Forgive me if I devote too many of these blogs to jackknifing, but ‘tis the season of slick pavement when a lot of such accidents occur. They are dangerous to the errant rig’s driver and to other truck drivers and motorists nearby and can cause a lot of expensive damage.
But how about a jackknife on dry pavement? Here are some images from a TV newscast of a tractor and dump trailer suddenly going out of control, bending to port (as a sailor might say), and skidding across several lanes on a freeway and blocking them as it comes to a jarring halt. What the blazes could cause that?
The very short news report didn’t include the accident’s whereabouts, and I searched on Google and YouTube but couldn’t find it. What I did find in short order were a lot of recent jackknifing incidents, almost from coast-to-coast. Quite a few were on dry pavement, some resulted in injuries, and all caused traffic tie-ups that teed off a lot of people.
I studied the short video and these pics several times and determined that the driver apparently hit the binders hard when he saw traffic ahead slow down. It appears that the brakes on his rig grabbed, the wheels locked, and the tires began skating across the asphalt.
Anti-lock braking systems are supposed to keep brakes from locking, but this time didn’t. Why might that be? I invite experts and experienced drivers to offer opinions in the comment section below. Meanwhile, here’s what I think:
The tractor's brakes were out of adjustment, and/or air valves were sticking, so the brakes didn’t release when told to by the ABS. It’s also possible that the tractor was built before ABS was required (March 1, 1997) and simply didn’t have it. As I said in a previous blog, a skidding wheel wants to lead, and they did in this case, dragging the tractor to the left. The trailer followed along.
This all occurred in just a few seconds, from the spinout until the rig stopped, the trailer jamming against a corner of the tractor’s sleeper. As victims of accidents always say, “It happened so fast….” It sure does. When’s the last time you had your brake system checked?