The first-ever legislation imposing limits on the level of noise emitted by motor vehicles in Europe was introduced in 1970, when the European Union harmonized its member states’ varying requirements into a uniform rule. It has been updated from time to time since then, of course, with the latest legislation been put into effect in 2007.
Since half of the EU's urban population is exposed to noise levels above 55 db because of ambient road noise and medical research has shown that persistent exposure to high levels of traffic noise may impede one’s health, the EU’s Environmental Committee thought it was about time they took another look at the legislation.
Last Tuesday, Members of the European Parliament (MEP) approved an update of the existing regulation by 30 votes for, 27 against and two abstentions. They also recommended the introduction of a labeling system, similar to the one used for fuel consumption, CO2 emissions and tire noise levels, as well as setting standards for making hybrid and electric vehicles audible to pedestrians.
"This regulation has been discussed in the Environment Committee for a year now and I am convinced it will help to protect health of EU citizens against the negative effects of motor vehicle noise," said rapporteur Miroslav Ouzký before the vote.
The proposal approved supports stricter limits than the one proposed by Ouzký and the EPP, ECR and EFD groups. Plenary vote for the new regulation is set for the Committee’s session in Strasbourg in March 2013 and the final proposal will have to be approved by both the European Parliament and the Council.
In case this happens, it will be implemented on new cars being registered, sold or entering into service in the EU six years after the new rules come into force. The Committee noted that it will assess their impact on the car industry (that, currently, isn’t having the best of times…) and, if necessary, will be reviewed.
Mr. Ouzký was disappointed by the outcome of the MEPs’ vote: "Contrary to our proposal, which was realistic, the one adopted by the committee is over-ambitious”, he commented afterwards.
“It will only hurt European automotive industry by reducing its ability to compete and might even lead to its destruction. As the plenary debate might introduce some changes to the text adopted today, I recommend not to start any negotiations with the Council until we have support of the entire House,” he added.
Here's a suggestion: perhaps, before voting, automakers should give the MEPs a ride in some of their most aurally-pleasing offerings. Maybe experiencing a German 6.2-liter V8 or 3.0-liter flat-six or an Italian V8 or V12 might just get some of them to change their minds...
By Andrew Tsaousis