Council continues work on no engine braking law

By Sheryl Roadcap -

SIDNEY — Sidney City Council authorized for legislation to be prepared that will prohibit engine braking in Sidney during its meeting Monday.

Sidney resident Merrill Asher, representative for his neighborhood’s homeowners association, presented their case to council for creating an ordinance prohibiting “jake braking” in the city. Several other members of the homeowners association also attended the meeting.

At the workshop session on Jan. 2, council discussed the homeowners’ request for the city to prohibit engine braking on the Interstate 75 northbound off-ramp at Fair Road and along Fair Road at the traffic signal at the I-75 northbound off-ramp.

City Manager Mark Cundiff admitted as a result of the request, and after signs were erected, it was discovered Sidney currently does not have an ordinance prohibiting engine braking. He said it should be noted that Law Director Jeffery Amick and Police Chief Will Balling have reviewed legislation examples in four other communities, and after talking to their colleagues found that most of these jurisdictions do not enforce the no engine braking law because it is difficult to prove. Cundiff said an officer must physically see and hear the vehicle engine braking to write a citation. He also pointed out that Sidney Fire Department engine brakes while operating vehicles to fire scenes, so they would need to be exempted from the regulation.

After researching the matter, Asher said, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) will not erect “No Engine Brake” signs to control the noise of interstate commerce on the mainline or ramps to interstate routes because it may be inconsistent with federal law.

If the ordinance was instituted, Asher said, the Home Owner’s Association could place signs on their private property close to Interstate 75 alerting truck drivers about to exit by way of the northbound off-ramp at Fair Road that engine braking is not allowed. He said if drivers break the law, homeowners could use their cellphone (or other recording device) to document the action and license plate number of the vehicle in violation as evidence.

With Love’s Travel Stop coming to Sidney next year, Asher noted the noise will get worse and cause more of an issue. He said the ordinance may also help residents near Obison Hill and Ohio Avenue.

Asher pointed out to council other laws on the books that are not consistently enforced, regulating vehicles that are not moved within 48 hours and contractors starting work before 7 a.m.

“If we stop one out of five or two out of five from using engine brakes, we are successful,” Asher said.

Mayor Mike Barhorst asked how passing an ordinance is going to help property owners put signs up. Asher responded that if the ordinance is enacted they can go to police with proof of a truck engine braking and get a warning letter sent to the truck driver or trucking company.

When Barhorst asked Amick if that was something the city could do, Amick said it is is “doable,” but “how effective it will be, remains to be seen.”

“Certainly if the law is on the book, until it is challenged, whether it be through federal regulations, or whatever, it is an enforceable statute,” Amick said. “The problem is going to be, merely taking a picture, we don’t know who the driver is. I would have a tough time actually filing a complaint with something like that. But as Mr. Asher has indicated, perhaps we could send out a letter. But I want people out here to understand, that while council does enact this, it is not something we can say to you it can be a guaranteed effective device. It is a tool. It may not be a very effective tool.”

Amick said he worked in another community in the past with a very similar situation when a new business came to town which brought a lot of traffic and noise. And a similar law was passed, but although it was a time before smartphones, the law was not very effective to help the situation.

Council member Joe Ratermann asked Asher if they have tried other noise buffering methods. Asher said they have trees and a mound, but it will take a lot of money to develop further. Asher said hopefully at some point in the future when I-75 is expanded to three lanes, a noise buffering wall will be built.

Ratermann then asked Amick “if police resources were used to provide this valuable tool for the community for this important problem” if the chances of catching violators would be remote and if they are charged at the local level, it could be deemed preempted and unenforceable. He also asked Amick if that means that Sidney’s law office could be involved in numerous appeals?

Amick responded that if a charge was challenged, the Attorney General’s opinion about federal law would come into play, but that he would not recommend for council to put into place a known illegal statute. If that were the case, Amick said, he would tell council not pass the law.

Cundiff asked Asher if the association had considered a “grassroots” effort by sending letters and calling trucking companies of truckers who are engine braking near their location. Asher responded that’s why they want the law on the books, to be able to send warning letters to those companies.

Vice Mayor Mardie Milligan said she was in favor of the ordinance and that they should consider the amount of drivers that would see the signs and obey them.

Council member Darryl Thurber agreed with Milligan about a city wide “no jake braking” law. He asked some questions about the size of the signs the homeowners association intended to put up. He also pointed out that enforcement will be difficult, but at least the signs will be there as reminder.

Council member Steve Wagner asked if they would be putting signs at every gateway entrance or just certain locations. Assistant City Manager/Public Works Director Gary Clough said they could do it either way council directs.

Council member Ed Hamaker asked how far back the signs would be. Asher said it would be far back enough so drivers could see the signs before they would engine brake.

After seeing council’s consensus on the issue, Barhorst told Amick to proceed with drafting legislation on the matter.

By Sheryl Roadcap

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.