Motor vehicle noise limits must be lowered drastically to protect the health of EU citizens, said Environment Committee MEPs who approved an update of the relevant legislation on Tuesday by 30 votes to 27, with two abstentions. They also recommended introducing a labelling scheme to inform consumers about the noise levels of new cars.
Persistent exposure to high levels of traffic noise may exhaust physical reserves, disrupt proper functioning of organs and lead to development of cardiovascular and other diseases. Half of the EU's urban population is exposed to noise levels above 55 db as a result of ambient road noise.
"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 (ECR, CZ), before the vote.
Significantly lower sound limits
The proposed regulation sets lower sound limits for new vehicles in category M (for passengers) and N (for goods). By a margin of one vote, the Environment Committee supported more stringent limits on sound emissions than those proposed by the rapporteur and the EPP, ECR and EFD groups. A proposal by the S&D, ALDE, Greens/EFA and GUE/NGL groups, which goes further, was adopted by 29 votes in favour to 28 against, with two abstentions.
"Contrary to our proposal, which was realistic, the one adopted by the committee is over-ambitious. 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", said Mr. Ouzký after the vote.
The reduction, taking effect six years after the regulation enters into force, would first apply to the approval of new vehicle types. Subject to proper assessment of their impact on car industry, new limits should be reviewed and, if necessary, adapted. They would then apply for all new vehicles that will be registered, sold or will enter into service in the EU.
The report was adopted by 30 votes in favour to 27 against with two abstentions.
Noise level label for consumers
To better inform consumers about the noise levels of vehicles they are about to buy, MEPs called on the Commission to introduce a new labelling scheme like those already used for to show fuel consumption, tyre noise and CO2 emissions. Information on vehicle noise levels should also be available in technical promotional materials at all points of sale, they add.
The proposed new regulation would also set standards for the audibility of hybrid and electric vehicles for vulnerable road users. The option for manufacturers to equip their vehicles with the Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System (AVAS), which by continuous sound informs pedestrians of a vehicle in operation, will remain voluntary, but where used, the requirements should be harmonised. MEPs also asked for an assessment of what the role of the AVAS system should be in the EU-wide effort to improve road safety.
Current legislation setting sound level limits for motor vehicles was originally adopted in 1970, when the EU harmonised member states' differing technical requirements. It has been updated several times since then, the last revision dating back to 2007.
The plenary vote on new rule is scheduled for the March session in Strasbourg. The final shape of the legislation will have to win blessing of both the European Parliament and the Council.
In the chair: Matthias Groote (S&D, DE)