Don’t expect jake brake sign on Gorst downgrade

The in basket: Annette Griffus, a sports reporter here, asks, “What is the city/county ordinance, if any, on the use of jake brakes for trucks traveling on Highway 3 near Gorst early (very early) in the morning, or really any time of day?
“It has really become a problem with the noise where I live and I was just curious.”

She lives along the downgrade from Sunnyslope Road to the Gorst businesses, she said.

The out basket: I see signs saying unmuffled compression brakes are forbidden, but they mostly are at the entries to cities. There is no such sign on the downgrade where Annette lives, a state highway, and from what I’ve been able to determine, there isn’t likely to be.

Jeff Shea, Kitsap County’s traffic engineer, says, “State law RCW 46.37.395 requires compression brakes be muffled for any vehicle over five tons.  Kitsap County Code 46.37.010 simply states that unmuffled brakes are prohibited.

“We post all roads entering the county with a sign that states this restriction; excluding the state routes. We also respond to residents near trucking routes, normally on steep slopes where trucks are using their brakes, and we post a similar sign.

“The (state) will not post this restriction on the state routes because they are reluctant to post regulations that should be common knowledge,” Jeff said.

“To my knowledge,” he added, “this restriction has never been enforced by law enforcement. My understanding from talking to the sheriff is that it is difficult to tell if the brakes are muffled or not.  I have also been told that even if they are muffled, they still make a significant amount of noise.

“Some communities have passed ordinances to restrict compression brakes altogether,” he said. “The trucking industry has told us that this is a safety issue. On steep slopes trucks with large loads cannot be controlled without the use of compression brakes.

“Also, this type of ordinance becomes an environmental law.  Specific noise levels must be established which makes enforcement very difficult. Normally with these laws a stipulation is put into the regulation that allows for their use in emergencies, which can pretty much be claimed at any time making enforcement even more of an issue.”

I asked Claudia Bingham Baker of the Olympic Region of state highways if Jeff’s characterization is accurate, and she replied, “It is true that WSDOT is reluctant to post regulations already covered under RCW 46.61 “Rules of the Road.” We don’t post signs, for example, that tell people to drive in the right lane.

“As regards signs prohibiting compression brakes, if a local jurisdiction passes an ordinance prohibiting muffled compression brakes on a state highway within their jurisdiction, we will post the sign.

“Absent an ordinance, we will not, since without the ordinance they are not illegal.  And since unmuffled compression brakes are already prohibited, it would be like signing the ‘drive in the right lane.’ message.”

Since the Kitsap County ordinance addresses only unmuffled jake brakes, I wouldn’t expect a sign on Highway 3 entering Gorst.

3 thoughts on “Don’t expect jake brake sign on Gorst downgrade

  1. “As regards signs prohibiting compression brakes, if a local jurisdiction passes an ordinance prohibiting muffled compression brakes on a state highway within their jurisdiction, we will post the sign.”

    Sounds like time to start lobbying the commissioners.

  2. Road signs that state unmuffled compression brakes are prohibited are completely pointless. In 25 years of driving diesel trucks, I have never once seen a Jake brake that was not muffled. The sound made by a compression brake has to travel through the same entire exhaust system, mufflers and all, as the engine exhaust does. The operational mechanics of a Jake brake produces a louder sound than does the normal exhaust, and the mufflers that reduce normal exhaust noise are simply not as effective at reducing compression brake noise.

    By the way, “Jake” is capitalized, as it is short for the engine brake originally manufactured by the Jacobs Manufacturing Company, now known as Jacobs Vehicle Systems.

  3. Now while I am not doubting that trucks use their Jakes on the gorst downgrade, my question would be “Is it a Jake Brake that she is hearing?” I also drove trucks with a Jake and I know what they sound like, but those pickup trucks that are driven by wannabe rednecks that have the big lifts and the altered oversized exhaust pipes coming uot the top of their truck beds also sound just like a Jake brake. Especially when the stomp on the gas and they billow huge puffs of black smoke that blocks drivers views that are behind them. If anything should be illegal it should be those trucks. As far as I can remember it is illegal for Semis to billow out smoke, why are pickup truck legal to do that. Then there are the little cars that wannabe race cars with their altered exhaust pipes. Those can be just as loud. So if this is happening at the wee hours of the morning, it is possible that she only thinks that she hears Jake Brakes. Especially since the newer trucks have a Jake that is not quite as loud as say an older truck. Just my opinion.
    And Mike I just noticed that Jake was not capitalized. Good catch.

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