Carmel City Council approves ban on loud auxiliary brakes on trucks

The Carmel City Council suspended the rules and voted unanimously to pass an ordinance banning loud, auxiliary brakes from semi-trucks in Carmel.

The proposal was introduced by Council President Ron Carter at the June 6 meeting and was approved on first reading after a very brief public discussion.

Carter said the ordinance only bans the use of auxiliary brakes. Vehicles equipped with them may still be used in Carmel as long as drivers don’t activate the brakes.

Auxiliary brakes are often used in mountainous terrains or hilly areas because extended light breaking can result in overheating of brake drums and shoes, which can reduce the braking capacity and cause damage to standard brakes.

Auxiliary brakes are also considered safer in some circumstances because a truck driver might need to quickly stop a 20-ton rig, so special devices in the engine are used somewhat like the reverse thrusters on an airplane. The most common form is the compression brake, which converts an energy-producing diesel engine into an energy-absorbing air compressor.

Carter said these brakes can be very loud, even producing jet-engine noise levels. The ordinance sets an 85-decibel limit when measured 50 feet from the sound source and prohibits brakes that can be heard more than 100 feet away from the vehicle.

The penalty could be up to $500, according to ordinance text.

“In Carmel, as in other communities without many hills, these kinds of brakes aren’t particularly needed,” Carter said.

Residents living near U.S. 31 say they have been greatly affected by these braking systems. Bob Busby, a resident of Hunter’s Creek, said it’s been a problem for years.

“It’s a nuisance to our neighborhood,” he said. “I actually heard one at 7 a.m. this morning.”

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