BCTA highlights ‘Jake’ brakes with National Trucking Week around the corner

by Truck West

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.

Have your say

We won't publish or share your data


  • What a bunch of nonsense. Great attempt at putting a spin on this horrific noise making tool but it failed. People all over this nation hear this noise constantly throughout the day and night for two reasons. 1. Truckers love noise just like idiot Harley riders do. 2. They don’t want to use their brakes to reduce wear.
    It is almost never about safety. Safety is just a guise or excuse that is used with the uneducated.

  • Wow Mr. Ghost. Glad you’re an expert on safely maneuvering heavily loaded commercial vehicles over the highways and byways of North America. Thank you for assuming that all drivers like the same things as well, makes me feel unique! I agree there are some drivers out there that illegally remove their mufflers and make way too much noise but the majority of us enjoy a quiet workplace where with the modern trucks the engine fans are actually louder when they are running than the engine brakes are! For the purposes of efficient operation to keep costs down (ultimately the consumer pays for freight) and maintain a safe operating situation engine brakes are paramount. I want all truckers trained and efficient at safely managing their vehicles so everyone goes home at the end of the day. The recent incident on the Coquihalla Highway of a runaway tractor trailer is an example of the potential devastation that maybe caused if these vehicles are not operated in a Professional manner. Lets all be thankful no one was killed. At least have the intestinal fortitude to publish your name if you’re going to take a swipe at the entire industry that brings supplies to your local shops. Have a Great Weekend! Andy Roberts DriveMTI.com

  • Bro! Do you even Jake? Granted they do make a hell of a racket. What loads do you carry and where abouts do you haul them? A good driver will use them properly. Yes slap a custom exhaust on a truck and likely it will be for the sake of creating a brraaap but if your ears are on you’ll hear most Jacobs at a much lower tone because said driver is using them the right way. I agree with the article completely. There are bad apples in every bunch.

  • She is trying to make you aware of this issue and you how things work. All vehicles must pass noise decibel levels, or they are not legal. Like the article says, most of the newer trucks can’t be tampered with. Such as changing exhaust pipes. Not like the older trucks that were too loud when the jake was used. It’s a legal part of the trucks braking system.
    Great article! The general public needs to know more about how trucks work and why they are on our highways!!

  • Ghost must be one of those brain-dead 4-wheelers who hates truckers. Yes there are those who like the noise but the vast majority of drivers are interested in safety. Who needs the paper work if there is an accident?

  • Smells like a red herring to me, Ghost. Trying to drum up controversy for it’s own sake? The engine brake is a part of any properly equipped heavy truck, period. In some cases, it can be abused, like almost anything in this world. We can see through you, Ghost. Maybe literally.

  • Excellent article ! In these days of just in time delivery, electronic logs, drivers have to make the most of their time. Compression brakes allow the controlled decent of adverse grades resulting in cooler ( and there fore more efficient ) foundation brakes. Having full brakes in the event of a panic stop is always a good thing safety wise. As a younger fellow I was taught to come down in a controlled manner on the jake and that the brakes were to kept as cool as possible. People moving into new developments on hills and then complaining is just more of the NIMBY ( not in my back yard) thinking. Nothing to do with safety. Remember folks almost every thing you have came on a truck !

  • It is too bad that there are people out there as stupid as Mr. Ghost. They have no idea of trucking and what it takes to stop a big unit. Jake brakes are a very important safety item. Mr. Ghost needs to spend some time in a big truck that is delivering all the goods that he owns!!!!