Compression Brake - Jacobs Vehicle Systems/Sierra Fournier
A compression braking device that can be attached to a diesel engine. (Jacobs Vehicle Systems/Sierra Fournier)

PUTNAM COUNTY — Residents in the unincorporated areas of Putnam County who have found themselves startled at all hours of the day and night by loud exhaust noises coming from semi trucks now have a legal remedy available to them.

“The Board of Putnam County Commissioners, Putnam County, Ohio has determined,” begins the resolution passed by the commissioners during last Thursday’s regular meeting, “That excessively loud noise from engine retarders, in unincorporated areas within Putnam County zoned for residential use, serves no public purpose, and constitutes a nuisance and is detrimental to public health, welfare, safety, and quality of life within Putnam County, Ohio.”

The resolution goes on to ban, “…[any] motor vehicle within the unincorporated part of the county, [applying] an engine retarder, engine brake (a practice commonly known as “Jake braking”), or otherwise [using] the vehicle’s engine to decelerate, in such a manner as to cause excessive, unreasonable, or unusual noise….”

Compression brakes for diesel engines were originally developed as, essentially, a safety brake for semi trucks travelling down long, steep downgrades where traditional brakes might fail, this according to the company Jacobs Vehicle Systems, from which the term ‘Jake Brake’ originates.

The add-on devices work by diverting compressed air that would typically reenter the crankshaft and instead directs that energy out through the truck’s exhaust. This causes the engine to slow without using traditional brakes, and often leads to a loud noise exiting the truck’s exhaust.

Though undoubtedly useful in mountainous areas with steep downgrades, in the relatively flat midwest, the compression brake’s usage often has more to do with reducing wear and tear on traditional brakes than with safety.

“It’s just another plus in trying to make Putnam County a good place to live,” says Commissioner Michael Lammers of ban. “We’re a very economically well-developed county, with a lot of businesses in manufacturing. The cost is, you have a lot of truck traffic. Which is tough on the roads, obviously. This is one of those things we can do to try and alleviate some of the concerns of our citizens.”

The county plans to prominently place signs in targeted areas in order to inform semi truck operators of the ban on compression braking. Those caught using such devices in unincorporated areas of the county will face a minor misdemeanor traffic violation.