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Understanding Why Big Rigs Skid

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Few visions on the highway inspire more terror than a tractor-trailer skidding out of control and demolishing everything in its path, especially helpless, innocent drivers.

What causes these nightmarish epic fails that leave devastating injuries and even death in their wake? The answer is sobering—it’s careless driving.

Sadly, the leading causes of trucking accidents are no different than “ordinary” car crashes. It’s just with professional drivers, we don’t expect it. And with 80,000 pounds of power to pack into impact, we can’t afford it either.

According to the 2018 South Carolina Commercial Driver’s License Manual, semi-truck skids result from one of four trucker mistakes:

  • Over-braking. Braking too hard locks up the wheels.
  • Over-steering. The trucker turns the wheels too sharply.
  • Over-acceleration. This supplies too much power to the drive wheels, causing them to spin.
  • The main culprit: speeding. The worst skids result from driving too fast for conditions. Driving at the right speed prevents the other mistakes. Truckers who drive at a safe speed don’t over-accelerate, don’t over-steer, and don’t need to over-brake.

What Happens in an 18-Wheeler Skid?

There are two types of skids: drive wheel and front wheel.

  • Drive wheel. The manual reports these are most common by far.  Rear wheels lose their grip from over-braking or over-acceleration. The rear drive wheels lock and then slide dangerously sideways to “catch up” with the front wheels. This can cause a lethal jackknife. To stop it, the manual instructs truckers to stop braking so the rear wheels can roll again and stop sliding. As the 18-wheeler gets back on course, the trucker counter-steers, turning the steering wheel quickly the other way to prevent a skid in the other direction.
  • Front wheel. Speeding causes most of these, but it can also be caused by bare front tires or improperly loaded cargo. That's why truckers and trucking companies are required by federal law to inspect truck equipment before driving it. In these skids, the truck takes on a Terminator-esque mind of its own, flying forward no matter how the trucker turns the steering wheel. Worse, the only way to stop it is to let the vehicle slow down without turning or braking too hard.

Don’t Get Run Over—Again

Involvement in a large truck accident often causes serious, lifelong injuries, and trucking insurance companies are notorious for taking a hard-line stance against paying victims a proper settlement. To give yourself the best shot at peace of mind knowing you’re protected, hire an experienced trucking attorney to make your voice heard.

The sooner you get your questions answered, the better you’ll feel. Use our Get Help Now form to get a solid response from an experienced truck accident lawyer.

 

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