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Mathematical Modelling of Trailer-Truck Jackknifing



Source - Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, Vol 2, No. 1, January 1981

Introduction--

What is Jackknifing- When a trailer truck is in jackknified position, and if truck moves forward, the trailer moves
backward. It will be clear with fig 1. Bouteldja [1] defines Jackknifing as Jackknifing is a stability control loss of
a truck- semi trailer combination which causes the truck or semi trailer rotate with respect to the other .It is a state
of control loss or in another words its an accident. There is nothing much which can be done once the trailer
jackknifies.

If a truck is moving straight and takes a sudden turn then it will jackknife. Application of sudden brake is
other instance, where inertia of trailer leads to jackknifing. Also, reversing is one critical operation, and later on it
will be shown mathematically that how reversing can lead to jackknife.




In many cases the trailer turns and enters adjacent lane, blocking entire road both ways and also causing lot
of damage. There have been attempts made to model the trailer truck and predict the possibility of trailer truck
jackknife depending on speed, path of truck. So, the case we are studying covers a wide range. We can then device a
system which will issue a warning and one can avoid jackknifing.


Simplifications--

1. In this study of simplified trailer truck modelling is done.
2. Number of axel of trailer is neglected and assumed to be one.
3. Mass distribution of pay load is not taken into consideration.
4. Suspension and Brake Power distribution among various axles
is neglected.
5. We are also neglecting the effect of steering and slip angle
associated with it.

In spite of above simplification the model gives good
result. Two cases are considered, firstly truck moving straight
line. Lastly truck moving in a circular path is considered. In a nut shell
Fig 1. Different Position of Trailer Truck Jackknifing [1]
Fig 2. Truck-Trailer Model [2]
e1
e2
2

what we want is, given the motion of trailer truck pivot point, we will like to find the path of rear axle of trailer. This
will help us to decide it trailer truck will jackknife or not.


Mathematical Modelling--

Figure 2 Represents a skeleton of Truck trailer. Trailer is denoted by simple line. We are following
procedure what Timothy[1] followed. X is position vector of Truck rear axle. Path of X is basically the road path.
Similarly Y is Position vector of Y which denotes midpoint of rear axle of trailer.

X has components say x
1
and x
2
, i.e. along e
1
and e
2
axis. Similarly Y has components y
1
and y
2
. So,

x
1
= C = Constant
x
2
= 0

Represents motion along positive e
1
axis. Now, if in this case, if

y
2
= 0 and
y
1
= C

Then trailer goes along same straight line, but if

y
1
= -C

Then it means that truck is jackknified. These are two extreme cases. In between a point exist where
transition from un jackknified to jackknified position takes place. We now move to know more formal mathematical
formulation and list out deciding condition which will help us to decide if trailer truck will jackknifie or not.

Without loss in generality we take length of trailer as unity i.e. 1. One can look at this as scaling also,
though not exact way of looking, but remember, we are not at all worried about longitudinal dimension at all. There
is just one distance we need to take into account, which is trailer length.

We can now describe trailer length by vector (L), directed from base of trailer rear axle, to rear axle of truck

L = (X-Y) (1)

Since Magnitude of L is unity,

L.L =1
(2)
(X-Y).(X-Y) = 1
(3)

The velocity of Trailer is along Vector L,

(4)

A is a constant.

Differentiating Equation (3) gives

2

. 0
(5)

.
(6)
Substituting equation (4) in equation (6) gives
3

. (7)


(8)


(9)
Boundary conditions depend on the case takes. For example one can take a casr of straight line path, second
is circular path and so on. It will be discussed in detail when we actually go for solving the above equation.


Non Dimensionalising-

Let


(10)


(11)


(12)

are non dimensionalised parameters.



Substituting (10), (11), (12) in (7) we get

(13)

(14)

So, we see the equation in invariant in scaling of parameter t, i.e. time. We wont bother about the
boundary conditions now. It will be taken care when we come to some specific problem, like straight line or curve,
etc.

Let



Therefore the non- dimensionalised equation is


(15)

For the current situation, it is easier to deal in polar co-ordinates. Making the substitution

(16)

(17)

And also note that equation (8) can be written as

Note all variables are in non-dimensional form, though variable t can go till infinity. We get,

(19)


(18)
4

On simplification we get

(20)

CASE 1 Consider the trailer moving along straight line such that

(21)

0 (22)

Equation (20) then becomes

(23)

(24)
ln

2

(25)
tan


(26)


2


(27)

1


(28)

Substituting results from (27) and (28) into (16) and (17), we get









Where

is the initial angle between truck and trailer. Plots for different

are plotted below.



