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What causes trucks to jackknife?

On Behalf of | Sep 22, 2021 | Motor Vehicle Accidents |

If you have ever been driving around a large truck and noticed that it is weaving oddly within its lane, you might have backed off worrying about the trailer swinging into your lane. That’s completely possible, and it can happen if the truck jackknifes.

Trucks don’t jackknife often, but when they do it is often a result of driver or mechanical error as well as external forces. Semi-jackknife accidents tend to happen due to two reasons:

  1. The cabin loses traction, and the trailer retains it. This means that the rear trailer can push forward quickly and force the cab into a fold
  2. The trailer loses traction and swings to the side and into the cab

Some of the most common reasons for losing traction include skilling or braking suddenly, which makes it more likely for one or more tires to lose touch with the ground.

Other factors that contribute to a jackknife accident include:

  • Poor weather conditions
  • Improper braking
  • The weight of the vehicle (lighter vehicles tend to jackknife more)
  • Truck speed (traveling too quickly and making sudden maneuvers increases the risk of a jackknife)
  • Steering errors, such as turning too abruptly

A well-trained driver may be able to steer out of a jackknife, but not always.

Are jackknife accidents preventable?

Yes, these jackknife accidents are preventable. Drivers can slow down, make sure to have heavier loads when possible and be sure to maintain their vehicles (and particularly their tires). Since external factors like rain and wind may play a role in some jackknife accidents, drivers should be trained to travel in those conditions and be aware of when it’s appropriate to pull over or wait out a storm.

Slick roads and improper braking are among the most common factors in a crash, so drivers should slow down and give themselves plenty of space to brake in less-than-ideal conditions.

If you’re hit, know your rights

Drivers who get caught in the swing of the trailer and end up in a jackknife collision could have severe injuries or be killed. If you’re injured, remember that you can take steps to hold the driver accountable for causing a collision.