Tag Archives: compression

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.