“Jackknifing” is a trucking-industry-specific term for the folding of an articulated vehicle, meaning one that is towing a trailer. The term comes from the fact that a vehicle that reaches this configuration resembles the angle of a folding pocket knife. When a tractor-trailer skids, the trailer can push from behind until it spins around and faces backward.
This type of truck accident may be caused by equipment failure, bad braking or adverse road or weather conditions. In extreme circumstances, truck drivers have been known to jackknife their vehicles on purpose in order to stop the truck following a brake failure.
If a jackknife accident happens with any significant speed, there is a high likelihood of a rollover accident. Generally, jackknifing usually occurs when a big rig’s drive wheels lock up during wet or slippery road conditions. While adverse road conditions can be a contributing factor to jackknife truck accidents, usually these types of collisions or wrecks are the result of negligence by a professional commercial truck driver.
When the trailer of a semi-truck skids to the side, this is known as trailer swing or trailer slew. Banked turns or cants can be particularly tricky for large commercial vehicles. This is not the same as jackknifing and often the trailer will move back into the correct position as the vehicle continues forward.
The truck driver must be aware that the trailer could collide with parked cars or a guard rail or the wheels of the truck could slide into a ditch. Empty or lightly loaded trucks are especially prone to this problem if there is any significant crosswind.
Several attempts have been made over the years to outfit big rigs with anti-jackknife devices. The earliest successful system was implemented in the 1960s when tractor-trailers were equipped with anti-lock brakes. Originally fitted on airplanes, anti-lock brakes have significantly reduced the number of heavy vehicle jackknife accidents.
Other attempts have included using electronic brake force distribution to vary the pressure to the rear brakes during heavy load transportation or hard braking, enhancing the truck driver’s control over his vehicle. A less successful attempt was made to prevent jackknife truck accidents by installing a lever in the cab to operate the trailer brakes.
However, frequent use of the trailer brakes caused them to overheat and fail while the tractor brakes remained fresh. In the event of an emergency stop, the truck driver would go straight for the foot brake and the truck would jackknife as the tractor brakes locked up and the trailer brakes failed.
How Truck Drivers Can Avoid Jackknifing
During training, truck drivers learn subtle and complex techniques to control their commercial vehicles, which is just one reason why training and on-the-job mentorship is so important in the trucking industry. Truck drivers can sometimes avoid jackknifing by:
- Keeping a safe distance from other vehicles on the road, especially in adverse weather conditions.
- Not decelerating during turns or traveling on bends. Truck drivers should brake in a straight line prior to the turn. Speed may be increased after the turn is completed.
- Spreading out braking over the longest distance possible.
- Not braking and swerving during evasive driving scenarios. If possible, the truck driver should brake first, then release the brakes, swerve, and immediately reapply the brakes.
- When the tractor-trailer is skidding, the driver should release the brakes and drive into the skid before the motion of the vehicle causes the truck to jackknife.
Contact a Chicago Truck Accident Lawyer Today
Truck accident cases involving jackknife truck accidents are complex and can prove confusing to their victims. Proving negligence in a crash that involves a jackknifed truck takes an investment of time, experience, and resources.
If you have been injured in an accident involving a jackknifed truck or any other incident involving an 18-wheeler, big rig or another large commercial vehicle, the lawyers of Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C., can pursue the compensation you need and deserve. Free consultation for your truck accident is available today when you call (312) 236-2900.