Speed & Space

Speed & Space – Including No-Zones

 This lesson is for:

  • All commercial driver’s license holders
  • Commercial drivers who do not hold a commercial driver’s license but operate commercial vehicles.
  • Employees and contractors

Managing your speed and your space in a commercial vehicle is one of the most straightforward and critical preventative tools a commercial driver has on the road.

Speeding will not only get a driver a citation or ticket but also minimizes the time to react to a sudden hazard like a car stopping quickly in front of your truck, an animal or pedestrian, or even an upcoming accident scene.  

 Another reason to manage speed is fuel consumption. One of the most expensive items for a truck owner is fuel. You will reduce fuel costs by changing the way you drive a commercial vehicle.   Want to ask for a raise? Show your motor carrier that you are saving them money with safe driving habits. Want to reduce the cost associated with owning your truck? Start with reducing the speed you drive.    

 Most commercial vehicles now have safety technology. An electronic logging device (ELD) or a global position system (GPS) will track safety events. Speeding, hard braking, harsh turns, and even record these events on camera. To be a successful truck driver, managing your speed is not only expected but is smart driving!

 Speed and Space Management – FMCSA Recommendations

 What do the experts recommend the following distance for commercial motor vehicles? The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recommends the time measured distances shown below:

  • Five (5) to six (6) seconds for the following distance when driving at slower speeds (less than 40 MPH)
  • Six (6) to seven (7) seconds for the following distance when driving highway speeds (over 40 MPH)
  • Add two (2) to three (3) seconds in adverse weather condition

What are the factors that determine the following distance?

Speed + Weight of the truck + Size of the truck + Road Conditions

 The rule is one second for every ten (10) feet of your vehicle’s length. You should add on two (2) more seconds for:

  • Bad weather conditions
  • Road construction
  • Debris
  • Nighttime driving

 How do the following distance and speed impact reaction time?

When a driver follows too closely, it does not allow for enough time for the mind to react to a sudden hazard in the roadway.  

Often, a commercial vehicle will leave enough space in front only to have a car cut in. This inevitable event and should not discourage drivers from leaving the necessary space. Remember, the automobile driver is not professional; you are. Resist the urge to close the gap. An leaving a cushion in front and all-around your commercial vehicle is key to safe driving. 

 When you leave a cushion of space, you are:

  • Allowing for more reaction time
  • Allowing for more braking distance
  • Accounting for your perception could be off due to distractions, fatigue, time of day, and other unforeseen events.


The No-Zone

Most CMV’s have No-Zones. The FMCSA describes No-Zone as the areas around a commercial vehicle that are blind spots for the commercial vehicle operator.

 Blind spots can make simple tasks like turns, backing, and changing lanes more challenging and even dangerous.

 Where are your no-zones

  • On the driver side in the lane next to you from front of drivers door back to mid trailer
  • On the passenger side, two traffic lanes over and back past the truck trailer
  • Back, 30 feet back from the trailer
  • Front – 20 feet from your front bumper

Turning and Intersections

 Making turns in a commercial vehicle can be challenging if the correct procedures are not followed. To minimize the risk of accidents, all commercial drivers should follow the following steps when making any turn, but specifically in right turn scenarios.

  1. Use turn signals at least one hundred feet (100 feet) before your turn begins.
  2. Ensure you position your truck in the lane to make sure no other vehicles can sneak by you on the right.
  3. Before making the right turn, make sure there are no pedestrians or bicycles close to the edge of the curb or sidewalk
  4. Check your mirrors often during the turn. 

 Safe driving is a combination of caution and skill. Use these simple tips to stay safe.

  •  Leave 5 to 6 seconds of space between your truck and the vehicle in front of you.
  • Add two seconds for bad weather or other adverse driving conditions
  • Remember the No-Zone. Regular automobile drivers do not know about the No-Zone

 Follow the techniques outlined above, you will increase your safety and success in your truck driving career.

  Click the “Take Test” button below to take a quiz and complete this training module.

Resources and References

CMV Driving Tips – Too Fast for Conditions | FMCSA (dot.gov)

No-Zone – Large blind spots


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