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Town quells Allens Creek ‘jake’ brake problem

Residents along Allens Creek in Waynesville are cheering a long-sought ban on the use of “jake” brakes by gravel trucks on their way to and from a rock quarry located in their otherwise residential community.

“It is like living in a different world out here,” Charles Miller, a resident of Allens Creek, said of the ban. “It’s definitely quieter up Allens Creek.”

“Jake” brakes are an alternative method of braking used by trucks to choke the flow of fuel to the engine, causing it to sputter like a very loud air compressor. The result is a series of horrendous, reverberating thunks that produce a loud, jolting racket. Technically called engine compression brakes, “jake” brakes have been adopted as the common moniker after a popular brand name manufacturer of the brakes.

Last month, the Waynesville Town Board approved a ban on the use of “jake” brakes along Allens Creek Road, which is home to an unusually high volume of truck traffic — hundreds a day — in the heart of a residential neighborhood.

“It is a quality-of-life issue more than anything else,” said Alderman Gavin Brown “Hopefully people will see the results.”

Miller championed the cause of a “jake brake” ordinance. He brought his complaints to the town board on several occasions in recent years and was pleased they finally took action.

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“Jake” brakes are designed for very steep grades when extra braking power is needed. But Allens Creek Road is nearly flat, making the use of “jake” brakes unnecessary. Most truck drivers were considerate to the local community, Miller said.

“Only a small percentage of our local drivers were doing that,” Miller said. “Most of these boys are good drivers and good people.”

Signs notifying drivers of the ban have already been put up along the road. In addition, Waynesville Police Chief Bill Hollingsed has written a letter that will be sent to truck drivers in the region alerting them to the ban. Rock quarry managers, who have always encouraged good etiquette from drivers that use the quarry, have agreed to pass out pamphlets on the issue from Hollingsed.

“We will start enforcing it after the notifications have been made and signs have been up for a while. Hopefully, this will do the trick,” Hollingsed said of the ordinance.

Some towns have enacted “jake” brake bans town-wide. The town board decided the ban would only apply to Allens Creek, however, where the sheer volume of truck traffic made the use of “jake” brakes more than simply an occasional nuisance.

Interviews with numerous residents on Allens Creek last year revealed just how unpleasant living alongside a constant barrage of rock quarry truck traffic can be. Here’s an excerpt from the article that appeared last September in The Smoky Mountain News:

“Living along Allens Creek Road in Waynesville sometimes feels like living in a war zone. Residents keep their doors and windows shut, make their children play behind the house or behind chain link fences, are afraid to use the sidewalks, and rarely linger on their porches. They scurry out to their mailboxes and back as quickly as possible, and the wary mail carrier keeps one eye glued to his review mirror .... Trucks pass by every 30 seconds on average from dawn to dusk — sometimes with several blowing by in quick succession and a reprieve rarely lasting longer than 60 seconds. They rattle windows, cause a gust of air that would blow off a lose fitting hat, kick up dust, spew exhaust and dribble gravel.”

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