Ideas for Conshohocken | No. 4 | Prohibit Brake Retarders

Last month on, asked about truck traffic overnight on West Elm Street. Our question was prompted by an inquiry from a resident of The Grande, the condo community along West Elm Street, and the question received a big response with lots of people commenting and complaining about the noise. A group of residents also attended a meeting of Conshohocken’s Borough Council, but was pretty much told due to West Elm Street being a state road, it was an issue for PennDOT.

Last week we came across this article on that involves a similar problem in Towamencin Township. In Towamencin Township big trucks are also making a lot of noise on a state road that has resulted in sleepless nights for the neighbors. The Towamencin Board of Supervisors decided to take action and placed signs asking for truck drivers to not use the retarder. PennDOT had an issue with the signs and now the Board of Supervisors is moving to prohibit the use brake retarders in the problem areas. From

After hearing complaints about the noise some big trucks generate when they slow their big rigs down, the township supervisors Wednesday night authorized staff to prepare an ordinance that would prohibit the use of brake retarders on parts of four roads. Those roads are Allentown Road between Fretz Road and Forty Foot Road, Wambold Road between Sumneytown Pike and Allentown road, Sumneytown Pike between Old Forty Road and Wambold Road and Detwiler Road between Forty Foot Road and Wambold Road. Township police Chief Tim Dickinson suggested the prohibition on brake retarders in those areas even though he knows that enforcement will be a challenge.

What is a brake retarder? We didn’t know either. According to Wikipedia, brake retarders are “a device used to augment or replace some of the functions of primary friction-based braking systems, usually on heavy vehicles. Retarders serve to slow vehicles, or maintain a steady speed while traveling down a hill, and help prevent the vehicle from “running away” by accelerating down the hill.” Basically that noise you hear when a truck slows down, that is a break retarder.

In an article from, Towamencin’s Police Chief Tim Dickinson describes how the prohibition would work:

“There will actually be two signs: you need one sign at the beginning of the prohibition, and you need a sign at the end saying it’s the end of the prohibition,” said Dickinson.

“It says ‘Brake retarders prohibited within municipal limits,’ that’s the standard PennDOT sign, and at the end it will say ‘End brake retarder prohibition.’ This way, the truck drivers will know, ‘I can’t use it here, now I can use them,’” he said.

In both articles, Dickinson is concerned about the ability to enforce the ordinance. For example, if there are multiple trucks on a road at one time. How would the police know which truck is doing it?

Conshohocken has explored this before. In 2015, Borough Council member Karen Tutino (D, Ward 1) proposed such an ordinance for West Elm and Fayette Street. From the minutes of the October 7, 2015 meeting:

Mr. Manfredi reminded Council that, at an earlier meeting, Ms. Tutino requested that Council consider adopting an ordinance to eliminate brake retarders specifically on two streets in her Ward, Fayette Street and Elm Street, and asked Mr. Savona to
explain. Mr. Savona mentioned that a draft ordinance to address Ms. Tutino’s request was before Council that evening and explained that there may be limitations when attempting to enforce the ordinance because of PennDOT regulations that require brake retarders on state highways for certain classes of vehicles and both streets that Ms. Tutino had hoped to apply the ordinance to are state highways. Council also discussed locations and the benefits of erecting signage to notify drivers of the ordinance if passed. Mr. McConnell confirmed from Mr. Savona that Council could only vote to advertise the ordinance at the next meeting if they chose to move forward with the adoption process. Before moving on to the next item, Mayor Frost suggested that the draft ordinance be shared with Police Chief Orler for his input.

And ordinance was drafted, but the issue was not voted on at the October 21, 2015 (see minutes) and we can’t find any mention of the proposed ordinance after that. We emailed Tutino on August 11th asking about the status of the ordinance, but did not receive a response back.

If you are interested in this topic, just google “prohibit” “brake retarders” and you will see it has been accomplished and/or discussed in a bunch of municipalities in the area.

Let us know what you think in the comments.