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Chesterfield ordinance proposals indicate residents’, city officials’ frustration

East and westbound trucks meet at the bottom of a hill on I-64 in Chesterfield, where drivers of large, diesel trucks often use "Jake Brakes" to slow down.

East and westbound trucks meet at the bottom of a hill on I-64 in Chesterfield, where drivers of large, diesel trucks often use “Jake Brakes” to slow down.

The adage declaring “Enough is enough!” may have two cases in point in ordinances receiving their first readings at the Nov. 21 Chesterfield City Council meeting.

One measure would outlaw the practice commonly known as “Jake braking,” often used by large diesel-powered trucks and a source of complaint from residential property owners whose homes are close to major thoroughfares. The other would restrict accepting bonds from surety companies that have earlier defaulted on their financial obligation and have been a source of grief and expense to the city.

The former proposal forbids the operator of a motor vehicle on any public street, roadway or highway in Chesterfield from using any method that produces “excessive and unnecessary noise, including but not limited to unmuffled engine braking” to slow the vehicle.

Compression-release braking systems or “Jake brakes” enable a driver to maintain speed or even slow a vehicle on a downgrade with little or no use of the truck’s regular brakes. The name refers to the Jacobs brand of engine brakes, but the term has become a generic reference to such systems.

In a regular gasoline-powered vehicle, engine braking occurs as soon as the driver releases pressure on the accelerator. That’s not true in diesel-powered trucks where such braking happens only when air in the engine’s cylinders is released during the compression cycle. But releasing that air can cause the truck to make a loud chattering sound – often compared to the noise made by a machine gun. The vehicle’s driver decides when to activate the system.

Chesterfield residents, primarily those in subdivisions south of Interstate 64, don’t want that system activated as eastbound trucks hit the long downgrade east of Clarkson Road. Complaints also have come from those living near Route 141.

Approval of the ordinance means the city would be able to erect warning signs announcing the restriction as long as those signs meet with approval from the Missouri Department of Transportation.

Many other cities in the U.S., Canada and Australia have adopted similar measures, leading to the development of new types of mufflers and turbochargers to produce a less noisy compression braking system. Regardless of their effectiveness, those advances aren’t on all diesel-powered trucks now on the road, which led the council’s Public Health and Safety Committee to recommend the new restriction.

On the second issue, Chesterfield requires posting a surety bond guaranteeing that the work a developer agrees to perform in connection with any development is done as promised. On at least three occasions in the past five years, the city has found itself embroiled in disputes with the surety bond company over payment for work the developer has not completed.

According to Aimee Nassif, Chesterfield’s planning and development services director, the differences can mean the city must go to court in an effort to collect.

In the disputes, the city also has found itself having to respond to repeated requests for information and to allegations that the city does not have the necessary proof for its claims. In cases where a settlement finally was agreed on, the amount has not been the total specified in the performance bond.

“It appears the strategy of some surety firms is to prolong the process through the legal system until the city either gives up or is forced to settle for something less to get the case resolved in some manner,” Nassif said.

The proposed ordinance would address that issue by not permitting or accepting the posting of any bond issued by a surety firm or an affiliate that has during the preceding 10 years refused to pay on a bond when demanded by the city. The measure includes a provision allowing an appeal to the city council by anyone wanting to challenge the refusal decision, but adds that a bond will not be accepted from a surety “while in litigation, mediation or arbitration with the city.”

An internal informational memorandum accompanying the proposed ordinance noted only one surety company’s bonds would be affected immediately by the measure.

Final council action on the ordinance will not come until the measure is approved for a second reading at a future meeting.

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