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What makes a truck “jackknife”?

On Behalf of | Feb 6, 2024 | Truck Accidents

When driving down the highway, it’s hard to miss any big rigs, the semi-trucks and 18-wheelers that tower over everyone on the highway. They comprise two main parts: the cab, where the driver sits, and the trailer, which contains goods. It doesn’t happen often, but these massive trucks can sometimes fold in on themselves like a Swiss Army knife. This is known as a jackknife accident and can pose a significant danger to everyone sharing the road.

Causes of jackknife truck accidents

Commercial vehicles can stretch up to 28 feet and weigh up to a whopping 80,000 pounds. The weight and speed of these giants can affect the time it takes to come to a complete stop. Generally, the heavier and faster they are, the more time and distance they need.

Several factors can cause a truck to jackknife, but it often boils down to losing traction and control. Here are just some of the ways a truck can lose its grip on the road:

  • Slippery road surface: Tires can lose their grip on icy, wet or snow-covered roads, causing the vehicle to slide across the pavement.
  • Improper loading: Improper weight distribution could affect the truck’s maneuverability, brake times or acceleration and throw the driver off.
  • Driver error: A sudden hard brake may cause the front tires to lock up while the rear tires continue moving. The momentum could cause the trailer to push the cab forward or swing to the side.
  • Mechanical error: Lack of maintenance could result in equipment malfunctions, such as the brakes losing control.
  • Heavy traffic: Too many vehicles on the road can shorten the distance available for trucks to brake safely.

When these factors are present, the cab and trailer may stop moving together as they should. Instead, the trailer swings in different directions, creating a dangerous and horrifying situation.

How a jackknife accident affects other drivers

In most cases, jackknife accidents result in roadblocks and heavy traffic. But because of their enormous size, massive trucks can sweep multiple lanes when they jackknife, potentially causing a multi-vehicle collision. In a desperate attempt to avoid a crash, other drivers may make split-second decisions, such as a sudden brake or sharp swerve, resulting in additional accidents.

What to do if you are injured during a jackknifing truck accident

If you’ve been involved in a jackknife accident, prioritize your health and safety. Seek medical attention, even if you don’t believe you are hurt. Once you’re settled, consider speaking to an attorney to recover compensation. They can guide you through the legal process and help protect your rights.

From devastating injuries and fatalities to extensive vehicle damage, jackknife truck accidents bear serious consequences for everyone involved. When behind the wheel, stay alert and keep a safe distance from other drivers. Exercising extra caution, especially around large trucks, can help you protect yourself.