Grimes & Fertitta, P.C.

Jackknifing: Truck drivers should remain in control

Jackknifing is one of the most dangerous things a truck can do on the roads. It causes a major potential for backing up traffic across all lanes, and there's also a risk of colliding with several lanes of traffic when the jackknife occurs.

All truck drivers should understand how to prevent jackknife accidents, but many do not. Good training makes a difference, since being able to avoid and correct possible jackknife situations could save lives.

How can truck drivers avoid jackknife accidents?

To avoid a jackknife, drivers have to understand why and how they happen. There are a few reasons that they may occur including a loss of traction. If the tires can't grip the road well, they can swing the trailer out of alignment.

Slick roads and poor brakes, as well as old tires, can contribute to a jackknife. When skidding, the trailer is more likely to move out of alignment with the truck, since the driver will try to stop the cab while the trailer wants to continue on forward. The trailer then moves sideways, since that's the only place it has to go.

To avoid a jackknife, drivers have to consider the quality of their tires, the road conditions, speed and their braking system. Mechanical errors or defects in the brakes or tires can lead to a jackknife, in some instances. Putting on the brakes too quickly may result in a jackknife as well, as the trailer has difficulty stopping as quickly as the cab. Slick roads add to the risk thanks to a loss of friction.

Drivers should always be monitoring their trailers by looking into their mirrors. If the trailer is beginning to swing, it's a sign that the driver needs to either speed up slightly to regain control of the trailer or slow down by taking the foot off the accelerator if the acceleration may be causing the jackknife. Letting go of the brake will help if a driver has started to jackknife, because it allows the wheels to begin turning to attempt to grip the road.

Heavier trailers are less likely to jackknife than those that are empty, so drivers with no load should make sure to monitor their trailers carefully. If a jackknife does occur, using hazard lights and blasting the horn may allow others around the truck and trailer to move out of the way, helping them avoid getting caught up in a collision.

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