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Snowy Texas
esterday, the drive between Ft. Worth and Abilene, Texas was treacherous. There were high winds and precipitation with temperatures approaching freezing. The result was a mix of snow and freezing rain.

As most of you know, bridges freeze before roadways because the cold air can circulate on all sides of the pavement. In high wind, bridges are also the worst place for gusts because there are no hills, trees, or buildings blocking it. This combination of factors makes this particularly dangerous for big trucks, a 14 foot high "wall on wheels" so to speak. Yesterday on I-20, was like driving through a graveyard of trucks.

This Schneider truck lost it on the bridge you can see right behind him.

Later down the road, another truck was jack-knifed in the median, apparently after losing control coming across the bridge at the top of the hill.

If you look closely in the picture above you can see another trailer on the other side of the bridge at the top of the hill, sticking up in the air. Here's a better look. And if you look closely in THIS picture, you'll notice there's a third truck on the right side of the highway lying on it's side, obscured by the guard rail.

I'm not sure if they got tangled in each other on the bridge and both lost control or if they are independent accidents, but it was rather sobering to see three wrecked trucks at a single bridge. I was just thankful to get through my day without incident. The winter driving season is here!

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Oh man, that would be scary as hell.

Once a couple of years ago, I drove eastward across Nebraska on I-80 right behind a huge snowstorm that had hit earlier in the day. The roads had been cleared by the time I was driving through there in the middle of the night and the snow had ceased falling.

It was a full moon, so it was relatively "bright" to be night time, with all the snow reflection. Everywhere, in the medians and on the sides of the roads were the shapes of trucks and cars buried in the snow. Some of it was due to the snowplow I'm sure. But it was spooky.

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I'm sure she worries about me on the road, especially this time of year.

I wish someone would give me a free box of steaks. One of the truckstops used to give a free steak dinner when you got an oil change done in their shop, but this past time I did it I got a free thermos. I needed a thermos, so that was cool... but free steak is always nice.

thats some scarey shit man!

My little sister passed three trucks that were on their sides between Columbus and Bowling Green, Ohio. No good. Glad you're safe.

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Oh man, I can't imagine driving double or triples in this mess.

This is why I pray for you every single day.

Forever, and ever, I'll stay in your heeeaaaaaart.

Oh, poor trucks. Did the one in the second picture catch on fire, or is it just dirty from being on the ground and then uprighted again?

I'm glad you're okay and safe. I thought of you as well when I was all worried about joeyhemlock flying into Toronto, Canada last night.

PS - Have you ever jackknifed? What is jacknifing, anyways? Well, I mean, I can certainly guess, but is there any way to correct out of it?

PPS - I'm really sorry about all the questions, but I've always been a roadtripper, and I've ALWAYS had these questions, just no trucker to ask them to!

There are two different kinds of jackknife: a trailer jackknife, and a tractor jackknife. In any jackknife, the wheels that slide try to become the front wheels on the tractor-trailer combination. I realize that that's a ridiculous personification, but it's the easiest way to describe it.

A trailer jackknife is becoming less common, because all semi-trailers built after 1998 are required to have anti-lock brakes. What happens in a trailer jackknife is that the trailer wheels lose traction and start to slide. For whatever reason (a downhill grade, braking), the sliding trailer wheels try to go faster than the tractor that is in front of them. Being on a rigid frame, the whole trailer starts to swing out to the side. This (if the driver is paying good attention, and can see what's going on) is reasonably easily corrected. Tractors have a separate handle to apply the brakes to only the trailer - the driver can pull lightly on that, and accelerate the tractor a little bit to pull the trailer back in to line.

A tractor jackknife is much, much more dangerous (because while there may be some easy way to correct it, I don't know what the hell it is). It looks like that's what happened to the truck in picture #3. In a tractor jackknife, the drive-wheels on the tractor lose traction, and try to lead. This pushes the steer wheels to one side, and the tractor tries to do donuts, like you would in an old rear-wheel drive car. It was always fairly easy to correct when you were doing donuts in your car, because you didn't have a 53' trailer attached to your trunk. It kind of takes some options away, and it seems to me that just about all you can do is hold on and try to ride it out. Hopefully another driver'll come along and read this, and post some way to get out of one - because I'd damn sure like to know what it is.

