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What Causes 18-Wheelers to Jackknife?

18 wheelers jackknife

Jackknifing is a highly dangerous type of tractor-trailer accident. In this blog, we describe what causes 18-wheelers to jackknife.

Jackknifing refers to the scenario in which a tractor-trailer skids or swerves on the highway. The trailer swings out to the side of the cab forming a “V” or an “L” shape. While the cab moves forward the trailer swings out into the road like a pocketknife. It can be a deadly situation for any other motorists nearby. Often two or three other vehicles are caught up in these wrecks.

When a big rig jackknifes at any speed it’s likely to roll over and the driver may face serious injury.

Often road are closed for hours after 18-wheelers jackknife while the police investigate the scene.

A number of scenarios cause 18-wheelers to jackknife. They include:

Driver Mistakes

Driver errors are the most significant cause of trucking accidents. When truckers drive recklessly or carelessly, the consequences can be tragic for other drivers and passengers.

Drivers should not speed or be distracted. It’s a federal offense for drivers to use a hand-held cellphone for any purpose at the wheel. Drivers should maintain a safe lookout and fail to yield the right-of-way. Truckers should never tailgate. They should keep a safe distance between their rig and other vehicles.

Sudden braking can result in jackknifing if the drive wheels lock while the front wheels and the trailer keep rolling forward.

Mechanical Problems on a Truck

Jackknifing can be caused by mechanical problems on a truck such as faulty engine parts, brake issues, and transmission problems. Under Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) rules a trucking company must systematically inspect, repair, and maintain its vehicles.

The carrier has some leeway to determine the correct intervals for inspection, maintenance, and repair of its fleet vehicles. Failure to inspect and maintain can give rise to liability.

Bad Weather

Jackknifing is far more likely to occur in bad weather. Slick conditions may be caused by rain, snow, or ice. When a driver suddenly hits the brakes in these weather conditions, a truck may skid and jackknife. Drivers must reduce speed and exercise caution in poor weather or pull over and wait until the extreme weather has passed. If you are injured by a big rig in bad weather, you may have grounds to sue a trucker and a trucking company.

What Can Truckers Do to Avoid Jackknifing?

  1. Keep a safe distance from other vehicles, particularly in wet or slippery conditions;
  2. Avoid braking suddenly;
  3. If the 18-wheeler goes into a skid, release the brakes and steer into the skid before the rig jackknifes;
  4. Avoid braking and swerving at the same time;
  5. Moderate your speed and respect speed limits;
  6. Avoid sudden lane changes.

Trucks jackknife all too often on the highways of Hampton Roads. In Aug. 2018, the I-64 was blocked at Lee Hall in Newport News when a truck jackknifed and sustained front-end damage. No injuries were reported but the crash caused tailbacks on the interstate.

If you or a loved one has been hurt in a trucking accident, please call our Newport News trucking accident lawyers at (757) 333-3333 for a free consultation.

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