Breaking from compression brakes

By Shelby Harrell | Jun 21, 2013

Truckers coming through Waynesville may be driving more cautiously now that the Waynesville Board of Alderman has banned the use of engine compression brakes in the area.

The board voted last week to amend its code of ordinances to prohibit the use of compression brakes within Waynesville’s town limits.

Engine compression brakes, or Jake brakes, are used to slow large trucks as they travel down steep downgrades. When switched on, a Jake brake turns an engine into an air compressor, which makes a machine-gun-like noise.

Town Manager Marcy Onieal said several local residents complained about the noise made by the brakes.

“We’ve had this situation once before with the use of Jake brakes on Allens Creek Road, where it was previously banned, Onieal said during a recent board meeting. “Because we were getting the same request from several different parts of town, the staff has taken the approach to prohibit those brakes all over town, except in the case of emergency.”

Onieal said prohibiting engine compression brakes on Allens Creek road had been beneficial to the area.

“Our complaints in that area have dropped dramatically and we’ve had very high volunteering compliance with that ordinance,” Onieal said. “The police department has not had to issue significant number of citations.”

During a public hearing on the ordinance change, Marian Hobbie, owner of Orchard Retirement Mobile Home Park on Russ Avenue, said during a public hearing that compression brake noise had been disturbing her and her renters.

“The noise from the compression brakes is horrible,” Hobbie told board members. “Our house is up on the second orchard, and it’s even worse there than it is in the park. In my opinion, we need signs so those people going up and down Russ Avenue, especially on the downhill side, that they are aware of the law. Otherwise how could they know?”

Ken Stack, resident of Orchard Retirement Mobile Home Park, concurred with Hobbie during a public hearing.

“As the heavy truckers go downhill on Russ Avenue, it becomes ear shattering,” Stack said. “We have to stop talking. Sometimes we’re in the house watching the TV and we have to shut the front door. If there’s no signage and no prohibition, they’re going to use those brakes. It saves them brake linings and it saves gas.”

The measure was unanimously passed by the town aldermen.

Onieal said the staff planned to place signs at all Waynesville gateway entrances to inform drivers of the change along the perimeters of town. Code of ordinances, not specified could be a fine up to $500 for each infraction.

Onieal said the change went into effect immediately and the town is working on signs to inform truckers of the ordinance requirements.

Truckers react

Todd Quigg, president of Harrison Construction said the prohibition wouldn’t affect his company.

“On Allens Creek, all our transportation currently doesn’t use them,” Quigg said in reference to compression brakes. “I don't know that I see this being a big impact to our business. We’ve asked the truckers to police themselves and not use brakes. At the end of day we don't want to disturb people, so we try and abide by that.”

Southern Concrete dispatcher Tim Messer, who was a concrete truck driver for 10 years, said prohibiting the brakes wouldn’t be an inconvenience.

“Our drivers know that they’re not supposed to be used in town,” Messer said. “They slow your truck down so you don’t have to use your brakes, but you don’t need them in the city limits.”

Messer said the loud noises Waynesville residents were hearing likely were coming from visitors driving through town.

“Just a real long, steep grade — that’s all you need them on,” Messer said about the brakes, adding that Eagles Nest Mountain, Cataloochee, and roads near Ghost Town were areas where a Jake brake was necessary.

Quigg said the board action is understandable.

“Waynesville is such a residential city, with Main Street going through everything, I can understand how the noise would be an issue,” Quigg said. “But it’s kind of a condition we've been used to.”

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