Thousands of drivers, including many trying to get a head start on Thanksgiving travel, were delayed for several hours yesterday when a tractor-trailer truck jackknifed on the exit ramp from the Capital Beltway's inner loop to the southbound lanes of Shirley Highway.

It was the second time in two days the region's main highway was slowed by a truck accident. On Tuesday, a beer truck overturned near the Van Dorn Street exit in Northern Virginia.

Yesterday's 10:25 a.m. accident at the Beltway's busiest Virginia interchange involved a truck loaded with 46,000 pounds of heavy, wet, processed cowhide.

Virginia State Police had to close both lanes of the exit ramp from 12:25 to 2:20 p.m. while the truck was raised.

Traffic was diverted to the Braddock Road interchange, where drivers exited the highway and got back on the outer loop to reach the southbound Shirley Highway exit.

Police said that the truck driver involved in yesterday's accident, Pete Gonzales, 50, of Severn, was charged with reckless driving. Police alleged that he exceeded the maximum safe speed of 35 miles an hour as he drove west on the exit ramp. The truck flipped over onto the guard rail, injuring Gonzales slightly.

Gonzales was employed by Port East Transfer Inc. of Newark, a shipper of container cargo. A company official said that cowhides are wet down before they are shipped.

The truck was headed from Baltimore, where it picked up the leather, to Norfolk.