a dry road with adequate brakes, a car going 55 mph will need about 170 feet to stop. Now, add the time it takes to recognize a hazard and the reaction time, and it could take 300 feet to stop.

Therefore, if you are following 100 feet behind the tractor-trailer, when they slap on the brakes (yes, it will still take them a while to stop), you could be in serious peril. But that’s not the only liability.

Blow Outs & Chunks of Rubber that Your Windshield Won’t Slow Down

Have you ever seen those large chunks of rubber out on the highway? Those are from tractor-trailer tire blowouts. On non-steering wheels, this is not usually a danger for an experienced truck driver, but it could be deadly for the passenger vehicle following too close.

Your windshield will probably not stop that projectile going around 100 mph. In fact, any road debris is more dangerous to surrounding vehicles than the tractor-trailer making a sudden stop.


This was an informational article to show the dangers of drafting a tractor-trailer. Whether driving a four-wheel vehicle or an 18-wheeler, no driver should follow another vehicle closer than they can safely stop. The CHP recommends a four-second following distance for vehicles traveling 46 to 70 mph.

However, if you get a following too close traffic ticket for a tractor-trailer or as a CMV driver, it is a “serious offense,” according to the FMCSA. Two serious offenses within three years can lead to a 60-day disqualification. Therefore, you should always discuss these or any traffic violation with a California traffic attorney.

In the Roseville, CA, Area, Bigger & Harman, APC, Can Resolve Your Traffic Tickets

Call Bigger & Harman, (661) 349-9300. Se habla Español (661) 349-9755.

We are CA attorneys who handle only traffic law. We provide CDL holders with a free initial consultation. We can help resolve traffic tickets and represent drivers at DMV NOTS Hearing. Give us a call or shoot us an email. Let us handle your traffic issue while you continue to drive and deliver America’s goods.



The 2019 CA Commercial Driver Handbook.pdf

The article, Allow Adequate Following Distance

The YouTube video, Semi Drafting

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