What Jackknifing Is and How to Prevent It

Due to the large size of semi-trucks, accidents involving these vehicles are typically more severe than those involving only passenger vehicles. Many of the most serious semi-truck accidents involve jackknifing. This can also be called “a jackknife” and it is important for professional drivers to understand what this is and why it occurs so they can take steps to prevent it.

What is Jackknifing?

Jackknifing is when the trailer portion of a semi-truck folds in toward the tractor portion. This creates an acute angle, and it gets its name from the fact that it looks similar to a folded pocket knife. A jackknife starts with the trailer skidding and then the force of the skid pulls the truck into an acute angle if no action is taken.

This is different from trailer swing, which is when the trailer of the vehicle moves to one side, often while on a slippery surface. Trailer swing is less serious and can be corrected, although it is still important to be mindful of it so the trailer does not collide with anything.

Why is Jackknifing Dangerous?

When a semi-truck jackknifes, it often turns horizontally. This can result in it blocking several lanes of traffic, and nearby vehicles may be unable to stop before colliding with the trailer. This results in a chain reaction and can impact a significant number of vehicles.

Why Do Semi-Trucks Jackknife?

Understanding the circumstances that can lead to a jackknife helps you take the steps to prevent these issues.

Here are some of the reasons a semi-truck can jackknife:

  • Speeding: A semi-truck takes significantly longer than a passenger vehicle to come to a stop safely. Speeding increases this distance and if a driver is going too fast and needs to stop suddenly, this can result in the trailer skidding.
  • Unbalanced Cargo: It’s important to ensure your load is balanced correctly before you start driving. Unbalanced cargo can cause the trailer to tip or tilt. Light loads also increase the risk of a jackknife since there is less traction between the trailer and the road in these cases.
  • Poor Weather: Rain makes the road slippery, and this increases the possibility of jackknifing if a driver tries to stop too suddenly.

What to Do If Your Trailer Starts to Skid

Preventing skidding is the best way to prevent jackknifing, and you can do this by driving at a reasonable speed and making sure you do not brake or turn suddenly. If your trailer does start to skid, it is still possible to prevent a more serious issue, but it’s important to act quickly. Take your foot off the gas, avoid braking until the skid stops, and turn your wheel in the direction you want to go.

Learn How to Be a Safe Trucker

At Phoenix Truck Driving School, we can help you earn your commercial driver’s license (CDL) and cover a variety of topics that help you become a safe and successful truck driver.

To learn more about our CDL training in Albuquerque, contact us today.

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