6 Tips to Avoid a Skid in a Big Rig
One of the scariest things both a novice and experienced trucker can encounter is when your big rig starts to skid. To stop a trailer skid you should stop turning and braking so hard in order to let the vehicle slowly come to a stop. But before you even start to skid, there are steps you can take to avoid skidding in the first place.
To stay safe and avoid a skid in a big rig, especially during the icy winter months, follows these 6 tips.
1. Never slam the brake
Most skids start in the first place because the driver slams on the brakes. This is a really dangerous practice, especially when you’re going downhill and/or on icy or slippery roads.
A braking skid is most often caused by slamming the brakes, which results in the rear wheels spinning or locking up. This can then cause the trailer to swing sideways, resulting in a jackknife. Stay safe and avoid slamming the brakes whenever possible.
2. Feather the brake
So instead of slamming the brakes, what should you do? Employ a technique called feathering the brakes which is a way of lightly braking, typically on and off as needed. By feathering the brake, it is essentially acting as a form of anti-lock braking.
The point of the feather braking technique is to apply light pressure and adjust the firmness of the pressure as needed to slow or stop the rig without any jarring motions. You should never jolt to a stop, and feathering the brakes prevents this.
3. Be aware of your current stopping distance
Based on the weight of the load you’re transporting, the speed you’re traveling, the grade of the road, and the conditions on the road, you should have an idea of how long it will take you to stop. Once you know this distance, be sure to also follow it. What good is knowing the stopping distance if you don’t follow it?
4. Engage the Jake brake (with caution)
Using the Jake brake is not recommended in icy conditions, so be sure you have a good understanding of the road conditions before using the Jake brake. If you are driving in snow or slush, you can use the Jake brake, but use it with caution. Be sure that your tractor trailer unit is aligned before applying the Jake brake.
5. Maintain the proper speed
One of the most important things to remember when driving in windy or icy conditions in general is to maintain the proper speed. In some cases, that means that you should not go above the speed limit. In other situations, you shouldn’t even get close to the speed limit.
Driving the correct speed based on your load size and the road conditions is especially important in preventing truck skids. As you descend a hill, be sure to pay close attention to your speed and make adjustments quickly and smoothly (aka no brake slamming).
6. Keep your trailer straight
As we mentioned in the Jake brake section above, it’s important to ensure your tractor trailer is in line before using a Jake brake. This is a really good general rule of thumb. A good trucker is constantly aware of the position of the rig, which will help the driver to react quickly and properly if the rig starts to skid.
Now that you know the top 6 ways to avoid skidding in your truck, be sure to practice these tips every time you get behind the wheel. There’s no better way to prepare for a skid than by practicing the ways to prevent one. If you want to learn more about truck driving in the winter and how to prevent dangerous situations, check out our CDL training course.