Bernardston residents want bylaw to curb truck brake noise

  • A view looking east on Church Street in Bernardston. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

Recorder Staff
Published: 8/6/2017 4:49:54 PM

BERNARDSTON — Living on Hartwell Street not far from Interstate 91’s exit ramps, Bernardston resident Tom Newton is very familiar with the loud noise tractor-trailer trucks make when using their engine brakes.

“In the summertime, (when) you’ve got your windows open, it’s not the alarm going off (that wakes you), it’s the trucks you’re hearing,” Newton recounted.

Speaking before the Selectboard Wednesday night, Newton proposed a possible solution: enacting a bylaw that would prohibit engine braking in town.

Engine braking, also known as “Jake braking” or “engine compression braking,” uses forces within the engine as opposed to external braking mechanisms to slow a vehicle, according to Jacobs Vehicle Systems’ website, for which Jake braking was named.

“When activated, the engine brake alters the operation of the engine’s exhaust valves so that the engine works as a power-absorbing air compressor,” the website explains.

However, due to the noise it creates, numerous Massachusetts municipalities have regulations prohibiting engine braking, such as Hingham, Ayer, Boxford, Norwell and Holyoke.

The specifics of each bylaw vary, with individual towns and cities making exceptions for fire trucks and emergency vehicles, in cases of emergency, and to avoid accidents or injuries. Fines for violating the bylaw range from $200 to $300, depending on the town or city, with some specifying signage should be posted at all entry roads into the municipality.

Newton presented the Selectboard with a petition signed by approximately 20 residents who would support having such a bylaw.

“We all like as much quiet in our town as we can have,” he explained. “Some days you go out and you won’t hear a peep. Other days it’s really annoying.”

Newton also said he’d spoken with Bernardston Police Chief James Palmeri, state Senate President Stan Rosenberg’s office and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Based on those conversations, he said if a bylaw were to be passed, the Bernardston Police Department could then enforce it and Bernardston could request signs from the state.

“Granted, it won’t stop it all,” Newton said. “But many truckers know these signs, they know the consequences.”

Two regulations?

The Selectboard didn’t act on Newton’s proposal during Wednesday’s meeting. However, the town is having research conducted regarding an earlier truck-related ordinance Bernardston resident Frank Ribeiro proposed last fall.

Ribeiro suggested limiting truck traffic on local roads, with the exception of local deliveries, out of concern for walkers, runners, bicyclists and horseback riders. Non-local traffic would be required to use Interstate 91 or Routes 5 and 10, though nothing has been enacted yet.

To understand the frequency of truck traffic, Town Coordinator Hugh Campbell said the town arranged for the Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG) to send someone to conduct a traffic count at no cost to Bernardston. Though the study was supposed to start sometime in mid-April, Campbell said he didn’t have an update on the status of the study.

Reach Shelby Ashline at:

413-772-0261 ext. 257

Greenfield Recorder

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