What are the Common Causes of a Jackknife Accident?


cars backed up on highway and truck overturned from jackknife accident

A trucking accident is a scary experience for anyone who is on the road. One of the most common is a jackknife accident. When a vehicle “jackknifes”, a tractor on a large truck will push  the front of the towing vehicle to one side, or completely around so it faces backward. This formation creates a “V” or “J” shape that resembles a pocket knife, also known as a jackknife. 

Jackknife trucking accidents may occur at any time of the year, but they often occur during inclement weather, braking issues and more. As tried-and-true truck accident attorneys in Missouri and Illinois, we want all drivers to be aware of the causes of a jackknife accident and know we are on your side if you have been an accident victim on the road. 

The Top Causes of Jackknife Trucking Accidents

All trucking accidents are different from the next, but they all involve one moment where a driver loses control of their vehicle or is hit by another vehicle. Jackknife accidents often occur when a truck and/or its connected trailer lose traction while driving. This traction requires static friction, which is force that hinders the movement of an object that is in motion, to keep the ground and tires connected. 

When tires lose that traction, this means they will begin to slide and a driver will lose control of the vehicle. So, what leads to this loss of traction while driving? Here are five common causes: 

1. Braking Too Quickly. 

Big trucks need adequate time to slow down since they are carrying more weight than a standard passenger vehicle. Pounding on the brakes in a truck does not have the same rapid slowing effect, and it typically will lead to a loss of control. 

When a truck driver slams on his or her brakes, they have a higher chance of locking up as the vehicle is still moving. Since a truck has upwards of 18 tires attached to it, the front tires could be locked while the rest are still on the move, causing an even more devastating jackknife accident. 

2. Slippery Roads.

When roads are wet with rain or slick with ice, a truck will have a higher chance of hydroplaning, or gliding over the surface of a road. Additionally, brakes may become ineffective in a quick braking situation since there is not enough traction beneath the tires. This, coupled with the unpredictability of weather, increases the chance of a serious jackknife accident with another vehicle. We encourage all drivers to keep an eye on weather conditions to make sure they have adequate time to stop in emergency situations. 

3. Speeding.

Driving a truck at high speeds requires a high amount of force and time to slow it down. If you do not have adequate time to slow, the risk of causing a jackknife trucking accident is much higher. No matter your trucking deadlines or hours of operation, all drivers should follow the rules of the road in order to keep themselves and others safe. 

4. Quick Turns. 

Another potential cause of a jackknife accident is turning a truck too quickly. Any vehicle has the capability of swinging out and striking another vehicle if you are too quick at turning the wheel. However, a truck can make it more devastating since the trailer can whip around like a tail as the front half of the truck turns in the other direction.  

5. Weight Distribution in the Trailer. 

Monitoring a trailer’s weight and cargo distribution is extremely important in order to prevent a jackknife accident. Trailers with more weight create more friction with the road while lighter trailers are more likely to move forward since there is not as much holding them down. 

Drivers and cargo loaders must be diligent in making sure all materials are properly stored, secured and organized. If not, they may be negligent in a trucking accident case. 

Additional causes of a jackknife trucking accident may be attributed to inadequate truck maintenance, inexperienced drivers, fatigued driving, equipment failure and driving while intoxicated. If any of these factors led to a tractor trailer hitting you in a jackknife collision, we advise you to speak with a licensed truck accident attorney as soon as possible.  

Filing a Claim After a Jackknife Accident

A trucking accident will leave you wondering where to turn, especially if serious injuries have taken a toll on your daily life. As truck accident attorneys, we understand how to handle the intricacies of jackknife trucking accidents and will help you on the path to rightful compensation. 

Contact us as soon as you are able to after your accident so we can start working on getting you back on your feet.