Letters to the Editor

‘Jake brake’ advice from Australia

Your article (“’Jake brake’ headache,” July 6, 2012) came up as I was looking at truck noise issues. I live in Melbourne, Australia and we have similar problems here.

I’m writing to you as your article shows the local council has fallen for the two main myths about engine compression brakes.

First and foremost, they are mostly not about safe or emergency braking. They are for mild to moderate braking especially down long hills. They reduce the need for regular service (hydraulic) brakes and prolong their life thereby saving some money. Indeed, their use is recommended against for emergency braking due to danger of driven wheel lockup and consequent jack knifing.

Second is that the noise problem is not the engine brakes themselves but lack of proper mufflers. Most if not all notably loud trucks have illegally modified, tampered or even absent mufflers. Have a listen to such trucks when they power back up the hill or to speed and you’ll hear they’re also very loud. Most of the problem noise comes from only a small percentage of trucks mostly intentionally modified for loudness. It is essentially anti-social behaviour akin to graffiti. Signs tend to encourage them.

I suggest you advocate for prosecution of illegal exhaust systems and compulsory use of mufflers specifically made to quiet engine brakes such as (U.S. made) Donaldson Silent Partner. A general ban on compression brakes in the meantime would do no harm (unless Williston is on a big hill) and strengthen your bargaining position.

Good luck. What fascinates me most from my research is how and why this problem is essentially tolerated in some countries and not others. The culprits are mainly single operators or smaller concerns. They are not well organized or politically connected or savvy. Yet they are often immune from effective prosecution.

Mark Freeman,
Melbourne, Australia


More on turf fields

My letter questioning the wisdom of installing artificial turf on CVU athletic fields (“Artificial turf benefits don’t justify the expense,” Nov. 15) provoked a response from a pro-artificial turf neighbor (“Turf fields not a luxury,” Nov. 29). He calls my remarks “misguided” and “unsubstantiated,” but the only one he actually contradicts is the claim that artificial turf fields get hotter than natural ones. He says this isn’t a problem in northern states like Vermont. But a well-documented Penn. State study showed that artificial turf averages 35-55 degrees hotter no matter where you live—to a record 200 degrees in Utah and 175 degrees in Pennsylvania. Factoring for Vermont’s cooler climate still might give us peak temperatures on artificial turf of 150 degrees or more.

Parents around the country continue to worry about high levels of lead, zinc and other toxins used in artificial turf, despite “independent studies” by such organizations as the Synthetic Turf Association.

My neighbor doesn’t even address the cost issue. Artificial turf is typically pitched as cost-effective, but it isn’t—it would take 100 years for an artificial turf field at CVU to pay for itself, and they only last 15 or 20 at best.

He argues that artificial turf is a necessity, not a luxury, but his own statements reveal the real motivation. “It is an embarrassment that such an eminent school as CVU is unable to provide such a basic need,” he says. Further, “UVM, St. Mike’s, Burlington and South Burlington” all have artificial turf—it’s a “well-established precedent.” Don’t we want to provide the same level of support as “other Division 1 schools?” In other words, this is keeping up with the Joneses on a municipal scale.

Civic pride isn’t a bad thing, but there’s a limit. Look at your property tax bill—80 percent goes to schools already, and we’re still failing to meet math standards. Spending another $2.4 million on a soccer field instead of basic academics would be irresponsible.

William Workman