Keep on Truckin'--without Jackknifing

Truck drivers know the heart-stopping sway that is the beginning of a jackknife. It happens when sudden stops, slick roads, or shifting loads cause the tractor to lose traction and pivot backward into the trailer. In the U.S., jackknifings and rollovers cause almost a quarter of all truck accidents, which occur once a minute, on average, on America's roads. All told, more than 5,000 people die every year as a result of big-rig accidents.

Now, a device created by Safe Transportation Systems Inc. (STS) in Bellingham, Wash., could reduce the number of such accidents. When activated by a dashboard switch, the Accident Control & Anti-Jackknife System inserts a steel beam between the disk-shaped hitch on the tractor and the coupling device on the trailer. The engaging bar acts like a superstrong doorstop: It obstructs the tractor's rotation so it can't swing out into a dangerous jackknife position.

The system, which should be available by fall, lets truckers "to apply the full braking of the trailer without fear of losing control," says STS President James B. Long. Better braking means safer roads. The company estimates the device could save over 1,200 lives each year, prevent 30,000 injuries, and reduce insurance claims by $4.1 billion.

By Adam Aston

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