Accident investigators and 18 wheeler accident lawyers are hoping that a new braking mechanism developed by University of Florida engineers can be commercialized quickly to reduce the incidence of deadly jackknifing accidents. Information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Department of Transportation indicate that there is at least one fatality in 98 percent of accidents involving big rigs. This is about 5,000 deaths annually, costing about $20 billion. The Physics of Jackknifing A semi-trailer jackknifes when the cab and trailer stop moving in tandem, and instead, swivel to form an L or V-shape that are similar to a closing jackknife. In investigating these incidents, a Houston truck accident attorney may look at:
- Equipment failure, including improper brake adjustments, failure of the braking system or loss of pedal pressure
- Improper braking that happens when a semi is forced to stop quickly and suddenly
- Detrimental road conditions, such as hairpin curves and slick roads.
A commercial truck jackknifes when the wheels lose traction. Static friction provides the traction that allows the truck’s wheels to move along or stop comfortably. Slippery roads and improper braking may cause the tires to slide instead of roll, but sliding friction does not provide enough traction to keep the vehicle’s sections moving in tandem. The driver typically reacts by slamming on the brakes, causing the wheels to lock and the trailer to swing sideways and out of control. For perspective, an 18-wheeler truck is usually 53 feet long with a weight capacity of up to 80,000 pounds, which is the cumulative weight of 20 standard cars. A vehicle this massive traveling at highway speed will need about 100 yards for a controlled stop. When the operator is forced to stop quickly by braking hard, the trailer will continue moving forward toward the cab, swiveling sideways in a jackknife position until both cab and trailer are stopped. These accidents are far too common on America’s roadways, endangering the lives of rig operators and other motorists who share the roads as truck accident attorneys in Texas have known for a while. NHTSA records show that accidents involving large commercial trucks cause 2.3 deaths and 60.5 injuries for every 100 million miles driven on national and federal roads. Anti-Jackknifing Technology Anti-lock brakes were designed to prevent wheels from completely locking up. The system is equipped with sensors to detect heavy braking, which when activated will decrease brake pressure on the wheels. The ABS system does not make braking quicker, but it allows operators to regain control of the steering and maintain traction to avoid skidding. Empty trailers are more likely to swing because weight actually enhances traction. A load-sensing regulator can be installed to reduce brake pressure on the wheels in rigs with lighter loads. Another option is to reconfigure the coupling device that connects the trailer to the cab. This poses a problem because the tractor-trailer needs to have the flexibility to bend dramatically to match any sharp turns. Clearly, there is a need to find anti-jackknifing solutions that will help big rig operators control their equipment while on the road. The Bud-E-Bar braking system presented by UF engineers will give drivers more control over their rigs while in motion and especially when traveling in adverse conditions. The system consists of a motion-activated bar that, once triggered, will reduce the rig’s speed as it makes contact with the road surface. The operator has the option of manually activating the Bud-E-Bar to safely bring the semi to a controlled stop. Benefits of Using the Bud-E-Bar The Bud-E-Bar will give drivers better control over their commercial vehicle. This anti-jackknifing innovation is customizable to suit vehicles of different sizes. It can save lives, prevent property damage and reduce the inconvenience of dealing with the aftermath of traffic accidents.