HUDSON – A citizen’s petition to prohibit compression engine braking will go before Town Meeting on May 1.
It was petitioned by resident Elizabeth Brown, and it was the topic of discussion at the Feb. 23 Internal Traffic Committee meeting.
Brown said when she began this process, it was not part of the proposed Intel redevelopment. The hope, said resident Michael McCormack, is to have a sign on the main roads frequented by trucks to have a sign prohibiting it, like in Berlin.
“The idea is that it’s on the books, and it’s a deterrent to a fair number of people when they see a sign that says you’re going to get fined $250 if there’s an officer there and hears you doing that,” said McCormack.
Town staff weigh in
A prohibition was recently discussed at a Select Board meeting in January. During that meeting, board members and staff voiced concerns on the enforcement of a prohibition, and they noted that the brakes were used for safety.
“My impression is you all seem to be not in favor of this petition that’s being put forward, and I’m concerned about that,” Brown said.
“It’s not that we’re not in favor,” said Director of Planning and Community Development Kristina Johnson. “Philosophically, generally speaking, this does make sense. It feels good. We do want to limit noise pollution.”
However, Johnson voiced concerns about the practicality of enforcement. According to Johnson, when talking to staff in 10 other communities, they told the Hudson officials that no citations were issued.
“It’s very difficult … to enforce the matter,” Johnson said.
Police Chief Richard DiPersio added while he wasn’t opposed to the concept of the petition, he said it was unrealistic to expect that officers would be posted listening for truck noise. Department of Public Works Director Eric Ryder said he was concerned with how many streets would have signs.
McCormack, who worked for a company that made the brakes, said the compression braking was frequently done to save the truck’s brake lines.
The citizen’s petition specifically would amend Hudson’s general bylaws for noise regulation and add a section that would prohibit excessive noise from compression brakes.
The amendment contains language that would give an exception for emergency situations and use by fire and emergency vehicles.
The amendment would be enforced by the Hudson Police Department. It calls for a $250 fine for each offense.
Johnson said Hudson’s noise bylaw regulated the timeframe of noise, not the type of noise. She also said that enforcement would occur after the application of the brakes and the driver could tell police that they were used for a safety issue.
“Every time that you hear a compression engine braking application, the police get called. Then they go out, and it’s already occurred. Then, it’s the operator’s word against what you heard against what happened,” Johnson said.
Brown likened it to speeding enforcement, and another resident likened it to litter enforcement.
The residents didn’t expect police to chase the offenders down, Brown said.
“We’re asking for signage to inform people or truck drivers when they enter the town that they’re banned from the town, just like Berlin did,” Brown said.