An Unexpected Slide


Unexpected events are what separate the men from the boys. This isn’t based on a real event, it IS the real thing. So I’ll tell a little tale:

I was in Lexington, Ne waiting for my trailer at IBP. It was an ugly week, bunch of loads going places I wasn’t. So Kirby, my dispatcher, offered me a long delivery Amarillo that loaded that day. I jumped on it thinking I’d run through Elk City, Ok, where I’d spend some time with a friend and my brother. Wasn’t real thrilled about time off away from home, but it was by far the best option.

So I’m watching the weather as I cool my heels knowing that IBP just might screw this up. (deadline ship was 2 days away!) There’s a winter storm bearing down on Kansas, freezing rain that night with a day of blizzard conditions following that. I was rather used up, and saw them grab my trailer about 18:00, so I sacked out.

Sometime shortly after midnight, I get the CB call that I’m ready to go. Needless to say, I got my rear in gear and was southbound within the half hour. And shortly after finding Kansas, I found the ice. It was pasable, but slow. I found Oklahoma, and wet roads, around daybreak, and very soon the freezing rain had become a light drizzle. So far, so good.

Now it’s an hour and half later, and I’m making tracks, cruise set about 68, there having been no signs of ice on the grass and trees for over an hour.

(yeah, yeah. I’m being long winded cause I’m bored, so just keep reading! )

Now somewhere south of Woodward there’s a set of 45 degree S-curves that are nicely banked and large radius, so there’s no need to slow down. (been through em on a bike at more than the ton.) I roll through the right and I’ve just stabilized the left when:


Now if you’ve been at this a while, you know what I’m talking about. The seat of my pants had just informed me of a unexpected and undesirable yaw event. (the rotation axis of my rig had just shifted well forward)

A quick glance left showed no sign of the trailer. Expected, but unpleasant nonetheless. A right glance showed, yes, you guessed it, trailer. LOTS of trailer. And now for our quiz.

One of these is the right choice, the others will have various unpleasant outcomes. So, do you:

A) lightly apply the brake pedal to slow the truck.

B) use the Johnny bar (trailer brakes) to pull the trailer back in line.

C) disengage cruise to allow truck to slow down

D) disengage cruise, maintain neutral throttle (an in-gear coast)

E) accelerate to pull the trailer back in line.


‘A’ and ‘B’ would have similar outcomes. Your trailer tires are already sliding, teetering on the edge of adhesion. Any brake application will almost surely lock them up, reducing their friction (a rolling tire has more traction than a sliding tire, even if it’s rolling with a high slip angle.) and, combined with the slowing tractor, send the trailer swinging to the right. Well, swinging until it ends up in the ditch or smacks your cab in a slow jackknife, anyway.

‘C’ is an iffy choice. As the tractor slows, it’s pushing back against the kingpin. Which would be fine if your trailer was inline. But it’s not, and as you push back, the momentum of the trailer pushes the back-end of the truck forward at the same time it’s also yawing it to the side. Not a good idea! You might get lucky and have enough traction at the tractor to keep it from snapping into a jackknife. But you might not! Do you feel lucky?

‘E’. Well, you know how when you come up on a wreck and the truck and trailer are on their right side, across the road, with the top of the rig facing his former direction of travel. And you wonder, “how’d he do that?” This is how you do that! Nuff said?

Which leaves us with ‘D’. The idea being to minimize the traction you’re requesting from your tires. Some people prefer the ‘push the clutch in and coast’ method, which is basically equivalent to this. Just be careful reengaging that you match RPM or else you might cause another skid, with the tractor this time. I’ve always had a good feel with the throttle and prefer that way. There’s still no guarantee that you won’t further lose control with this technique, but it gives you the best chance of a safe recovery.

And that’s what I did, I kept just enough throttle to keep just the slightest forward pull on the kingpin. Some speed bled off, the trailer slowly came back in line, and away I went! By the way, that is the most stable dynamic state you can have a truck in. It’s how you should always cross an iced-over bridge, the truck may be slowing, but it’s still pulling on the kingpin, which is always more stable than the trailer pushing on the truck.

What was the root cause of the slide? We’ll never know. I was over an hour south of the freezing precip, with no indications of any freezing for over an hour. It’s possible that was a cold spot the night before, or it could have been something spilled on the road; but it really doesn’t matter. The point is you have to be prepared for the unexpected, and just deal with it. The why is just something to occupy your mind later.
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Instigateur №166™
It's weird that a long sweeping turn to the right would cause a trailer to kick out to the right. Unless I'm reading it all wrong.
It was a right and then a left oh, and it was in the left that the trailer is pimped out.

Okay, that might be the funniest Voice to Text screw up I've seen in a long time, so I'm just going to leave it!

Electric Chicken

Well-Known Member
I had a truck slide towards the inside of a curve once.

