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When you see a row of semi-trucks on the highway and the song “Convoy” by CW McCall comes on the radio, it’s almost like magic. If your kids give truckers the honk arm signal, and they respond with a pull of their horn cord, it’s a joyous experience. When a massive semi-truck is right on your rear bumper, that’s a scary situation. Why do these big trucks get so close?

What is tailgating in relation to semi-trucks?

Semi-Truck Tailgating on a highway
Semi-Truck Tailgating | Wiki Commons

Because of the sheer size and weight carried in an 18-wheeler, the typical tailgating we’re used to isn’t the same as what we find with most cars. If you’re driving a sedan or SUV and tailgating, that means there are probably about 5-10 feet between you and the next vehicle. When it comes to semis, tailgating is typically 2-3 car lengths behind you, according to About Truck Driving.

Is it okay for semis to tailgate?

No, we are not approving of the practice of tailgating, but there could be reasons why this is happening to you. The size and weight of an 18-wheeler make this practice much more dangerous on the road. While drivers of semi-trucks are professionals and typically better drivers than the average person, some will get a little too confident behind the wheel, which can lead to disaster.

With that said, let’s look at the four main reasons a trucker might be tailgating you.

1. Semi-trucks might tailgate if you’re driving under the speed limit

Semi Straddling the Yellow Line
Semi Straddling the Yellow Line | Wiki Commons

For truckers, time is money. While that’s the case for many of us, truckers have to deal with traffic, potential accidents, and a strict schedule. When they get put behind because of these interruptions, they might get frustrated and tailgate a driver traveling below the speed limit.

If you’re driving below the speed limit, don’t be in the left lane of traffic. This allows semi-trucks and other drivers that want to go the speed limit to pass you with ease.

2. Truckers might tailgate drivers that don’t maintain a steady speed

Semi-Trucks in Traffic
Semi-Trucks in Traffic | Wiki Commons

We’ve all seen semi-trucks lose speed on inclines and gain speed while descending, but the slightest change in slope impacts these trucks that carry 80,000 pounds of cargo in the rear. Most drivers have no excuse not to maintain a steady speed on the road, and if your vehicle is constantly changing speeds, you might find a big rig on your tail.

3. Semi-trucks might tailgate when preparing to pass you

Semi-Truck on Highway
Semi-Truck on Highway | Wiki Commons

How hard is it for you to pass another vehicle? It’s pretty easy to step on the gas and go around another car or truck. If you’re on a four-lane highway, this is one of the simplest times to pass. The same can’t be said for semi-trucks. When a trucker prepares to pass, they need to get up close to the vehicle in front of them and anticipate what other drivers might do to pass safely.

4. The truck driver might be having a very bad day

A Line of Semis Heading to the Weigh Station
A Line of Semis Heading to the Weigh Station | Wiki Commons

Rather than say that a trucker is a jerk or a bad person, some people have a bad day at work sometimes, including semi-truck drivers. These professional drivers are human, and they can’t close the office door and hide for a few hours. They’ve got to get their load to the next destination.

If you find a semi is tailgating you, it’s a good idea to stay calm and patient to let them figure out what they will do to get around you safely. Eventually, the trucker will likely back off or pass, and you won’t have to worry about them tailgating you any longer.

Next, check out the variety of Toyota Tacoma models, or learn why semi-trucks have so many gears in the video below:

This article was updated on 1/22/2023.

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