Putting the kibosh on Jake brake usage

The in basket: Dexter Bruckman says he lives near steep Newberry Hill Road and wonders who to ask for a sign prohibiting the use of compression brakes, also called “Jake brakes,” by truckers.
John Whalen of North Shore Road in Mason County and Janice Danielson of Gorst also have asked about enforcement of Jake brake prohibitions.

The in basket: Dexter Bruckman says he lives near steep Newberry Hill Road and wonders who to ask for a sign prohibiting the use of compression brakes, also called “Jake brakes,” by truckers.
John Whalen of North Shore Road in Mason County wonders about what can be done to stop the use of compression brakes, which has become much more of a problem since the big December rainstorm. “The number of dump trucks through our neighborhood has increased three-fold (since then),” he said.
And Janice Danielson asked about enforcement of Jake brake prohibitions a couple of years ago, upset about their use on the downgrade on Highway 16 heading into Gorst, near her home.
The out basket: Newberry Hill is a county road, so Dexter’s request can be made to the county Public Works “Open Line” at 337-5777.
But getting such a sign posted is no guarantee to lessen the roar of such brakes, which enable a trucker to use the compression of the truck’s engine to slow it, akin to gearing down to second in a passenger car – but a lot louder.
This is one of the most far-ranging inquiries I’ve ever made in writing Road Warrior. And whoever I asked, the answer is almost always that enforcement is difficult and rare.
Trooper Brian George of the Bremerton detachment of the state patrol said violations have to exceed a certain decibel level that can be hard to observe and document. Kitsap County county code enforcement, which investigates noise complaints, doesn’t try to enforce it.
Bremerton has a compression brakes ordinance, but there hasn’t been a citation in the city court for violating it for at least five years.
I was driving on Highway 101 along the Oregon Coast since I started this quest and noticed “No compression brakes” signs outside a couple of cities, with specific fine amounts listed, different amounts at that. I thought maybe that denoted a means of better enforcement.
But Tillamook County Sheriff Todd Anderson said those cities – Nehalem, Garabaldi and Mazanita, for whom his department provides police protection – rely on the same Oregon state law as the state police, which bases an infraction on a truck’s exceeding 91 decibels, not necessarily doing it by using Jake brakes.
They have a lot of logging trucks starting their day around 3:30 a.m., and that has generated some Jake brake complaints, he said. “Both the state police and our office have made some effort to try to enforce that, but it is a tough one,” he said. It requires training officers in recognizing compression brakes and their use in addition to measuring and documenting each violation.
Rather than enforcement, some governments rely on persuasion. In a carefully worded statement that got input from the sheriff’s department, Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works said, “We do have ‘No Unmuffled Compression Brakes’ signs at most county road entrances to Kitsap County. We have placed some on major roads that are frequently used by heavy trucks. There is no formal criteria for where they are installed, and the effectiveness of the sign is questionable. “Deputy Pat Dawson, from the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office said in order for a driver to be cited, a deputy would need to witness the use of the unmuffled Jake break.
“If readers suspect a trucking firm is using unmuffled Jake brakes, they can call The Open Line. If they know the name of the trucking firm, our Traffic Investigators will contact the company. We will also forward their concerns to the Sheriff’s office,” Doug said.
Finally, to avoid a letter accusing me of trademark infringement, I must note that, according to Wikpedia, while the term “Jake brake has become a ‘genericized trademark’ and is often used to refer to engine brakes or compression release engine brakes in general, especially on large vehicles or heavy equipment, it is a registered trademark of Jacobs Vehicle Systems, Inc.” .

9 thoughts on “Putting the kibosh on Jake brake usage

  1. I am very familiar with the Trucking Industry and have to tell you, you may not like the noise of the downshift, but it is a lot better then having a truck lose its brakes on a downgrade.
    Remember, that truck weighs up to 80,000 lbs and the more a driver is forced to use those brakes, the more likely he/she is to lose them. This in turn will cause a runaway truck. Would you rather have 80,000 lbs of metal coming at you or your loved ones or put up with a brief few seconds of noise?

  2. Good comment, Deborah, but misses a point.
    Any vehicle, be it smart car, motorcycle, family sedan or heavy truck hauling 40 tons, that cannot rely upon the installed braking system to either stop, or retard it’s speed on any grade it may reasonably encounter, is unsafe.
    To “gear down” on a grade is prudent and economical, as is the use of compression release braking. But this is not a substitute, or an alternative to, a safe, reliable brake system.

  3. Ace Paving, one of the biggest offenders of loud Jake-brake usage, owns Newberry Hill and has KC public works in their pocket. There will be no Jake brake restriction…guaranteed!

  4. What most people don’t understand is that jake brakes are a safety device.
    I’m one of the truckers that use all three hills mentioned in your article. With the “jake”, I can gear down to 25 m.p.h. and come down Newberry Hill with minimal brake pressure until the bottom. Without, it would require more brake pressure and would build up heat and could cause brake fade and under extreme conditions, failure.
    Bremerton says you can use it in case of emergency, which in most cases at the time of emergency, it’s too late.
    The best approach is to state “unmuffled jakes” because the trucker has control over this as he would be required to have mufflers.
    Another way to look at it is if you have an accident and were by law prohibited in using a safety device that could have prevented an accident, would you sue the city, county or the state? You betcha’!!

