published Thursday, January 12th, 2012

Kimball, Tenn., residents complain about 'Jake Brake' noise

By Ryan Lewis/Correspondent
  • photo
    A 'No Jake Brake' sign is seen in this file photo.
    Photo by Ron Clayton

KIMBALL, Tenn. — Almost everyone in Kimball has heard the roaring sound of engine brakes from large diesel trucks, and now local residents are coming forward to complain about the noise.

Jacobs Engine Brakes, commonly known as "Jake Brakes," are compression-release engine brakes used by large diesel trucks to navigate steep downgrades so normal braking methods won't fail.

Kimball resident Barry Bealer, who drove a tractor-trailer for 30 years, said the problem with the extremely loud noise caused by the use of the brakes is growing out of control inside city limits.

The trucks use the brakes to slow down for speed zone changes, he said, and there are no downgrades in the city limits steep enough to require the use of them.

"There's no reason that any truck on Main Street [in Kimball] should need its engine brake," he said.

The noise from the brakes constantly disturbs people who are trying to sleep during the day, he said.

"My wife and I are both in pretty bad health now, and there are times that we need rest in the afternoons," he said.

Kimball Police Chief Tommy Jordan said they've received complaints about the noise.

"All you can do is stop them and talk to [the drivers] about it," he said. "I can't tell [the truck drivers] how to drive. All I can do is caution them about the noise."

Bealer said he has talked with local trucking company owners and asked them to tell their drivers not to use the brakes inside the city limits.

"That worked for about a month," he said. "Now they have gone back [to using the brakes]."

Kimball Mayor David Jackson said the town has an existing ordinance which controls excessive noise, but police officers must hear it in order to issue a citation.

"It's questionable that the town's existing noise ordinance would even apply to the use of an engine brake," Kimball Attorney Billy Gouger said.

Most towns that have prohibited engine brake use have passed "a specific ordinance," Gouger said, but "we don't have that in Kimball right now."

Jackson said the board has discussed the "Jake Brake" situation in the past year, but the issue was tabled.

The board may consider putting up signs in an effort to curb the use of the brakes, officials said, but without a specific ordinance, the signs would have to be carefully worded.

Jackson said he will arrange for a Kimball police officer to observe the use of engine brakes on Main Street "in the next week or so."

"We'll see how big a problem we have and what we might need to do to address it," he said.

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at

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