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The truth about trucks and jackknifing

Posted On March 24, 2015

According to Illinois crash data, there were 142 traffic fatalities involving large trucks in 2013. This number has risen steeply since 2009. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that jackknifing is involved in 10 percent of all fatal truck crashes.

A truck jackknifes when the trailer turns on its hinge so that it is at an acute angle with the tractor. This occurs when a truck operator loses control of the angle between the two sections of the truck, and the tractor skids sideways or the trailer swings out of line with it. A Chicago truck accident attorney knows that there is a lot of special training that truck drivers must undergo to reduce the risk of jackknifing.

Sudden movements

According to the commercial driver’s license training materials provided by Trucking Truth, quick movements with the steering wheel such as sudden lane changes greatly increase the risk of jackknifing. A driver who swerves to avoid an accident can easily lose control of the vehicle. The rapid steering of the tractor is amplified for the trailer. There are a number of factors that affect the issue, including the following:

  • Center of gravity
  • Axle group weights
  • Wheelbase dimensions
  • Coupling types and locations
  • Suspension

A truck with five axles and a trailer of 45 feet in length is at the lowest risk of jackknifing, while a triple with 27-foot trailers has a 3.5 times greater risk in the same situation. To lower the danger of a sudden steering move, a Chicago truck accident attorney typically knows that it is essential for truck operators to create enough distance between the truck and the next vehicle.


When braking, the amount of distance needed is different for a loaded or empty trailer, or for a tractor that is not pulling one. An empty trailer has less traction, so braking suddenly can cause it to swing out and collide with other vehicles. A tractor without a trailer also requires longer to stop because of the lower gross weight. There should be at least one second for every 10 feet of the overall truck length. Drivers should add another second if the trucks are traveling faster than 40 miles per hour.

Traffic crashes involving large trucks have a much higher potential for fatalities due to their relative size and weight. Anyone who is injured or loses a family member because of a commercial vehicle accident may be entitled to compensation. A Chicago truck accident attorney may be able to provide legal representation to ensure that responsible parties are held liable.

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