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What can cause a truck to jackknife?

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Californian truck drivers have big vehicles to work with, and the size and weight of these vehicles can work against them on the road. As a driver who has to share space with them, you may want to be aware of the tell signs that danger could be ahead, so you can act in advance and potentially keep yourself safe.

Jackknifing is an issue unique to trailer trucks or other vehicles that are towing something heavy behind them. It is caused when the trailer portion keeps moving even when the driver's cab is stationary. Generally speaking, the truck will form an L-shape when a jackknife occurs, and the trailer swinging outward can pose a threat to any other cars on the road either in the initial slide or afterward, when other vehicles may crash into it.

How Stuff Works shows the causes of jackknifing through their tips on how to avoid it. Potential causes include:

  • Braking during a turn
  • Speeding
  • Not having adequate or maintained anti-lock brakes
  • Loading the trailer up too much
  • Hard or sudden braking
  • Poor traction

The latter can primarily be seen in snowy or rainy conditions, where the road is either iced over or covered in water. This lowers traction, making it easier for a truck's tires to slip and slide, which is the action that leads directly into a jackknife.

If you see a truck going too fast for its size, or for the conditions of the road, you may wish to give it a wide berth. They could be heading right into a jackknife.

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