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So What’s a Jake Brake, Anyway?


A big thank you goes out this week to the Wyalusing Borough Council for their decision to ban the use of truck Jake brakes here in Wyalusing.

So if you’re wondering what in the world a Jake brake is, let me tell you that as far as I’m concerned it’s little more than an irritating, window rattling source of absolutely unnecessary noise pollution that sometimes makes it impossible to have a conversation or talk on the telephone here at my office on Route 6.

Actually a Jake brake is a device that uses a diesel engine’s compression to help slow down a large truck. The actual name Jacob’s Engine Brake, comes from the company that first built the brakes back in the 1950’s A.I, Jacobs, which was already a well known machine company thanks to the drill chuck it manufactured.

Now in case you’re wondering. I’m not a closet Jake brake fan. I easily found the information about the Jake brake on the internet, where along a detailed description of how thing works, I also found all sorts of information about how communities across the United States are banning use of the brakes because of the annoying sound they produce.

The Jake brake came into being following a 1931 incident where Clessie Cummins, founder of the now legendary Cummins Engine Company was nearly killed when demonstrating the viability of his new diesel engine. While descending Cajon Pass in California, which was said to be a hair-raising experience for the best of drivers in those days, the truck’s brakes failed and Cummins and his passengers narrowly escaped. After that experience Cummins began to develop a braking system that used the engine’s compression in addition to wheel brakes to slow down, especially on steep grades.

Cummins took his idea to the Jacobs Company and the rest is history.  Along with their engine compression brakes, the Jacobs Company also makes engine exhaust brakes and driveline brakes, which are also referred to as Jake brakes by truckers.

The Jacobs company blames the loud noise you hear from passing trucks on the use of engine brakes in vehicles with poorly muffled or un-muffled exhaust systems exhaust systems that have been illegally modified or are poorly maintained. The company also says there are truckers out there who just enjoy making noise.

Because of this, the Jacobs Company feels that it's inaccurate, unfair, and possibly illegal to use their trademarked name in "NO JAKE BRAKES" signs, especially since some of their other Jake brakes are quiet.

It’s a problem for the company that’s developed because of the popularity of its brakes and their trade names starts heading toward becoming generic. Companies spend millions of dollars to keep a product’s name from falling into the public domain. People often ask for a Kleenex, for example, when what they want is a tissue.  Most everyone calls the thing they use to keep coffee warm a Thermos whether it’s manufactured by the Thermos company or not.

 So the Jacob’s company points out that noisy compression release brakes are made by other companies, too, not just them, but they get blamed whether it’s their Jake brake or a knock off.

 Signs like the ones you will soon see in Wyalusing are often posted in residential areas adjacent to a highway. The federal government has required all vehicles manufactured since 1978 to meet noise requirements.

And odds are the signs posted in Wyalusing won’t ban Jake brakes, specifically. Instead they’ll say something about prohibiting the use of engine compression brakes or something like that which is a bow to The Jacobs Company’s beef about being blamed for all jake brake complaints.

The company has gotten so sensitive about taking a bad rap, that it’s asking people who see these "brand specific" signs to email the location to them at jsupport@jakebrake.com.

And you can be sure if they put one of those so called brand specific signs up in Wyalusing, I’ll do more than email the company, I’ll call them so they could hear my windows rattle.


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