LOWER MACUNGIE TWP., Pa. - Can Lower Macungie officials put the brakes on noisy jake brakes used by tractor-trailers rolling through their township?
The township's public safety commission has recommended that Lower Macungie commissioners investigate imposing a prohibition on the use of jake brakes – also called brake retarders -- on all township roads that have significant truck traffic.
But on Thursday night Commissioner Ron Beitler, who chairs the commissioners' public safety committee meeting, recommended starting with just Brookside Road.
Beitler suggested the township formally request that the state Department of Transportation review Brookside Road, using state safety criteria to determine whether or not a jake brake prohibition is appropriate.
He said an issue of potential concern to PennDOT is whether such a prohibition would create a dangerous situation on that road.
Commissioners unanimously agreed to have township manager Bruce Fosselman make that request to PennDOT.
"It's a noise issue," explained Beitler. "It's like a jack hammer, but louder."
"It's been brought to our attention by a couple of residents in the last few years."
He said one of those residents lives in a house in the Lamp Lighter Village development that Brookside Road runs behind.
Jake brakes are defined as a secondary braking system used on large diesel trucks. They cut off fuel flow to the engine and slow the truck.
Beitler said the goal is not to prohibit trucks from using Brookside or other roads in the township, only the use of their jake brakes -- except when needed for emergencies.
"We're not trying to stop the truckers from applying the jakes when they need them," he said. "The alternative is ramming into someone."
Many municipalities already ban the use of jake brakes because they are so noisy.
Beitler said he's talked to a lot of truckers to try to understand the use of the brakes.
"Pretty much there's consensus that, much like someone driving a Harley that revs it up at an intersection just to hear the pipes, there are truckers that do that. We're trying to curb people who are using them just to hear them."
Beitler explained jake brakes are additional braking mechanisms for trucks.
He said trucks also have mechanical brakes, but some truckers use their jake brakes to save wear and tear on their mechanical brakes.
"It's not necessarily a necessity."
Resident Mike Siegel, one of the residents who has complained about the noise of jake brakes, told commissioners truckers are using them arbitrarily and just for spite.
He said it's often so loud that he can't speak to his wife outside their home. "It's getting out of hand."
Siegel suggested the township post signs on roads saying: "Please reduce your brake retarders. Somebody lives here."
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