Iowa. Northbound I-380 where it curves left to go underneath US20 then join it.

View attachment 84667

I was on solid ice doing about 15 mph with a very light load.

The curve was banked and I wasn't going fast enough for centrifugal force to compensate for the tilt. All tires except the steers let go at the same time and I slid sideways from the right lane down the slope until the tires hit the crunchy ice on the hammer lane rumble strip that had been built up by the plow trucks.

I came to a dead stop, then the truck didn't want to move forward until I hit the PDL. I kept the trailer tires just inside the rumble strip until I was through the curve, then I gently crossed over to the granny lane and rode down the rumble strip to the Flying J exit.
I've had to use the rumble strip to get traction before, otherwise I'd have slid backwards down the hill.


Well-Known Member
My most memorable truck sliding moment was several years ago in Little Rock, AR. I pick up a set of doubles, and started to make my way back to South Arkansas with them. Crossing over the river on 440, it was extremely icy, because 440 and 530 in Little Rock is all basically bridges.

Traffic was creeping down 440 after topping the bridge. I had to very carefully bring my set to a stop. I succeeded. About that time, here comes Fed Ex behind me, unable to stop. He bumps my rear trailer, and sends both of us sliding down to the bottom. Not sure how, but it was like a simply slid sideways, with everything staying in line. Once at the bottom, put the truck in gear and motored on toward the 530 exit. Even Fed Ex came out of it unharmed.

Got on the 530 exit, and things went really bad for me. I slid to the wall. I would take back off, basically at an idle, would make it a little ways, and then back to the wall I would go.

Picture this ,the wall is basically nothing more than the height of a Jersey wall, so the drivers seat was firmly sucked up inside my ass cheeks.

After multiple bumps into the wall, I was around the curve and making my way downhill and completely under control at that point.

Arkansas State Trooper watched everything. He watched Fed Ex hit me, followed me around the 530 exit ramp, and then maneuvered past me with the "thumbs up" out the window.

Somebody yelled out on the radio a couple minutes later that the river bridge was being shut down until some salt trucks could get there. That was a bit funny because the entire area was frozen a few hours earlier when I was bringing my empty trailers up to U.S. Foodservice to get them loaded. It took that long for someone to realize it was time to get the bridges treated.


curmudgeon extraordinare
My most memorable slide involved a little old lady and a Chevy chevette I owned.

the streets were solid ice. I braked and you could feel the car following the curb down the street as it was sloped.

lady had pulled out of a gas station and stopped for traffic.

someone called police and they showed up, she wanted it reported for insurance etc since it popped her back window on her minivan.

she sitting in front. I’m sitting in the back of the cop car.

“I accept full responsibility officer. I never should have pulled out in front of the other car so quickly….”

officer looked in the rear view mirror….

“ you got anything to say?”

19 yo me learned at that moment when it’s time to shut up…

“no sir… here’s my license, registration and insurance for your report.”


Old acid hauler but not too caustic
I've had to use the rumble strip to get traction before, otherwise I'd have slid backwards down the hill.
I did that slip backwards down the hill thing you talked about. It was in the winter of 2012 and I was returning to Anchorage with joints -- 90+% of the time the rigs running between Anchorage and Fairbanks are doubles (generally a LWB tractor and two 45-foot trailers and a 2-axle dolly. From Fairbanks to the base of that hill, the Alaska DOT made the highway nice and brown. But to my surprise, the road was no longer brown at the base of Skinny's, a tough pull going south. The approach to that hill is a long downgrade and there's no room to pull off to chain-up. Near the top I burned out. After sliding down the length of my rig (120') the rear axles of the tail trailer slid off the road; that stopped the slide. But during that brief backwards journey I was busy trying to keep the joints straight on glare ice. That they stayed relatively straight was most certainly 99+% luck. After I got stopped I hooked some 8mm studded chains to my rear drivers. Then I flip-flopped up to the crest of the hill, pulled the chains, and putt-putted back to the big city (in Alaska, that's Anchorage). My set looked much like that pictured except there was a 45' can as the tail trailer. And that damn can had 30K in it. Heavy (like over 20K gross) tail trailers tend to cause trouble in winter. Obviously, I had more weight in the lead trailer (that's the law and it makes sense even if there were no law) so I had plenty of driver weight. But when traction goes, thrills are the order of the moment. I was driving a mate to that tractor, 550 hp 6NZ, 18 speed, lockers. And the next picture explains the name of the hill. That roadhouse has been midway up that hill for the best part of 70 years. In the 1980s Dick used to throw down a good burger. But nowadays, the new owners just cash on on the name with booze, a bunch of t-shirts, and junk. Somehow I don't miss those 720-mile Anchorage - Fairbanks - Anchorage turns 4 nights a week.


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