It’s winter. That means inclement weather and slick road conditions. TWT Refrigerated Services is proud to employ the best truck drivers in the industry but, given the right conditions, even the best can find themselves threatened with a jackknifed reefer. Planning and prevention can reduce this risk, but we are interested in more than just safety records. We want to protect our people and prevent a jackknife.
Awareness can prevent a jackknife
Being aware of the driving environment is the first step to avoiding uncontrolled breaking, as jackknifing accidents are more likely to happen when:
- Road conditions are slick with water or ice
- Loads are underweight or poorly distributed
- Tires are in poor condition
Be aware of the weather and road conditions where you are and where you are going. If weather is producing dangerous conditions, do not use jake brakes – they will slow the tractor, but not the trailer and its momentum could bring it around into a jackknife. Critical before any haul, but in inclement weather it’s even more important to be sure your equipment is in its best shape and within load limits.
Being prepared to prevent a jackknife
Prepared drivers can often prevent the events that lead to jackknifing accidents by:
- Spreading braking over the longest distance possible
- Keeping a safe distance from other vehicles on the road, slowing if necessary for less-cautious vehicles
- Braking prior to turning
- Applying steady, smooth power to the drive axle after you make a turn, not jerking the load
- Avoiding braking and swerving at the same time if at all possible. Brake first, release the brakes, swerve, and then brake again
- Releasing the brakes and steering into a skid; avoiding the deadly “V” that precedes a jackknife
And always remember: frequently check road conditions. Plan ahead for inclement weather so you have time to prepare your vehicle. Chaining up, driving at slower speeds, or even waiting out a storm altogether may add up to lost time, but they will also add to your chances of preventing a jackknife and getting home safely.