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How Truck Drivers Can Avoid Jackknifing

If you think jackknifing can’t happen to you, think again. Jackknifing can happen to anyone even in the best condition of the vehicle because of the objective factors. So a well preparation can help you to minimize the chance to face the jackknifing. But first, do you really know what is jackknifing?

What Is Jackknifing?

Jackknifing refers to the folding of an articulated vehicle so that it resembles the acute angle of a folding pocket knife. If a vehicle towing a trailer skids, the trailer can push the towing vehicle from behind until it spins the vehicle around and faces backwards. This may be caused by equipment failure, improper braking, or adverse road conditions such as an icy road surface. 

jackknifing
Jackknifing refers to the folding of an articulated vehicle so that it resembles the acute angle of a folding pocket knife.

Imagine you are driving in the street, a huge 18-wheeler driving in front of you begins to lose control. In just a split second, the truck skids and the trailer swings out to one side. The out-of-control truck now resembles a giant pocket knife folding in on itself. So the jackknife truck blocks all the lanes of the street and you can’t stop your car fast enough, the accident will happen. So if you ask “what does jackknife mean”, the answer is its name.

How To Avoid Jackknifing?

According to professionals, there are some tips that will help you to avoid jackknifing. Read carefully and keep in mind that a good preparation and attention will save you, your car and other people.

1. Check The Mirror Regularly

It is the first tip that will help you to avoid jackknifing. When you see the mirror frequently, you will notice if your trailer starts to swing slightly, you still can avoid jackknifing by releasing the brakes. In this case, increasing your speed slightly may also help you to gain control again.

what is jackknifing
When you see the mirror frequently, you will notice if your trailer starts to swing slightly

2. Keep The Trailer Full As Much As Possible

Many reports say that the lighter the trailer is, the less it holds to the road, meaning less traction. It is also easier for the driver to over brake when there is no load in the trailer, and over braking can lead to jackknife accidents. The truck should be slowed before taking a turn or curve, rather than during as might be done with a smaller vehicle. So remember to leave less room for tractor swing. 

jackknife truck
Many reports say that the lighter the trailer is, the less it holds to the road, meaning less traction

3. Keeping A Safe Distance With Other Vehicle

Not only in the inclement weather but also in the normal day, it is recommended to keep a distance between the truck and other vehicles. So you will be able to stop your car when something bad happens in front of you. By staying at distance with other vehicles, you also have more time to interact when any car is in trouble. Truck drivers may have to brake, then let off the brake to steer, then brake again. Jackknifing can be a hazard for commercial truckers or for others who are pulling a trailer behind a truck. It can block the roadway and cause serious accidents.

what does jackknife mean
You will be able to stop your car when something bad happens in front of you

4. Maintain Slower Reasonable Speed

Do not drive too fast in every situation, especially in the icy days, rainy days… One of the reasons for the jackknifing is the bad condition of the road such as the icy, wet, snowing roads. So driving at slower speeds will help to prevent emergency braking and other accidents. You should also avoid having to brake or even decelerate on a curve.

5. Modern Anti-Lock Braking System

This is an invention of technology which helps to prevent jackknifing. An anti lock braking system automatically adjusts braking force to prevent wheel lockup. You can bring your car to a mechanic to ask for the assembination of this anti-lock brake system. But do not forget to drive carefully even if you successfully install it.

jackknifing
An anti lock braking system automatically adjusts braking force to prevent wheel lockup

Why Does Jackknifing Happen?

There are several reasons behind jackknifing that you should keep in mind to think about when you drive. They are:

1. Sharp Curves And Evasive Maneuvers

The slight curve will not affect a lot to the experienced truck driver, but the sharper one does. When driving in the street that has sharp curves, combined with the high speed, evasive maneuvers, it can lead to the result of losing control. 

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2. Improper Brake Adjustment and Maintenance

As recommended, any vehicle, like a human, needs to be maintained regularly. Without maintenance or fixed in time, the trailer axles can lock before the tractor axles during heavy braking. In this situation, the semi drags the trailer and its locked brakes, and the trailer swings out to the side as a result.

3. High Speeds

When a truck drives on the street, usually the speed is really high to ensure the work progress. Accidentally, it becomes the culprit cause jackknifing. Especially, if the truck is running 55 miles per hour, the driver likely slam the brakes if they need to stop quickly. Slamming on the brakes often leads to the braking imbalance described above, therefore the chance to meet jackknifing is higher.

what is jackknifing
High speed becomes the culprit cause jackknifing

4. The Condition Of The Road

There are some types of road surfaces that if you drive your truck through, it is easier to jackknife than usual. 

Slippery surfaces

 It takes longer for the truck to stop when driving on the slippery surface roads. You must drive slower to be able to stop in the same distance as on a dry road.

Wet, snow packed icy roads

The jackknifing will happen more often if you drive your car through the wet, snow packed and icy road. For the bridge, when the temperature drops, bridges will freeze before the road will. So pay much more attention when you run your car through bridges in the winter days. 

jackknife truck
The jackknifing will happen more often if you drive your car through the wet, snow packed and icy road.

Black icy road

Sometimes, in the street you may see the black ice. It is a thin layer that is clear enough so you can see the road underneath it. That’s the reason why many people cannot see and drive with high speed. Also people may misunderstand that it is a wet road, not black icy road since people sit on the car and they can’t see clearly. Any time the temperature is below freezing, and the road looks wet, watch out for black ice.

Melting Icy Road

When the temperature and wetness increases, the icy streets start melting causing ice to become wet. Since the wet ice is much more slippery than ice that is not wet. Please be careful!

Wrap Up

As you know, jackknifing is really dangerous, it can cause many serious consequences to people and facilities. Therefore, read our advice on how to avoid jackknifing and carefully drive on the street. There are also many driving tips for you in our blog, do not forget to follow us and comment your opinion below.