Main Street quieted down this week. There were fewer ambulances and few to no drivers leaning on their horns at the Buell Lane intersection. But one largely avoidable cause of noise continued — loud “compression braking” by big-truck drivers.
Compression, engine, or Jake braking (after a manufacturer’s name) is frequently used on semi-trucks carrying heavy loads. They save wear on traditional brake pads and even reduce heat and potential fires when trucks have to descend long, steep grades. Route 27, otherwise known as Montauk Highway, is more or less flat, especially through the South Fork villages and hamlets.
Unfortunately, because 27 is a state road, easy implementation of an engine-braking ban would be difficult. The New York Department of Transportation has told other communities in the state that the braking technique is a valuable safety option for truckers, where justified. The transportation department has said that local police should instead enforce local noise ordinances and regulations concerning faulty or inadequate exhausts. And so the trucks growl by.
But in California, the Santa Cruz Board of Supervisors banned engine braking this year, for example, in a county with more than 300,000 trucks crossing to and from Mexico each year through the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales. Grand Junction, Colo., outlawed compression braking citywide in June. Franklin, N.J., banned it in 2021.
Here is where the East End’s representatives in the Albany Legislature should get involved and restore some local control over roadways. From Water Mill to Montauk and on the North Fork, the state highways cleave quaint communities in two. And, while not as widespread as aircraft noise, the machine-gun hammering of trucks slowing negatively affects residents’ enjoyment of their properties and prevents retailers and others from conducting business without interruption. New York’s transportation law needs to be adapted to give local officials the right to regulate loud braking, as is done in other states. Targeted police speed checks in the hamlets might help as well.
On flat Long Island, there is no excuse for compression braking, except in case of emergency.