What Causes Trucks to Jackknife? - The S.E. Farris Law Firm
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What Causes Trucks to Jackknife?

Have you ever been watching the traffic report on the news and heard the term “jackknife?” Jackknifing is a type of vehicle accident that occurs when a car or truck that is towing a trailer folds creating a V shape, often with one end in the wrong lane. These accidents are incredibly dangerous. According to data from the NHTSA, fatalities from truck crashes in 2017 reached the highest they had been in 29 years.

Jackknifing is generally caused by a lack of traction between the trailer tires and the road. Tractor-trailers have independent brakes that rely on air systems but even these brakes can be overwhelmed at high speeds, given the amount of weight involved. For passenger vehicles that are not set up to tow, the trailers often lack brakes- abrupt braking in the tow vehicle doesn’t slow the trailer safely forcing the trailer to jackknife. This happened to me recently when pulling a trailer slowly in the snow, and it was terrifying! Luckily no one was hurt.

Tires use static friction to function—in other words, they need to grip the road. Poor road conditions, bald tires, or abrupt braking can disrupt the grip your tires have on the road and lead to loss of control, and potentially an accident. Trailer tires with insufficient tread don’t need grip to be pulled down the road but often lack the friction needed to stop.

What precautions can be taken? Take a look at these safety tips.

  • Don’t Speed

Speeding is generally what causes drivers to have to brake hard, or make sharp, sudden turns. When towing cargo, keep your speed to a maximum of 56 mph.

  • Weight Distribution

When loading a trailer, ensure that the load is evenly distributed. This will help minimize the risk of jackknifing when making safe turns.

  • Easy on the Brakes

Remember to begin braking earlier than normal and do so gradually. Avoid braking on curves.

To correct a minor jackknife (the vehicle and trailer at less than a 15-degree angle), avoid slamming on the brakes. Instead, let off the brakes and allow the wheels to coast freely. If this doesn’t fix the jackknife, a slight and gradual increase in speed may help straighten the trailer.

 If you’ve been hurt in a jackknifing accident, especially a tractor-trailer accident, call us so we can help you get the compensation you deserve. Time is not on your side, and you need a truck accident lawyer with specialized knowledge of truck-involved accidents.