Engine brakes used for safety’s sake

There is an old saying in Alaska: “There are four seasons in Alaska: almost winter, winter, still winter, and ‘Construction.’”
We are near the end of what has felt like an un-ending construction season: pullouts along the Sterling Highway from Soldotna down, Ocean Drive down the length of the Homer Spit, the west end of Kachemak Drive, which really needs to be all of Kachemak Drive, East Road from McLay to Waterman, and several sections out past McNeil Canyon.
 I mention this because throughout the summer in the “Town Crier” section of the local paper, there have been many complaints of the multitude of semi trucks using their engine retarders, or “Jake Brakes.”
 As a licensed and experienced truck driver, and having driven truck/trailer across the United States, I understand the complaints about the use of these brakes.
However, the use of these engine-style brakes are not nearly as annoying and obnoxious as the possibility of one of these fully loaded trucks trying to maintain speed on a downhill using only the service brakes, or the “foot brake.”
Trucks are a very different animal, and excessive use of the service brakes can cause the brakes to heat up and potentially fail.
Have you ever been behind a loaded semi preparing to drop off of Baycrest? Notice how they start the drop moving so slowly? It’s because they can’t afford to heat up the brakes as they drop off the hill.
The next time you decide to call the police because a truck is using an engine brake, think of what could possibly happen if they don’t have that option and the brakes completely fail. Could it be your family or friend that pays for it?
Phil Celtic

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