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What does it mean when a semi-trailer “jackknifes,” and what causes it?

Few things inject more fear in the heart of drivers than a tractor-trailer spiraling out of control in a jackknife, sweeping a path of destruction on the highway. In a jackknife accident, the two parts of a tractor-trailer fold up together at a sharp angle resembling a jackknife with a blade emerging. Typically, these crashes sweep across multiple lanes of traffic, putting all nearby vehicles at risk.

The 2015 South Carolina Commercial Driver License Manual makes the key distinction between two types of jackknife: a tractor jackknife and a trailer jackknife. In both cases, the root cause is the same: braking too hard causes wheels to lose their grip on the road. Depending on what part of the vehicle loses its traction, however, what happens next can be very different:

  • Tractor jackknife. This involves the wheels on the truck, not the trailer. The back wheels lock, then slide sideways ,trying to “catch up” with the front ones. This causes the trailer to push the truck sideways, resulting in the jackknife.
  • Trailer jackknife. The trailer wheels lock, causing it to swing around. Surprisingly, this is more likely when the trailer is empty or lightly loaded.

Prevention And Consequences

Tuckers can prevent deadly jackknifes by observing a few simple rules to keep from needing to slam on brakes:

  • Look out for other drivers.
  • Don’t speed.
  • Don’t slam on brakes.
  • Don’t rev the engine.

When a tractor trailer jackknifes, the consequences for innocent motorists can be life-changing injuries…or just plain deadly. If you’re the victim of one of these crashes, check out our site for more information on 18-wheeler accidents. Order our FREE REPORT about accident cases to learn more. You can always start a live chat right from where you sit or call us to arrange a free meeting to discuss how we can help you get properly compensated for the toll the jackknife took on your life.

 

Rob Usry
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Rob is a South Carolina personal injury and criminal defense lawyer.

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