Really, the only thing you can do with a tractor jackknife is to a) try to avoid it all together or b) at a minimum, catch it EARLY and reduce acceleration to try to regain traction. The best advice I know to give students for driving in this sort of weather, aside from driving an appropriate speed, is that they coast over bridges, not applying any power, or brakes, to the drive axles. Personally, that's where I think a lot of the loss of control issues come from when crossing icy/snowy bridges. A lot of bridges on interstates have an incline before them and after them, because the highway is artificially lifted to go over the other road. If you're giving power to the axles to maintain your speed as you go over, you're just asking for a loss of traction. It's for this exact reason that cruise control is not recommended in wet conditions, you have no control over when additional power will be sent to the drive axles to maintain the pre-set speed. If it happens simultaneously with a slick spot in the road, the tire is going to spin.

Come to think of it, this is good advice for ANY motor vehicle driving in these srots of conditions. Coast over bridges... take your foot off the accelrator and coast over them.

Yeah, basically.

I remembered that much - I wasn't sure if anyone knew of a way out of it (besides hold on) if you, somehow, didn't notice it coming...

I've never personally jack-knifed a truck, although I have had my trailer fishtail behind me on icy/snowy surfaces and it scared the shit out of me.

One time my dad was driving a truck on a cold sleety night in Oklahoma. there weren't any other vehicles in miles. The road surface looked weird, so he tapped the trailer brakes to see what would happen. It had no noticeable effect, so he lightly touched the tractor brakes. That didn't seem to do anything either.

About this time he looked in the mirror, and saw some idiot come out of nowhere and try to pass him in the horrible weather. Just as he started to curse at the other driver, he realized the damned fool trying to pass him was his own trailer. He leaned on the trailer brakes and got it straightened out, then pulled in at the next truckstop to discover that the odd look of the asphalt was caused by three inches of solid, clear ice on top of it.

He decided to stop there for the night.

Scary $#!+ !

Not much I can add to what others have said, so I'll just repeat, stay swift and safe!

wow... I remember winter driving (she says from LA... where it's an emergency if the mercury dips below 65˚

I remember being in the northwest and seeing cars strewn off the side of the road every 25 yards... like, after seeing 2-3 of them ya have to wonder why ppl don't slow down. And then there's the spam of stupid things people explained to auto insurance adjusters... my favorite two:

"I turned into a driveway that was not mine and hit a tree I did not own."

and "It wasn't my fault, the road was wet so my car slipped."

Hope you continue to drive safe...

Speed is certainly a big factor, but I think the other one that gets people just as much is following distance. I don't think people take into account, especially on freeways, that you're just not going to be able to stop as fast. And then when they try to, they either hit someone or lose control of the vehicle.

Jebus. Be safe out there, man.

Is it more or less dangerous for the driver to be in a truck/trailer (as opposed to a car) in accidents like those?

Assuming the driver is properly buckled into the seat, I would venture an answer of "yes". Where most people get hurt in car accidents (again, with the assumption that they're strapped-in) is from the car collapsing into them, or worse, some larger object crushing through the body of the vehicle like a tree, or the ground, or another vehicle. Unless there's a fire, or the truck rolls multiple times in a flip which would crush the cab in on the driver from the top (not impossible but not a common occurence either), pretty much the only thing which is going to cause enough damage to the truck cab to injure the driver is full-speed collision with another truck or trailer or something reinforced like a concrete pillar of an overpass. Anything else simply is not going to have the mass to damage the truck badly enough to injure the driver severely. Trees will uproot and cars will just bounce off. Guardrails, fences, deer... they just get obliterated.

My sound effect repertoire could use some work.

Gah. Over Thanksgiving weekend I was just telling Chris (LJ-Siamang) a friend of mine's story, about driving down a mountain in the Wilkes-Barre area during a winter storm.. looking into their rear view mirror to see an 18 wheeler on its side, sliding down the roadway towards them. It wasn't close or momentum-ous enough to put my friend in danger but conceptually just.. well gah! I get nervous when my tiny, ground hugging Tempo gets wind-buffeted, I can't imagine the stress of trying to keep control of something like that when the conditions are fighting you.

I'm probably preaching to the choir here but I'd bet half the danger in this weather is the weather and half is car-drivers who know not what they do? Presuming everyone can stop on the same dime, et al.

Re: My sound effect repertoire could use some work.

He wasn't hauling 30,000 Pounds of Bananas by any chance was he?

The 4-wheelers can create situations for big trucks certainly, but in this case it was mostly weather and poor judgment on part of the driver. My guess is that most of the truck wrecks I saw happened earlier that morning or overnight when the weather (and visibility) were presumably worse. Either they were travelling too fast for the conditions or if it was REALLY dangerous, they needed to have gotten themselves off the road. :)

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