Cummins acquires ‘Jake Brake’ maker

Cummins Inc. has agreed to acquire engine brake manufacturer Jacobs Vehicle Systems for $325 million, the companies announced Wednesday.

Under the deal, Cummins, which is headquartered in Columbus, said it plans to maintain Jacobs Vehicle Systems’ existing customer relationships and will incorporate the new acquisition into its components segment.

Founded in 1961, Jacobs Vehicle Systems is a subsidiary of Massachusetts-based Altra Industrial Motion Corp. and is a supplier of braking systems primarily used in heavy-duty truck engines, including the “Jake Brake” diesel engine brake, which was invented by Cummins founder Clessie Cummins, according to filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Jacobs Vehicle Systems employs around 600 people and operates manufacturing facilities in Bloomfield, Connecticut, and Suzhou, China, which is located in Shanghai. The company generated about $193 million in revenue last year, Altra Industrial Motion Corp. said.

The two companies expect the deal to close at some point this year.

“JVS brings engineering expertise, best in class products and key manufacturing capabilities to Cummins that will allow us to continue developing component technologies that deliver market leading performance and emissions,” Cummins President and Chief Operating Officer Jennifer Rumsey said in a statement. “We expect that this transaction will provide both attractive financial returns and future growth opportunities for our company.”

Cummins said it expects the acquisition to provide growth opportunities for its advanced diesel engine platforms, further invest in the United States and will help meet requirements under the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement, or USMCA, which is free trade agreement between the three countries that replaced NAFTA.

Company officials also characterized the acquisition as “another step forward” in the Cummins’ investment in technologies believed to advance its path to zero emissions, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lower the air quality impacts of its products.

“Engine braking and cylinder deactivation technologies will be key components to meeting current and future emissions regulations, and this acquisition would allow Cummins to better integrate valuable components with its emissions-leading medium- and heavy-duty engines,” Cummins said in a news release.

Clessie Cummins invented the compression release engine brake in 1957 after a near-death experience along a mountainous stretch of Route 66 in California, Lyle Cummins, Clessie Cummin’s son, told The Republic in 2019.

When engaged, the engine brake turns the engine into an air compressor that absorbs power. It does this by opening the engine’s exhaust valve just before the engine’s power stroke, releasing the compressed gas that would have created the energy needed to drive the vehicle forward.

After being turned down by companies in Indiana and Michigan, Clessie Cummins found a home for the device at Jacobs Vehicle Systems, which gave rise to the device’s nickname, the “Jake Brake.” The product went on the market in 1961 and would become commonplace on many long haul trucks and buses.