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Arnold & Itkin LLP Truck Accident Blog2019JulyHow to Prevent Jackknife Accidents

How to Prevent Jackknife Accidents

Jackknifing is one of the most notable types of truck accidents because of their potential to cause significant damage. A jackknife accident occurs when the cab of a truck becomes parallel with its trailer, typically as a result of a trailer losing control or traveling faster than its can. These accidents are dangerous because they can span multiple lanes of a highway and involve many vehicles. Fortunately, these accidents are entirely preventable with the right amount of caution. When truck drivers follow these tips, they could prevent a destructive and deadly crash.

Always Watch for Trailer Swing or Sway

One of the easiest ways to prevent jackknifing is by carefully watching your trailer as you move. When a trailer swings too much, it could lose control and cause a jackknifing accident. Also, watch for swaying if you need to brake hard or suddenly. One way to prevent a swaying trailer from jackknifing while braking is by increasing your speed if swaying starts to occur. However, you must be responsive to your situation. If you feel that your trailer is swaying because of speed, the solution in this instance is to slow your speed. 

Watch Your Load

Trucks hauling light loads are particularly vulnerable to jackknifing. This is because a light load might cause a trailer to obtain the traction it needs for stability. Additionally, trucks are designed for heavy loads, so they may not behave as expected with a lighter one. If a truck’s brakes are too aggressive for a light load, the trailer could jackknife.

Brake Slowly

Instead of braking quickly, truck drivers should brake over as much distance as possible. This helps prevent skidding and ensure that a truck has plenty of time to stop without the heavy application of brakes. Braking over distance is especially important while traveling downhill or in wet or slippery conditions because it helps maintain traction on the road.

Brake in Straight Lines

A trailer had the potential to skid past the cab if brakes are applied too aggressively while going around a corner or bend in the road. To slow for a curve, apply your truck’s brakes while traveling straight. Then, let off the brakes and take the curve at a safe speed. Braking correctly will allow you to slow down before a curve and pick up the speed you need as you leave it. Additionally, be extremely cautious on curvey downhill roads. In some instances, a truck might need to slow down significantly or even stop before reaching a downhill curve.

Jackknifing on Slippery Roads

Be cautious about using an engine brake or retarder while driving on a wet, snowy, or iced-over surface. Using an engine brake over a slippery surface could cause a truck’s drive axle to lock up. When a road is slippery, try to brake gently before using the engine brake. This practice helps slow down all wheels instead of only the ones on a drive axle, preventing skids that cause jackknifes.

Maintenance Prevents Jackknifing

Jackknifing can occur because of pour vehicle maintenance. Making sure that brakes are regularly replaced, tires are not worn, and suspension is functioning will help ensure that a trailer remains safe to use. Additionally, modern trucks have anti-lock braking systems design to prevent skidding and reduce the risk of jackknifing.

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