LANGLEY, B.C. – We’ve all seen the signs coming into a community advising truckers to ‘please avoid the use of engine brakes.’
Also known as ‘Jake’ or ‘Jacobs’ brake, the British Columbia Trucking Association (BCTA) is trying to shed some light on the connection between Jake brakes and National Trucking Week.
Louise Yako, president of the BCTA, writes in a release that the relationship between the two is not about noise, but rather about safety.
Yako explains that engine brakes work by switching the engine from producing power to absorbing it through air compression and release, and it’s that release that creates the sound many are familiar with when a truck employs its Jake brake.
She adds that the use of engine brakes helps preserve the service brakes, which are needed for sudden stops, whereas engine brakes are more for slowing a heavy truck on downhill grades.
“To ensure safe operation on highways with long, steep grades, truck drivers are required to check their brakes before proceeding downhill and will also shift gears to slow down their progress,” Yako writes. “Modern engine brakes are an important safety feature on commercial trucks, which can easily weigh from 40,700 kg and up when loaded, and some engine brakes are even capable of absorbing more power than the truck engine can produce. Few of us would benefit if truck drivers couldn’t use them.”
Yako said the inventor of the Jacobs brake did so after losing his wheel brakes on a 35-mile downhill section of US Highway 66 in California and nearly collided with a freight train back in 1931.
Yako recognizes that the biggest issue the public has with engine brakes is the noise, and that some versions of Jake brakes are louder than others. But most engine brakes on newer truck models are not nearly as noisy as older vehicles.
The BCTA would like those who are not part of the trucking industry to appreciate that fact that the vast majority of truck drivers operate their vehicle safely, including using their Jake brakes for what they were originally designed to do.
“Canada celebrates (National Trucking Week) this year from Sept. 4 to 10,” Yako writes. “Take a moment this week to think about all the trucks and their drivers traveling highways in B.C. and beyond, leaving on time, arriving on time, transporting groceries and all manner of goods safely to stores and distribution centers and, in the bigger picture, many of the resources that B.C. and Canada trade with the rest of the world.”
So next time you see, or hear, a truck engaging its Jake brakes, remember that there is likely a good reason the driver is making such a racket.