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What are engine braking ordinances?

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Quick Answer

Engine braking ordinances are laws designed to regulate the use of engine compression brakes, devices that vent compressed gas from an engine in order to slow down a vehicle, according to the Connecticut General Assembly Office of Legislative Research. Sometimes known as "jake brakes," these devices can slow down large, heavy vehicles such as trucks, but produce a loud and distinctive noise while operating. Engine braking ordinances limit their use near residential areas.

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Full Answer

Jacobs Vehicle Systems explains that compression release brakes operate at the moment of maximum air compression during the stroke of an engine. When fuel combusts, it drives a piston into a cylinder, compressing the air inside. Typically, this compressed air then forces the piston back down, completing the rotation cycle and delivering power to the drive train. Compression release brakes vent the cylinder instead, releasing the compressed gas and reducing the power each stroke provides. The release of this gas creates a loud, staccato noise as the vehicle slows down under its own weight.

However, restricting engine braking may not be the true problem, according to the Maine Department of Transportation. Environmental Protection Agency guidelines require trucks to operate at a noise level of less than 80 decibels, and a properly maintained rig should not produce excessive noise, even when engine braking. In many cases, noise problems stem from damaged exhaust systems or intentional actions by truck drivers. Restrictions on engine braking may remove an important safety device used by truckers in emergency situations.

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