Two Salmon Arm residents have heard the rumble of an engine brake a few too many times.
The issue was brought up at the Salmon Arm city council meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 15. Two separate letters were received by council suggesting signs be erected to lower speed limits and prohibit the use of the braking system within city limits. According to Robert Niewenhuizen, director of engineering and public works, the city does not have any signs addressing the issue. The city does have a traffic bylaw that prohibits the use of engine brakes within its boundary.
Commonly known as a Jake brake or Jacobs brake, the engine braking system essentially transforms an engine into a giant air compressor. The brake works by opening the exhaust valve at the top of the engine’s compression stroke, letting out air before it can be compressed and send the piston back down to generate power to the crankshaft. Without a muffler, this release of air is what can create sounds between 96 and 101 decibels – a typical rock concert can reach up to 110-115 decibels.
While noisy, the braking system is an effective way of slowing down the vehicle on long downhills. Using the engine brake reduces the load on foundation brakes which helps prevent overheating and significant wear.
Debbie Lovestone lives in Burlington Heights, an apartment complex less than 200 meters away from the Trans-Canada Highway in Salmon Arm. Lovestone wrote the noise created by the use of Jake brakes wakes her up on a nightly basis.
“The truckers seem to be surprised in the reduction of speed halfway down the curved hill between McDonald’s and the new Marriott hotel. This is the place where they seem to engage their Jake brakes,” Lovestone wrote.
In the letter Lovestone called for the erection of signs that would read “Residential area, use of Jake brakes prohibited.”
The company that produces the engine brake, Jacobs Vehicle Systems, recommends that if signs are to be implemented in communities they should read ‘Unmuffled engine brake use prohibited except emergency’ to avoid trademark infringement.
Ruby Lipscomb wrote to council requesting a similar prohibitive sign be placed in the same area of the city.
“Trucks coming into the city from the east are often able to keep up a steady speed until they are going down the long hill to the city centre,” Lipscomb wrote. “This loud, abrasive noise can be heard for a long way along the highway and down the valley.”
Councillor Sylvia Lindgren agreed with the letters. mentioning her visiting family members noticed the noise and would appreciate hearing it less.
A statement provided by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure explains that a request for advisory signs to avoid using engine brakes along a provincial roadway in a residential area is processed through the local ministry office. The ministry will assess the location to determine if advisory signs are warranted.
“These signs are challenging to enforce because they are advisory in nature. An officer would need to prove that the noise being produced by the engine was unnecessary as per 7A.01 of the Motor Vehicle Act. The infraction carries a $109 fine,” the statement read.