What causes a truck to jackknife? 5 possibilities

On Behalf of | Mar 23, 2023 | Truck Accidents |

Truck jackknife accidents are one of the most dangerous and frightening types of accidents on the road.

A jackknife occurs when a truck’s trailer swings out of control and forms a 90-degree angle with the tractor. This type of accident can be deadly, as the truck can collide with other vehicles, barriers or structures on the road. Chain-reaction wrecks are not uncommon, especially when a truck’s load scatters everywhere – which is another common event in these kinds of accidents.

Jackknife accidents are largely the result of human error. There are several causes of truck jackknife accidents, some of which include:

Braking too hard or too abruptly

When a truck driver brakes too hard or suddenly, the weight of the trailer can shift forward, causing the truck to skid and the trailer to swing out of control. Distracted and tired drivers can be especially prone to this kind of mistake.

Slippery road conditions

Rain, snow, ice and oil slicks on the road can cause a truck to lose traction and lead to a jackknife. This is usually an issue when a trucker fails to reduce their speed far enough in response to the road conditions.


If a truck driver overcorrects the steering wheel or brakes on a curve or a hill, it can cause the trailer to swing out of control. That can also combine with load shifting (particularly when the load wasn’t properly secured or distributed) to throw off the truck’s equilibrium and cause it to tip over.

Equipment failure

Trucking companies everywhere are struggling to keep up with shipping demands, and that’s caused some to take chances with their equipment. Faulty brakes, worn tires, or other equipment failures can cause a truck to lose control.

Inexperienced drivers

Inexperienced drivers may not have the skills or knowledge to handle a truck in an emergency situation, increasing the risk of a jackknife. They are far more likely to panic and overcorrect or simply miss the signs that they need to make adjustments before they topple.

If you or your loved ones have suffered injuries in a wreck with a commercial rig, you have every right to seek compensation for your losses.