In this, star dot shows the truck head, and tail corresponds to rear wheel of trailer. Trailer is travelling to
right and

30

(Figure 3) in this example. Vehicle is moving to the right. We can see that after around 7
seconds, trailer is almost in line with the truck. Another case is simulated by taking initial angle as 100
o
(Figure 4),
we see that trailer comes in line much before than previous example.

(29)

(30)

2
(31)
Fig. 3 Truck moving along straight line, initial angle is 30
o

5




CASE 2 Truck moving along a circle of radius r. The path of truck is then

(32)

(33)

Substituting in equation (20) and simplifying, we get

(34)

Let

tan

2

(35)

1 1
(36)

Consider the case when 1

1 1

(37)

1
1

2
1
1


(38)
And,

(39)

1
ln
1

1
1


(40)
2arctan

11

11




(41)
Constant C can be found out from initial condition. i.e.


, 0
(42)
Fig. 4 Truck moving along straight line, initial angle is 100
o

6


(43)

(44)





A matlab code is written to solve for C and also plot the trailer truck path for different initial angles
between them. In Figure 5, 2,

15

. Figure 6 corresponds to 2,

230

. Successive position after


0.5 secs are plotted. Red colour shows the initial starting position.

We see that in both cases, the stable condition is reached within less than quarter of circle. So chances of
jackniffing is very less when taking a wide turn. Same initial positions are used and now with a radius of 1.3 units.
Figure 7 and Figure 8 shows the simulation. Almost semi circle is covered up to take the stable position. This shows
that why trailer jackniffies in sharp turn. So, any turn which has radius above the value of trailer length will be safe.


Consider the case when

Proceeding similarly as we did in previous case. We end up having almost similar equation. The results are
listed below. Conditions mentioned in 32 and 33 remain the same and integrating equation (36) becomes,
Fig. 5 Truck moving along circle, r = 2, initial
angle is 30
o

Fig. 6 Truck moving along circle, r = 2, initial angle
is 230
o

Fig. 7 Truck moving along circle, r = 1.3, initial
angle is 15
o

Fig. 8 Truck moving along circle, r = 1.3, initial
angle is 230
o

7


2

1 1
(45)
And,

(46)
arctan
1 tan

2

1


(47)
2arctan
1

1
tan1


(48)


(49)

(50)

Matlab is used for plotting the path when radius is 0.75 units and initial angle is 3
o
(Figure 9) and 230
o
(Figure 10).




After running the code given in appendix, it is clear that how sharp turns are dangerous. The trailer doesnt
come back to unjackknified position. Even if comes to stable conditions it takes long time. Generally while turning,
only part of circle is covered. In such situations, trailer is bound to jackknife. In our analysis we have neglected
inertia effects. While going through such a narrow turn, inertia effects come in and lead to accidents.


Consider the case when

When radius is unity, i.e. of the same length of trailer, then following solution is obtained. Substituting r=1 in
equation (36) we get,

(51)
2arctan
1

(52)

cos 2
1


(53)
Fig. 9 Truck moving along circle, r = 0.75, initial
angle is 3
o

Fig. 10 Truck moving along circle, r = 0.75, initial
angle is 230
o

8

sin 2
1


(54)

Plot is again made for different initial positions. Figure 11 is when initial angle is 3
o
and Figure 12 is for
270
o
. This is the critical situation or curve. In this the trailer continues to be in same position with respect to truck, as
it starts.



Conclusions

A. If truck is going straight path, then it will reach a stable position. Time to reach stable position depends on initial
position of trailer with respect to truck.
B. So, for radius more than unity, one gets a good stability and can avoid jackknifing. Having a curve of unity radius
is critical stable condition.
C. Time taken to reach stable position depends on initial position. Also, wider the turn, more early the stability is
attained.
D. Taking a sharp turn, will result in instability, i.e. jackknifing of trailer truck. This is too be avoided for safe travel.

Huge amount of experience is needed to drive such a trailer. Plots make it clear that it takes time to come to
stable position. One may question that at start there is never jackknife situation. In this report, it is shown that while
taking turn of different sharpness, trailer and truck follow different trajectories. So, there is certainly instability
when a sharp turn is taken. By sharp we mean that radius of curve is less than trailer length.

A speed limit should be fixed on trucks when in city which have sharp turns. A sensor can be made which
issues warning when angle between truck and trailer reaches harmful value. Speed should also be incorporated in
warning system.

