August 20, 2014 - Truckers producing excessive noise by using compression release engine brakes, commonly known as Jake brakes, could soon find themselves being ticketed by Oxford Village Police.
Last week, council approved the first reading of a proposed ordinance amendment that would prohibit the use of this type of braking system in the village by classifying it as a noise violation.
"It's a very effective braking system, but it is an extremely noisy braking system," said village Police Officer Dave Churchill.
A second reading and possible adoption of the prohibition is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 9.
The proposed ordinance language makes it "unlawful to operate any motor vehicle within the village using exhaust brakes, engine brakes, compression release engine brakes (also known as Jake brakes or Jacobs brakes) or similar devices."
In its current form, the proposed ordinance also prohibits "the discharge into the open air of the exhaust of any steam engine, stationary internal combustion engine, motorboat or motor vehicle, except through a muffler or other device that will effectively prevent loud or explosive noises there from."
Installed on some diesel engines – particularly those belonging to large trucks such as the gravel haulers that roll through Oxford – a compression release engine brake slows a vehicle's forward motion by releasing highly-compressed air from the engine's cylinders through the exhaust system.
It's commonly referred to as a Jake brake because there's a brand of them manufactured by Jacobs Vehicle Systems in Bloomfield, Connecticut.
Using compression release engine brakes can produce a loud, distinctive exhaust noise, particularly with trucks that don't have any type of muffler or utilize a high-flow muffler. Some describe it as a popping sound.
"When (the truckers are) coming down cemetery hill (on W. Burdick St.) and they put on the Jake brake with straight (exhaust) pipes on (the truck), it rattles your house just as much as the truck does when it goes by," said Councilman Bryan Cloutier. "So, there is excessive noise."
"I don't recall it being as bad in years past as it has been in the last five. I don't know what's going on, but it just seems worse," said Erika Shanahan, who's lived on W. Burdick St. for 13 years.
"It doesn't seem to be the local trucking community here (making the braking noise)," said resident Terry Brewer, who lives on Ashley Way off W. Burdick St. "The independent truckers in their older rigs are really noisy and when they Jake brake, it makes it (more) noisy."
But not everyone is bothered by the noise.
"I, myself, do not find the Jake braking sound offensive, but I am aware that I'm (part of) a small minority in this regard," said village President Dave Bailey.
Chris Acheson, who lives at 99 W. Burdick St. and operates Ridgelawn Memorial Cemetery, offered the perspective of a professional who has been driving big trucks across the country since 1978.
"My engine brake is always on," he told council.
The main reason is increased safety.
According to Acheson, if another vehicle pulls out in front of him, he can take his foot off the accelerator and the engine brake "instantly" begins slowing the vehicle before his foot even hits the brake pedal.
"That happens a lot in Oxford – people pulling out in front of a gravel train," he said.
It happens elsewhere, too.
"I had a close call in St. Louis last week," Acheson said. "When I let off the accelerator, I dropped 10 miles an hour instantly."
As far as noise is concerned, Acheson admitted the use of compression release engine brakes can be "loud," but that's because of "the way the exhaust is routed" on some trucks. Excessive noise is not produced by all trucks that utilize this braking mechanism.
"The one I've got, you can't even tell that mine is on," Acheson told council. "I could use mine right out here while you guys were having the meeting and you'd never hear it."
Acheson reminded council that Oxford has been the "Gravel Capital of the World" since the early 1900s and the town's "still got a lot of gravel in it."
The community owes a lot to this industry, in his opinion.
"That's where a lot of money's been made by a lot of these residents," he said.
Councilwoman Maureen Helmuth said she spoke with a long-haul truck driver and he told her the only time a trucker would need to use an engine brake within the village limits is if, while coming down cemetery hill, "some yahoo pulls out in front of you."
Helmuth said otherwise, truckers around here just use them "because they think it's cool to be loud."
"Let's get rid of them," she said.
Councilman Elgin Nichols said he believes truck drivers should be allowed to use engine brakes in emergency situations.
Helmuth said police officers can exercise their discretion when deciding whether or not a truck driver needed to use an engine brake for safety reasons.
Oxford Township Supervisor Bill Dunn, who lives in the village, wondered how such an engine brake prohibition would be enforced.
"I'm totally in favor of trying to eliminate Jake braking, but how do you tell the judge (a trucker) was Jake braking? How do you prosecute something like this?" he asked.
Churchill said in Lake Orion, where he serves as an elected councilman, a vehicle's noise can be deemed "excessive" if it can be heard within a certain distance.
"It's very simple," he said. "If you're able to hear it 150 feet from the vehicle, it's too noisy."
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.