What Causes a Truck to Jackknife?

Categories: Truck Accidents

semi 2659736 1920

Every year, there are around 500,000 trucking accidents in the United States, with an average of 5,000 accidents resulting in death. Several factors contribute to the danger of trucking accidents, including a truck’s weight, size, and limited maneuverability.

Because of their size and length, trucks don’t have the same ability as cars to swerve and avoid obstacles. In these cases, the truck driver has no option but to make a sudden stop, causing the truck to jackknife, which is when the truck’s cab and trailer fold into an acute angle, much like a partially folded jackknife.

In this article, we take an in-depth look at what causes a truck to jackknife. Keep reading to learn how to prevent this from happening and how you can Demand More® from a truck accident.

Why Do Jackknife Crashes Occur?

While it may be possible to recover from a jackknifing situation, it is always better to prevent this dangerous situation from happening in the first place. Several factors increase a truck’s risk of jackknifing. These risks can be environmental or the result of negligent conduct.

Reasons that Cause a Truck to Jackknife

Broken of Slippery Road Patches

When driving on a slippery surface, a tractor trailer truck may lose traction and start sliding. If the driver is not able to regain control, the tractor and trailer will begin moving in different directions, which will result in a jackknife. Maintaining a low speed on poor road surfaces is the most effective way to prevent jackknifing.


Generally, the heavier a truck’s load, the less likely it is to stop a jackknife. If a trailer’s load is too heavy, a sudden stop will cause the truck and trailer to decelerate at different rates. The trailer will require a longer distance to come to a halt, pushing the tractor out of the way.


When traveling at high speed, a sudden directional force from a collision will throw a truck off-balance, causing the trailer to fold on its hinge. A head-on collision can also cause a truck to jackknife, as the trailer’s back-end will circle to the front of the cab that comes to a sudden stop.

Weather Conditions

Poor weather conditions can result in low visibility, slippery road surfaces, and poor tire traction. These factors limit the driver’s control over the vehicle and increase the risk of a truck jackknifing.

Negligence Factors that Result in Jackknifing


Traveling at high speed increases the risk of jackknifing in several ways. Driving too fast cuts the driver’s response time when encountering unexpected obstacles on the road that bring the truck to a sudden halt. Additionally, higher velocity results in higher momentum, reducing control of the truck around turns.

Lack of Driving Experience

When a truck is about to jackknife, drivers have to take their foot off the throttle and brake and depress the clutch to recover. Inexperienced drivers may instinctively brake, which causes the driving wheels to lock and sends the truck into a skid.

Were you or a loved one injured in an accident?

The law offices of Brian D. Guralnick help Florida residents and tourists seek compensation and Demand More? for their injuries.

Poor Maintenance

Proper brake maintenance is critical to mitigating the risk of jackknifing. A fully functioning brake system allows the driver to decelerate without locking the drive axles. Truck maintenance also includes the inspection of all tires before each trip to ensure that they provide adequate traction. Trucking or maintenance companies should replace worn tires to ensure optimal stability and safety.

Impaired Driving Due to Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol consumption reduces any driver’s ability to react swiftly to dangers such as obstacles in the road. Additionally, alcohol slows eye muscle function, reduces your ability to judge distances accurately, and affects your ability to make rational decisions. All of these effects increase a truck driver’s risk of losing control and jackknifing the truck.

Incorrectly Securing the Cargo

Top-heavy or unevenly distributed cargo can cause a truck trailer to sway, especially at high speed. A swaying trailer reduces a truck’s controllability significantly. The parties responsible for loading and securing cargo should follow all relevant company policies and safety regulations to mitigate the risk of jackknifing.

Parties Responsible for a Jackknife Truck Accident

Negligence of Trucking Company

In the case of a jackknifing accident, several parties may be liable. Trucking companies are often responsible for a truck accident. In most cases, companies are liable if they did not provide the driver in question with sufficient training, supervision, or realistic delivery times. Companies are also responsible for the implementation of safety standards and vetting processes when hiring new drivers.

Driver’s Liability

The driver of the truck may also be responsible for a jackknife accident. Drivers who drive recklessly, break the law or consume drugs or alcohol are typically liable for damages that result from an accident.

Maintenance Company’s Negligence

A truck’s maintenance provider has to ensure that the truck and its parts and components meet all relevant federal safety standards. These companies have to carry out regular maintenance and repairs routinely to prevent malfunctions that can result in a truck jackknife accident.


If you suffered a personal injury or property loss due to a truck accident, you are entitled to claim fair compensation for damages. These damages include things like emotional trauma, pain and suffering, medical expenses, and loss of income.

Pursuing fair compensation for damages may be a daunting prospect if you don’t have experience with civil claims. You need the help of an attorney to help you calculate your losses, represent your interests when communicating with the respondent, and evaluate settlement offers from the respondent’s insurance company.

If you have been injured in Palm Beach County in a truck accident, I encourage you to contact me, Brian D. Guralnick, personally to discuss your legal rights. To learn how the injury team at Brian D. Guralnick Injury Lawyers can help you Demand More® for your injuries, call 561-202-6673 now.


You should not take any information in this blog as legal advice in any situation. If you need expertise for a specific issue of yours, contact a qualified personal injury attorney.  

Brian D. Guralnick

About the Author: Brian D. Guralnick

Brian D. Guralnick has been successfully representing injured accident victims in Florida since 1993. He has been voted “Best of the Best” personal injury lawyer by the Palm Beach Post for multiple years. If you have been injured in any type of accident, please call Brian and his team 24/7 at 561-202-6673.