References-

[1] M. Bouteldja et al., Prediction and Detection of Jackknifing Problem for Truck Semi Trailer, IEEE Conference
Publication, 2006.
[2] Timothy V. Fossum and Gilbert N. Lewis, A Mathematical Model For Trailer-Truck Jackknifing, Society for
Industrial and Applied Mathematics, Vol 2, No. 1, January 1981
[3] Daniel Ion Udriste,On a Control System of Trailer-Truck Jackknifing, Proceedings of the 2
nd
International
Colloquium of Mathematics in Engineering and Numerical Physics (MENP-2), University Politehnica of Bucharest,
Romania,April 2002
Fig. 11 Truck moving along circle, r = 1, initial
angle is 3
o

Fig. 12 Truck moving along circle, r = 1, initial
angle is 270
o

9

Appendix I--

Matlab code for four cases is presented here. One can change the angle values and radius values in program and
obtain different plots. Animation is used to give good insight about the problem. Each position is taken after 0.5
seconds.

CASE 1 Truck moving along straight line.

clear
clc
C=tan(30*22/(7*180*2));
k=1;
for t=1:0.5:10,
D=exp(-t);
Y1=t-(1-C*C*D*D)/(1+C*C*D*D);
Y2=-((2*C*D)/(1+C*C*D*D));
X1=t;
X2=0;
hold off;
plot([X1,Y1], [X2,Y2]);
axis equal;
hold on;
xlabel('y1');
ylabel('y2');
plot(X1,X2,'*');
axis ([0 10 -2 2]);
M(k)=getframe;
k=k+1;
end
movie(M,1,1)


CASE 2 Truck moving along circle of radius more than unity (r=1.3, here)

clear
clc
r=1.3;
C=solve('2*atan((-sqrt(1.69-1)*(1+C))/((1.3+1)*(1-C)))=230*22/(180*7)','C');
k=1;
T=linspace(0,44/7,100);
XC=r*cos(T);
YC=r*sin(T);
for t=0:0.5:7
Theta=t+2*atan((-sqrt(r*r-1)*(1+C*exp(t*sqrt(r*r-1))))/((r+1)*(1-
C*exp(t*sqrt(r*r-1)))));
Y1=r*cos(t)-cos(Theta);
Y2=r*sin(t)-sin(Theta);
X1=r*cos(t);
X2=r*sin(t);
hold off;
plot(XC,YC);
hold on
axis ([-3 3 -3 3]);
axis equal;
if t ==0
plot([X1,Y1], [X2,Y2],'red');
10

else
plot([X1,Y1], [X2,Y2]);
end
plot(X1,X2,'*');
xlabel('y1');
ylabel('y2');
M(k)=getframe;
k=k+1;
end
movie(M,1,1)


CASE 3 Truck moving along circle of radius unity

clear
clc
r=0.75;
C=solve('2*atan(-sqrt(1-r*r)*tan(0)/(r+1)+C)=3*22/(180*7)','C');
k=1;
T=linspace(0,44/7,100);
XC=r*cos(T);
YC=r*sin(T);
for t=0:0.5:7,
Theta=t+2*atan((-sqrt(1-r*r)*tan(t*sqrt(1-r*r))/(1+r))+C);
Y1=r*cos(t)-cos(Theta);
Y2=r*sin(t)-sin(Theta);
X1=r*cos(t);
X2=r*sin(t);
hold off
plot(XC,YC);
hold on
axis ([-2 2 -2 2]);
axis square;
plot([X1,Y1], [X2,Y2]);
plot(X1,X2,'*');
M(k)=getframe;
k=k+1;
end
movie(M,1,1)


CASE 4 Truck moving along circle of radius less than unity (here r = 0.75)

clear
clc
r=0.75;
C=solve('2*atan(-sqrt(1-r*r)*tan(0)/(r+1)+C)=3*22/(180*7)','C');
k=1;
T=linspace(0,44/7,100);
XC=r*cos(T);
YC=r*sin(T);
for t=0:0.5:7,
Theta=t+2*atan((-sqrt(1-r*r)*tan(t*sqrt(1-r*r))/(1+r))+C);
Y1=r*cos(t)-cos(Theta);
Y2=r*sin(t)-sin(Theta);
X1=r*cos(t);
11

X2=r*sin(t);
hold off
plot(XC,YC);
hold on
axis ([-2 2 -2 2]);
axis square;
plot([X1,Y1], [X2,Y2]);
plot(X1,X2,'*');
M(k)=getframe;
k=k+1;
end
movie(M,1,1)