Skip to Content

What Causes a Semi-Truck to Jackknife?

What Causes a Semi-Truck to Jackknife?

Semi-trucks are liable to many accidents due to their heavy weight and other unfavorable conditions. Jackknifing is an unwanted event that can cause irreparable loss of lives and vehicles.

What Causes a Semi-Truck to Jackknife? Improper braking, poor road conditions, bad weather, overloaded trailers, inexperienced drivers, and other accidents on the road can cause the semi-truck to jackknife. Proper maintenance of trucks, driving at a slow speed, and keeping the trailer load within the limit can prevent this from occurring.

A jackknife truck can block a highway, and other vehicles can collide with it. The trucking company and the driver can get into big trouble due to this event.

What is jackknifing?

A semi-truck consists of two basic parts tractor and trailer. Both these parts are connected through joints. Jackknifing is an emergency in which the semi-trailer and tractor skids.

The trailer slides towards the cab and stand perpendicular to the tractor at an angle of 45 degrees. The trailer and tractor position is similar to the open jackknife.

Therefore this situation is called jackknifing. This situation happens abruptly and causes the death of many people. Many truckers have suffered from injuries and immobility issues due to this accident. It has two types:

Tractor jackknife

In this situation, the tires of the tractor become locked, and the trailer keeps pushing it. It causes the tractor to move sideways.

Trailer jackknife

In this situation, the trailer tires are locked while the tractor keeps moving. The trailer of the semi slides sideways.

What causes a semi-truck to jackknife?

A semi-trailer jackknifes due to many reasons. Here is a brief description of all of them.

Improper braking techniques

The semi-trucks have an air braking system that needs proper training and technique for operation. Any fault in the brakes will cause the vehicle to lose balance.

Driving at high speed also has an impact on the braking system of the vehicle. Applying brakes suddenly to stop the vehicle causes the truck to lose traction.

It also shortens the safe distance from the other automobiles on the road. The trailer or the cab slides due to imbalance.

Applying the brake while taking turns can also cause the semi to jackknife. This condition can also happen if the driver does not apply brakes on time.

Poor road conditions

Road conditions can also contribute to the occurrence of these events. Presence of any pothole or other hazard cause the driver to take sharp turns on the roads.

Uneven or inclined roads can cause it to happen. The vehicles lose their balance, and the weight distribution of the truck is disturbed.

It causes the heavy trailer to slide on the road. The tires are unable to hold a grip on the road surface. Confusing signage and lane shifts are common problems in construction areas.

These issues also cause the driver to make a sudden or wrong turn on the road that, leads to this problem.

Bad weather

The weather is usually unpredictable in most areas of the USA. Bad weather conditions can also lead to jackknifing in the vehicles. Heavy rainfall can make the road wet and slippery.

The tires lose traction on the road and can not maintain balance on wet roads. These conditions cause the trailer tires to lock up and slide sideways on the road.

Icy roads during heavy snowfall can also cause the tractor or trailer to skid at an angle with each other.

Poor weather conditions also have an issue with the visibility of the drivers. The drivers cannot see clearly on the roads, which can cause this accident.

Overloaded trailer

Trailers are bulky parts of a semi-truck. It is usually packed with heavy loads for transportation. It requires a lot of force and power to drive it on the roads.

It also takes more time to come to a stop on the roads. If it is overloaded, it can easily lose balance due to unequal weight distribution. Load shifting within the trailer makes one part of the vehicle heavier than the other.

Applying brakes suddenly to stop it can cause the tractor to roll down because its stopping time is higher than the tractor. It forces us to push the tractor on the roads that, lead to jackknifing.

Inexperienced drivers

Heavy trucks like semi-trailers are big vehicles that are difficult to drive. Drivers have to excel in the field of driving before hitting the roads.

Beginners are not skilled enough to handle such big trucks on the road. Negligence or minor errors on the side of the drivers can cause significant accidents due to this issue.

Drunk drivers also lead to these hazardous events on the roads. Alcohol reduces the ability of these drivers to correctly judge when to apply brakes.

They can also miscalculate the safe distance from other automobiles on the roads, leading to this accident.

Inexperienced drivers can also get panic when such a situation happens. Anxiety and stress also lead to more irrational decisions that cause this issue.

Poor truck maintenance

The vehicle’s working condition can also be the reason for jackknifing apart from the road conditions and driver negligence.

All parts of the semi-truck should be in good working condition. They should also meet all the safety standards of this equipment as stated by Federal law.

Any fault in the braking system or steering of the vehicle causes the driver to lose control. It is challenging to handle faulty steering or wheels.

Minor faults in any of these systems cause the semi-trailer to fall out of line. The truck maintenance companies are also at fault for neglecting the care and maintenance of the vehicle.

Another accident on the road

Accidental collisions with an object or vehicle also cause this issue. Overspending is the main culprit behind collisions between two automobiles.

Other accidents on the road cause the driver to distract from the main line. Protecting the tractor from crashing with the vehicle causes him to lose control of the steering and wheels. Imbalanced trucks slide out of the lane, and a jackknife happens.

How to prevent jackknifing in a semi-truck?

It is a serious situation, and statistics report many deaths and injuries due to jackknife accidents every year. But following preventive measures can save drivers from this trouble. Here is a brief description of all these tips.

Proper maintenance of the vehicle before starting a long journey is the key to preventing all the troubles. Regularly service all the parts like brakes, steering, transmission, and other systems of the semi-truck. If a jackknife happens, try to keep the vehicle straight by using steering.

Steer gradually in the direction of the skid to overcome the issue. Take your feet off the pedal and decelerate slowly. When the vehicle is straight, apply brakes gradually to stop it.

Do not put extra weight on the trailer above the limitation to prevent this problem. Avoid overspending and braking at the turn to protect the vehicle. The drivers should also take breaks during driving to relax.

Proper training and upgrading the driving skills of the drivers can also prevent all these hazardous events.

Related Articles:

What is the function of a wet kit on semi-trucks?

Do Trucks Rust Faster Than Cars?