  5. Thank you for your article on “Jake Braking” in Kitsap County. I think the problem is in the County only forbidding “unmuffled jake brakes”.
    This allows truckers to use this excuse, even though their muffling hardware is obviously defective or nonexistent, and their noise far exceeds what would be considered appropriate.
    The fact that the county will not strictly forbid the use provides a patchwork of rules, vague at best, whereby some towns prohibit them, while the unincorporated areas are subject to the county ordinance mentioned above.
    We in the Port Gamble historic district have a much greater problem than just the noise, which in itself is unbearable as hundreds of trucks pass through each day. When they come, fully loaded, from the Hood Canal Bridge, to the 90-degree turn heading towards Kingston, they typically “Jake brake” for about 500 feet prior to the turn, then through the turn.
    This creates havoc on the historic structures on Highway 104. The foundations actually vibrate, walls of the homes crack, and the structures are compromised. One of the homes is actually sinking, in my view from the constant vibrations.
    In trying to request truckers to limit their usage of compression brakes, we have actually had some use them more, I guess as some sort of defiance. I have been told, by some of the many cooperative truckers, that if the dump trucks were doing the 25 mph speed limit, or better yet the 15 mph “recommended” speed limit, there would be no need for compression braking.
    In addition, our many visitors, literally risk their lives, just to cross Rte 104 within the historic district and many don’t because it is that difficult.
    What a shame, that we should eventually lose these irreplaceable historic structures because of the malaise on the part of any agency to do anything about it.
    I have called the county and have been told to contact the state, since it is a state highway. The state, on the other hand, has said to call the county. I was researching the federal Government Preservation sites to see if there were any National Historic District regulations that could “trump” the county and state, but frankly gave up, in frustration.
    My solution would be a simple one. Install a speed camera, which would save the structures, the visitors, and the residents. One thing I have learned is that the truckers are terrified of jeopardizing their Commercial Drivers License and would comply immediately.
    One additional point of interest, since the Port Townsend ferry can no longer accommodate trucks, we get even more round trips, than in the past. I would dare to guess 750 trucks pass through daily.
    Perhaps you can use your “bully pulpit” to get preservationists to rally for us, because without a huge upsurge, I predict we will eventually lose many of these gems in one of the most significant historic districts in the Western states.

  6. It seems like every couple of years people start complaining again about engine brakes on truck.
    I agree that the trucks without mufflers are loud and can be annoying to some, but those trucks are the exception. Most trucks are properly muffled and are not much noisier than a truck on a hard pull and at full throttle.
    The biggest complainers live on steep hills where an engine brake is a great safety feature, especially on a hill like Newberry that has a long steep grade and a stop light at the bottom. Imagine yourself with 105,000 pounds of truck combination and load behind you and because engine brakes are outlawed youve had to ride the brakes hard all the way down Newberry, then the light turns red. Hopefully, you’ve got well-maintained brakes, otherwise, well, I hope that there isn’t a car in the intersection.
    Engine brakes save brake wear and they are there so that the truck brakes can stay cooler and work better when needed.
    Trucks are necessary to move the goods in your stores and they haul the materials that build and maintain the roads that the complainers drive their Hondas and Toyotas on. Trucks also pay large amounts of taxes that pay a much of the costs associated with highways.
    Bremerton has an ordinance prohibiting the use of compression brakes, but I have observed city fire trucks using them within city limits. They weren’t loud but it is against the law.
    Kitsap County states it best by prohibiting UNMUFFLED compression brakes, that should cover the noise problem, and still let us be safe with our Jake brakes.

  7. We all pay taxes associated with highways and blah blah blah.. and we all don’t drive Toyotas or Hondas.
    A simple solution to alleviating some of the noise made by big trucks that come flying down that hill into Gorst…. SLOW DOWN! Why make a long winded statement about trucks being necessary and yada yada yada… just SLOW DOWN!

  8. Compression brakes or engine brakes are great when used properly – to maintain a safe slow speed coming down a long hill where prolonged braking will compromise a truck’s ability to slow. There are very few places on open highways where those conditions exist.
    A properly equipped truck should have no problem using friction brakes in the course of normal highway driving. Jake brakes have their place – log trucks on steep remote roads for instance. But their use at speed on paved roads is simply a matter of convenience for the driver and or owner.

    And Ron, your comment about a trucker hopefully having well maintained brakes – I hope so too. Because if he doesn’t, he’s violating the law and shouldn’t be on the road.

  9. Compression engine braking is used for emergency, not everyday use. downshifting is just as effective and says wear and tear on the brakes. and I know many professional drivers who say jake braking is not really necessary. It’s all about here I come look at me.

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