• EU continues to turn deaf ear to traffic noise as MEPs vote for weaker limits

    Millions of European citizens troubled by road traffic noise have had their hopes of a quieter and healthier life set back by a deal between MEPs, the tyre industry and the Italian government.

    The blow has come because MEPs have recommended watering down proposed legislation to make car tyres quieter and more energy-efficient.

    Despite well-documented advances in EU rules on exhaust emissions from road vehicles, legislation on tyres has lagged far behind and has never set limits that act as an incentive to improved technology. Legislation proposed by the Commission in May set out minimum noise and ‘rolling resistance’ standards for tyres, which would mean the most noisy and inefficient tyres would be removed from sale in Europe by 2018 at the latest.

    But even those standards, which noise and environmental campaigners say do not go nearly far enough, have been rejected by the European Parliament’s industry committee in a vote earlier this month.

    The vote seeks to water down and delay the legislation, to the point where noisy and fuel-inefficient tyres could continue to be sold indefinitely.


    ‘This is a major setback to preventing premature deaths, improving quality of life and fighting climate change,’ said T&E policy officer Nina Renshaw.

    ‘Reduced rolling resistance can make cars up to 5% more fuel-efficient, which directly reduces CO2 emissions. And a cut of 3 decibels would halve traffic noise, which would be massive given that around 50 000 Europeans die early from the impact of road noise each year, and noise from tyres is primarily responsible.

    ‘This legislation was nearly a year late when it came out in May, and now it’s under serious threat. Why is it that when we have what is really a win/win situation our MEPs persist in supporting a policy of inaction that has failed Europe’s citizens for nearly 40 years?’

    The proposed legislation was attacked by the tyre industry lobby group ETRMA. It appears to have won support from the government of Italy – home to one of Europe’s largest tyre producers, Pirelli – whose official position carried large sections of the tyre industry’s demands, including exact limit suggestions.

    The industry committee is not the leading committee on the tyres issue, so its vote only has ‘opinion’ status. The internal market committee has the lead role and votes early next month; it could stand by the Commission’s proposals.

    Renshaw added: ‘We urge MEPs to throw out the industry-backed alterations. What the Commission is proposing is hardly revolutionary, in fact it is in some ways a very slow way to make up for past inaction. If even this chance is missed, it will be a kick in the teeth for Europe’s citizens who are dying and suffering from heart disease and learning difficulties because of road noise, as well as a setback for efforts to fight climate change.’

    Recent research from the World Health Organisation says the number of ‘disability-adjusted life years’ is 40% greater for road traffic noise than for outdoor air pollution.