HAMPDEN (AP) – This Bangor suburb is the latest Maine community to outlaw the use of a type of truck brake that has become the target of a growing number of noise complaints by local residents.

Some towns, including Camden, Bucksport and Ashland, have posted signs asking truck drivers to voluntarily refrain from activating engine brakes, which use engine compression to help slow big rigs more quickly and efficiently.

Brewer has a strict prohibition on use of engine brakes inside city limits and is enforcing it, issuing about a dozen summonses to truck drivers within a recent two-week period, Police Chief Steve Barker said.

The city’s engine brake ordinance, in place for eight months, initially covered only nighttime hours but was since amended to include all hours.

“This is an issue that has come up before,” said Michael Starn, communications manager for the Maine Municipal Association, which has gotten requests for sample ordinances regulating such braking systems. In 2000 the association’s publication, Maine Townsman, listed Houlton, Millinocket and Ogunquit as towns with bans on engine braking.

The Hampden Town Council imposed its ban Aug. 18 in response to complaints like those from Nancy and Charlie Hamilton, who moved three years ago to a house near a main road.

Nancy Hamilton said the loud rumble emitted by trucks that use engine brakes to slow their massive vehicles while passing through town was unnecessary and upsetting.

“I wanted to hear the sounds of people; I just didn’t want to hear those brakes,” said Hamilton, the daughter of a truck driver.

The brakes are often referred to as “Jake Brakes,” which is the leading brand of the engine-retarding devices.

Some trucking businesses, as well as the Connecticut-based manufacturer of the Jake Brake, say the noise is often linked to the muffler, or lack of one.

Brian Mauriello, business development manager for Jacobs Vehicle Systems America, said noise levels of properly equipped heavy diesel trucks that include engine brakes meet federal standards.

Noise levels substantially increase if the truck drivers modify, remove or have improper mufflers, he said, suggesting tighter enforcement of existing muffler laws.

The Maine Municipal Association and the Maine Department of Transportation take a similar view. The MDOT advises towns to direct police to stop noisy vehicles and check their mufflers, citing those not in compliance.

Maine-based trucking companies such as H.O. Bouchard, Pottle’s Transportation and Dysart’s Transportation said that while they comply with engine braking bans wherever they encounter them, they lament the loss of additional safety and efficiencies the engine brakes provide.

For Bouchard, which operates 75 rigs, engine brakes have meant significantly fewer brake replacements and saved hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, said Steve Whitcomb, its safety manager.


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