Plunk sips an iced tea. The birds are chirping on this particular hot summer weekday and a breeze is blowing through the soft green foilage. The view from this vantage point is striking, high above the highway with a view of the Yellow Creek embayment at Pickwick Lake and the sprawling Auqa Yacht Harbor below, beckoning passersby to come enjoy life on the lake.
Plunk, a 38-year-old stay at home mom, has her conversation with a visitor interrupted by the nearby passage of a northbound log truck rumbling hammer down with a full load headed to the PCA paper mill.
“See?” she asks. “All day long. They drive like crazy. And it’s so loud.”
Another log truck flies southbound, its load empty. Then another. Then two more.
Northbound. Southbound. Over and over.
Plunk’s father was a truck driver. “That’s why I know what I’m talking about,” she explains, then the words are muffled with another passing logger.
“I try to have a conversation, then we have to quit talking,” she adds.
The visitor decides to count. Forty 18-wheelers go by in one hour, mostly loggers. About 1/2 appear to be going above the posted speed limit and three ignore the “No Engine Brakes” sign and give the exhaust-produced loud noise which has many cities banning such unnecessary practices.
“It wakes us up at night,” explains Plunk, a resident of the hillside for seven years, living in a large brick home built by her self-employed builder husband, Michael Plunk. “We can’t sleep at times.”
“I was told they would enforce it,” she says about the “No Engine Brakes” warning. “But they are not.”
One passing trucker hits the Jake brake. The noise is deafening. “They think it’s a joke. I don’t think it’s funny,” says the Alcorn County native. “It’s so unnecessary.”
Plunk recalls her mission against the noise pollution and all the phone calls made to the Mississippi Department of Transportation, law enforcement agencies and Tishomingo County.
Her dilemma unfolds a complex process of why there is such a thing as an engine brake, what type of laws exist or don’t exist and just what kind of authority law enforcement may have against the noise problem.
To understand Plunk’s dilemma -- which started the day the decision was made to live near a highway -- one has to understand the issue which has swept across the entire country.
Many cities have outlawed compression release engine brakes, frequently called Jake brake or Jacobs brake, which is installed on some diesal engines. Once activated, it opens exhaust valves in the cylinders, releasing compressed air trapped there, which slows the vehicle. This creates a loud noise.
Jacobs has made claims that “No Jake Brakes” violates their trademarks, which is probably why older signs with Jake can be seen on U.S. 45 in the Biggersville area, but the newer signs in Tishomingo County mention engine brakes.
When the issue surfaced in Corinth several years ago, the debate was safety vs. noise, but opponents to the noise claim trucks traveling posted speed limits should have no use for an engine, or Jake brake.
With Plunk’s urging and persistent attitude, there are three “No Engine Brakes” signs along Highway 25 on both the northbound and southbound sides of the highway near the state line.
Installed by the Mississippi Department of Transportation at the request of Tishomingo County, Plunk says the problem isn’t any better in the six months since the signs were erected.
“It took us six months to even get the signs,” says Plunk. “I was so proud when it happened.”
Plunk credits and thanks MDOT’s Mitch Caver for his caring attitude in the project.
Tishomingo County Second District Supervisor Nickey McRae, whose district includes the stateline area at Pickwick, recalls being a part of the signs being installed.
“I’ve heard of no problems since the signs went up,” says McRae, contacted on his cell phone. “I’ve heard no more about it.”
“It was a bad situation, I remember that,” explains the supervisor. “I heard complaints from many neighbors in the area, especially the problem of noise around 2-3 a.m.”
Many local towns now have signs erected, notes McRae, who lives not far from U.S. 72 and is aware of the noise associated with engine brakes. “If a truck is doing the speed limit, there is no need for a Jake brake,” adds the supervisor.
McRae recalls action being taken against engine brakes several years ago, but he wasn’t sure if it was an ordinance or signs being posted.
When told one stateline resident says the problem still exists, McRae said he would contact neighbors this week on the issue he thought had been resolved.
In terms of an ordinance, therein lies the rub, according to the Mississippi Highway Patrol.
The Jake brake ban is not a state law, according to Ronny R. Hall, public information officer with the MHP.
“It would be a local ordinance from either the municipality officials or county supervisors,” responds Hall via e-mail. “Once the ordinance is established, the enforcement of the ordinance would be at the discretion of the local governing body that enacted the ordinance.”
Speed limit violations, however, are a different story, notes Hall.
The MHP is aggressive in enforcing the speed limit laws, noted the public information officer. “We try our best to keep our citizens safe by enforcing the speed limit, not only commercial vehicles such as log trucks, but all vehicles,” notes Hall.
The officer offers a recommendation where areas are experiencing excessive speed violators. Call either the local law enforcement agency, or as in the case along Mississippi 25 in question, contact the MHP.
The numbers are 662-534-8650 or *HP(47) from a mobile phone, notes Hall.
Cherrie Plunk just wants a little peace and quiet.
And now, she has been heard.