Of all the dangerous situations you can encounter while driving, a jackknifing truck perhaps represents one of the most potentially devastating. Why? Because once a truck begins jackknifing, its driver has no control over it whatsoever. Regardless of his or her over-the-road driving experience, (s)he cannot control what the truck will do or where it will end up once the inevitable crash occurs.
Per Evans Transportation, trucks can jackknife for a variety of reasons, chief among them being slippery roads caused by the accumulation of rain water, ice or snow. Other common reasons include the truck going down a steep grade or going around a curve or turn.
How a truck jackknifes
If you think about your pocket knife and the way in which it works, you can more easily visualize what happens when a truck jackknifes. When you begin to close your open pocket knife, the angle between its blade and the slot in its handle into which the blade will ultimately go becomes smaller and smaller. The same thing happens with a jackknifing truck. Unlike your pocket knife, however, the truck’s cab has no “slot” into which the trailer can go. Instead, the trailer can do nothing other than crash into the cab, often seriously injuring the driver in the process.
In addition, as the trailer begins to slide to one side or the other of the cab, its weight, plus the momentum of the slide, shifts the weight of the entire truck. As the driver instinctively seeks to minimize the jackknife through steering, almost anything can happen. Many jackknifed trucks wind up overturning on the road, along the shoulder, in the median or across several lanes of traffic.
Any of these scenarios poses a serious threat to you and your passengers if you are unfortunate enough to be following behind a truck that begins to jackknife. Even if you have several vehicles between you and the truck, everything happens so fast in a jackknife that none of you likely will be able to stop or otherwise avoid the imminent wreck.