MEPs could be voting to make vehicles louder

Research carried out for T&E suggests there is a danger that new rules aimed at making vehicles quieter will in fact make them louder for the next 15 years.
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Last December, the Commission presented a package of new noise limits for private and commercial vehicles. They were criticised by T&E and other environmental groups as lacking ambition, but draft changes by the Parliament’s environment committee would weaken the Commission’s proposals even further.

T&E commissioned M+P Consulting Engineers to provide an expert analysis of the draft changes. They say noise emissions from certain types of vehicles such as large buses and large lorries would take 16 years to get back to today’s levels, which effectively means these vehicles would be louder than they are now for the next 15 years. Other vehicles will also get louder, albeit for shorter timespans.

T&E clean vehicles manager Greg Archer said: ‘The committee could end up making the new rules even weaker than the existing 20-year-old standards. That would be a slap in the face for the millions of Europeans that live next to noisy roads. In times of economic hardship, local authorities will be left to pick up the bill to install expensive noise barriers. That makes no sense as it would be 100 times cheaper to cut the noise from vehicles.’

Environmental groups have been highly critical of the EU’s approach to noise. Over the past 40 years, traffic noise has become a major impact on human health, causing an estimated 50 000 premature deaths a year and 250 000 cases of heart disease. Yet legislation has barely been updated in those four decades, and any updates have not set standards that would give the automotive industry an incentive to develop quieter vehicles.

‘It’s clear the car industry is lobbying fiercely to weaken even the modest proposals the Commission has put forward,’ Archer added. ‘It’s vital that MEPs see this in context, resist the noisy demands of the car companies, and support a regulation which contains at least a mild tightening of noise standards for all types of vehicles, as well as a much-needed improvement in testing methods to mirror real-world conditions.’

The European Parliament’s environment committee has postponed a vote on the proposed changes from July to September. This reflects the difficulty in reaching a compromise and gives evidence of the complexity of the proposals. The regulation has also yet to be considered by the member states, which will provide further justification for delay.

  • A leading official from the German sports car maker Porsche has called for noise barriers to be the preferred solution to cutting vehicle noise to prevent car makers having to develop quieter technology. Hanns-Martin Gerhard, Porsche’s head of vehicle noise, says cities should be redesigned with huge concrete barriers to separate cars and residents.