Northborough Selectmen pass Lyman Street Jake brake ban 

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Northborough Selectmen pass Lyman Street Jake brake ban 
Northborough recently added part of Lyman Street to its list of areas where so-called Jake brakes are banned in town. (Photo/Ben Domaingue)

NORTHBOROUGH – Truck drivers will no longer be able to use their compression brakes on a portion of Lyman Street in Northborough following a vote by the Board of Selectmen on Monday

This marks the second time the Board of Selectmen have adopted a prohibition on compression brakes — also known as Jake brakes or engine brakes — in recent months. 

According to Director of Public Works Scott Charpentier, the town received concerns from four different Northborough residents in 2020 “expressing concern about rumbling Jake brakes at the intersection of Lyman Street and Bartlett [Street].” 

Town Meeting members then approved a bylaw in 2021 that allowed the town to adopt Jake brake prohibitions on select streets. 

Selectmen adopted that first Jake brake prohibition on Bartlett Street in October. 

At that time, resident Janeen Callaghan asked if a sign could be installed on Lyman Street as trucks approach Bartlett.

“That is notorious for truckers using Jake brakes at that location,” Callaghan said.

This new prohibition will now apply to a specific residential part of Lyman Street near its intersection with Ridge Road and to the north to Bartlett Street. 

Charpentier said that truck drivers will still be able to use their Jake brakes in emergencies. 

Town officials discuss signage

Signs noting this ban will be placed just past the railroad bridge near Ridge Road and near the intersection Lyman and Bartlett. The signs will read “No Engine Brake,” according to Charpentier’s memo. 

Charpentier said the signs will be erected by mid-March, at which time police can enforce this ban. 

Both selectmen Leslie Rutan and Julianne Hirsh asked if the signs could be clear that the prohibition applies to trucks. 

“If it weren’t for these meetings and such, I wouldn’t know what that term even meant,” Rutan said. “If I’m a driver driving down the road and I see that sign and I really don’t know what that is, I think I would be a little bit confused — like does this apply to me, is there something I’m not supposed to be doing that I’m not aware of.” 

She acknowledged that this is the common language used for these regulations. However, she noted that some people have been confused as to whether the signs applied to them. 

Police Chief William Lyver added that the phrasing of “engine compression brake” is “widely known” in the trucking industry.

To maintain the regulatory dimensions of the sign, the town would need a sign to explain the sign if they wanted to add any language beyond “No Engine Brake,” Lyver said.

“If anybody’s got a Class A drivers license, they know what it means and that it only applies to them,” Lyver said. 

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