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Boroughs consider noise laws

April 18, 2004|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Robert Hardin was sitting at the counter of the Buckhorn Restaurant in the Travel Center of America truck stop in Greencastle drinking coffee, smoking a cigarette and talking about "jake brakes."

Hardin, 63, of West Monroe, La., one of more than 3 million over-the-road-truck drivers in the nation, said he's been sitting behind the wheel of trucks since he was a kid. Friday afternoon, he was taking a break from hauling a load of auto parts from Connecticut to Georgia.

"I keep mine on all the time. You'd be surprised how much they slow you down," he said of the noisy engine retarding devices, commonly referred to as "jake brakes" that truckers use to save their brakes when slowing down their rigs. "I see these little signs all over, but I've never been pulled over."

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"The little signs" Hardin refers to state that it's unlawful for truckers to use the devices within a municipality's corporate limits.

There soon may be similar signs on the outskirts of Greencastle and Waynesboro, Pa., as officials in both boroughs consider passing noise abatement laws to ban the devices. Laws are also being considered to target drivers of cars with add-on mufflers that make their vehicles roar.

There has been talk in Waynesboro of adding a law aimed at vehicles with loud radios as well.

Earlier this month, members of the Greencastle Borough Council received a letter from Lawrence M. Cowden of 460 Buchanan Trail West. He complained about eastbound truckers using their engine retarders as they pass by his house on their way to the traffic light at U.S. 11.

Cowden's house is just west of the borough line, but he wrote to the council seeking relief anyway.

"They lay on it all hours of the night and day," Cowden wrote. "This wakes up residences (sic) if they are sleeping and is very annoying during the day."

Cowden's wife, Julie, said she tries to tune the noise out. "One day my husband counted 43 trucks going by from 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.," she said.

Mike Russell, spokesman for the American Trucking Associations in Alexandria, Va., which represents more than 3,000 motor carriers, said the engine retarders are safety devices.

Russell said he believes that some drivers use the devices, which substantially raise the level of engine noise, more than they need to just to make noise. "I can't say for sure, but boys will be boys," he said.

Russell said he has suggested that state highway administrations pass noise ordinances.

Last year, the Waynesboro Borough Council's Property and Public Safety Committee recommended that the council adopt a noise ordinance. The issue died when Borough Solicitor D. Lloyd Reichard II said, that while passing such a law would not pose constitutional problems, it would be difficult to enforce, a sentiment echoed by officials in both boroughs.

Police Chiefs Terry Saunders and Ray Shultz of Greencastle and Waynesboro, respectively, said they would try to enforce ordinances if their councils passed them.

Shultz said that doesn't mean an officer will be stationed Center Square looking for scofflaws. "We'll enforce it when we're there," he said. "If we see it and hear it, we will enforce it."

Ken Myers, borough manager in Greencastle, said the council would consider a noise ordinance as part of its review of borough ordinances. "It would be hard to enforce. That's part of the problem," he said.

"You can put an ordinance on the books, but how loud is too loud," said Lloyd Hamberger, borough manager for Waynesboro. He said the council will be exploring a noise ordinance again this year.

Greencastle Councilman Gerald Pool said he will propose an ordinance before his council.

Pool said he was on East Baltimore Street by the town library one recent day, and watched and heard trucks come through. "When they come through town, they use their jake brakes instead of the brakes."

Pool said while he believes truckers create most of the noise problems, he plans to add a ban on loud car mufflers in his proposal. He called the add-on mufflers that mostly young drivers install on their vehicles "a fad that kids are going through."

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