A truck accident caused by jackknifing is often catastrophic and can involve many other vehicles. In most driving situations, they’re avoidable provided the truck driver is skilled, understands their causes, and actively avoids them.
Here are four of their causes:
Light Trailer Loads
Hauling a lightly loaded trailer doesn’t by itself cause jackknifing, but it makes the tractor-trailer combination more susceptible to the problem. Tire traction with the road requires weight pressing down on the wheel. The more weight in the trailer, the greater the tire traction. The tires of lightly loaded or empty trailers therefore exert less traction and are more likely to jackknife. Because pulling an empty trailer is unavoidable after delivering a load, the driver must always take this into account and should compensate accordingly.
Turning and Braking at the Same Time
When braking, it’s always best to keep the tractor and trailer perfectly lined up in a straight line. If they aren’t, the trailer, which is pressing against the tractor, can start to swing forward and possibly cause the tractor to skid as well. Because the tractor and trailer aren’t lined up during a turn, you should always brake first before turning. This includes when you’re swerving to avoid an accident. Failing to do this in an emergency will only ensure that an accident happens anyway when your tractor-trailer jackknifes.
Placing Most of the Weight in the Rear of the Trailer
This makes the trailer more prone to jackknifing when the tractor and trailer aren’t aligned during braking. It gives the trailer load more leverage for inducing a jackknife. Keep the load evenly distributed inside the trailer.
Excessive Speed in Slippery Conditions and Insufficient Following Distance
Slippery conditions include wet pavement as well as ice or snow. Always allow plenty of following space even in dry conditions, because jackknifing is still possible if your braking and swerving are sufficiently violent.
In slippery conditions, extra following distance is essential because avoiding tire slippage requires very light braking, which means you need more distance for slowing down. Always stay focused on the traffic situation as well so that you can start braking as early as possible. Don’t forget to slow down.
For legal advice after a truck accident, don’t hesitate to contact us at Hogan Injury.