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An average 18-wheeler or semi-truck can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. Thus, when a truck jackknifes, the consequences can be very serious. What is a truck jackknife? The term denotes a situation where a truck’s trailer folds on its hinge, resulting in an acute angle with the cab of the truck. Very sudden and extreme braking and skidding are the most common situations when a truck jackknife takes place.


Some of the deadliest and serious trucking accidents occur because a large 18-wheeler or semi-truck has jackknifed. There are only a couple of ways a jackknife accident can occur. The main reason can be attributed to a traction problem. Traction concerns a wheel’s grasp on the surface of the road. When a road is slippery or when a truck does not brake properly, tires will skid along the road, which can lead to jackknife accidents.

Surprisingly, most of the time when a jackknife occurs, the trailer is empty. The heavier a truck is, the more it weighs down on the road, which in turn creates greater friction with the road and better traction with the road. Braking suddenly, or slamming on the brakes, can be leading causes for trucks to jackknife. While many people do not know this, the truth is that any truck that is towing a trailer can lead to jackknifing. Jackknifing is not reserved just for 18-wheelers or very large trucks. There have been preventive measures that have been implemented by engineers and technological advances that have aimed to help prevent jackknife accidents. In particular, anti-lock brakes on a trailer can counter the likelihood of jackknifing. Anti-lock brakes stop your wheels from locking up, which will halt the likelihood of jackknifing.

Common Reasons for truck jackknifing:

  • Curvy roads
  • Snowy and icy roads
  • Crashes Improperly weighted trucks
  • Driver error
  • Sleepy driver
  • Distracted driver

Among the most common reasons is when a truck’s braking system has not been checked and maintenance has not been done on the truck’s brakes and tires. In addition, there have also been many accidents that are caused by truck drivers who are simply not equipped to drive a rig that is not fully loaded.

A rig that is not weighted with freight is the most likely to be the reason for a jackknifing truck because of the physics involved.

What is important to understand is that a claim should be made against the trucking company and not just the driver. The reason for this is that the trucking company has a duty to make sure their truck is safe and the driver is properly trained to drive the truck. In many cases, through the legal process it can be shown that the trucking company failed in this, thus making them liable for your injuries.