Following too closely is a common violation for truckers, and it is a “serious offense” for a commercial driver that could mean a 60-day driver disqualification, according to the DOT FMCSA.
On California's bustling and fast-paced roadways, commercial drivers are held to an elevated safety standard to protect themselves and other road users. An essential aspect of this responsibility involves maintaining a safe following distance, particularly given the weight and scale of commercial vehicles. Following too closely, also known as "tailgating," is a perilous practice that can lead to significant consequences, including penalties under state law and driver disqualification under federal regulations.
However, it is often not the fault of the commercial driver but their four-wheel peers who pull back in too soon after passing, which might go unnoticed by law enforcement officers (LEOs) who fault the 80,000-pound vehicle’s driver.
What Is the Safe Following Distance for an 80,000-Pound Truck?
Due to their size and weight, tractor-trailer trucks require significantly more distance to stop than a typical passenger car.
The DOT FMCSA authorities recommend a minimum following distance of one second for every ten feet of vehicle length at speeds below 40 mph. For speeds exceeding 40 mph, an additional second should be added. For an average semi-truck, this translates to at least a 6-7 second following distance under normal road and traffic conditions. Adverse weather, deteriorating road conditions, and heavy traffic can necessitate even greater distances.
“The FMCSA recommends that CMV drivers keep a following distance of one second for each 10 feet of vehicle length , with an additional second for speeds over 40 MPH. For example, for a 50-foot tractor trailer traveling at 55 MPH, the recommended following distance is at least 6 seconds.” — Samsara.com.
On California Highways this seems like a lot more room between vehicles than reasonably possible. But if traffic allows, it’s still a good practice to follow.
Watch your following distance and other drivers who pull back in too soon because a following too closely conviction can be costly to a commercial driver’s career.
What Is the CA Penalty for Following Too Closely?
According to California Vehicle Code (CVC) Section 21703, Driving, Overtaking, and Passing, a driver must not trail the vehicle in front more closely than is "reasonable and prudent" considering vehicle's speed, traffic, and the conditions of the road.
“The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicle and the traffic upon, and the condition of, the roadway.” — CVC Section 21703.
Violation of this law, commonly referred to as tailgating, is a traffic infraction that not only incurs a fine but also points on your CA motor vehicle driving record. Moreover, when a CA traffic court convicts a commercial driver, or the driver surrenders their bail and pleads guilty (pays the fine without a challenge), the CA DMV notifies the DOT FMCSA of the conviction.
For commercial drivers, CVC Section 12810.5, Issuance and Renewal of Licenses, dictates a more severe point system known as the Negligent Operator Treatment System (NOTS). A minor infraction, like tailgating, in a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) results in 1.5 NOTS points. More serious offenses, misdemeanors, and felonies can lead to three NOTS points.
“For purposes of this subdivision, each point assigned pursuant to Section 12810 shall be valued at one and one-half times the value otherwise required by that section for each violation reasonably determined by the department to be attributable to the driver’s operation of a vehicle requiring a class A or class B license, or requiring a certificate or endorsement described in this section.” — Section 12810.5 (b) (2).
Following Too Closely Is a DOT FMCSA Serious Offense
Under the DOT FMCSA regulations, tailgating is categorized as a "serious offense." For commercial drivers, a second conviction of this offense within three years of the first results in a 60-day driver disqualification from driving a commercial vehicle. This can significantly impact a commercial driver's livelihood, safety rating, and the reputation of the company they represent.
Furthermore, the conviction will be filed on the driver’s Pre-employment Screening Program (PSP) record for three years. Therefore, if the driver’s current employer terminates the driver, it will be difficult to get hired with another trucking company, as they are mandated by the FMCSA to view the PSP of all prospective drivers.
You Need an Experienced CA Traffic Attorney to Resolve Your Ticket
If you're a commercial driver charged with following too closely, consulting an experienced traffic attorney is essential. This charge is not merely a minor inconvenience—it can have substantial implications on your career.
An experienced traffic attorney can assist by scrutinizing the details of your case, advising the best course of action, and representing you in traffic court. They might challenge the accuracy of the officer's judgment in your case, or argue that your following distance was, in fact, "reasonable and prudent" under the circumstances.
Further, an experienced traffic attorney can negotiate with the court to potentially reduce your charges or penalties and safeguard your driving record and career.
Tailgating in a commercial vehicle is a grave issue, with significant state and federal penalties. To protect yourself and your livelihood, always maintain a safe following distance, and seek expert legal counsel if you are charged with this offense.
Consult with Bigger & Harman to Resolve a Following Too Closely Ticket in Roseville, CA
Call Bigger & Harman at (661) 349-9300 or email email@example.com.
We also represent CDL holders at CA DMV NOTS hearings to get more leeway before a driver’s license suspension or possibly assist in removing points from your CA MVR. Use our convenient contact form to set up a free, no-obligation consultation.
Se habla Español (661) 349-9755.
The DMV Portal CA Commercial Driver Handbook.
The FMCSA CFR 49 Part 383.51, Driver Disqualifications.