Cars, busses and trucks

Road traffic is an important source of environmental noise, especially in urban areas. The first European harmonised requirements for sound of road vehicles was introduced in 1970 with Directive 70/157/EEC concerning the allowed sound level and the emission of motor vehicles with 4 wheels (or more). This directive has since been changed several times in order to review the sound standards and to make them more stringent. In this, one aims at aligning the test method used as properly as possible to sound emissions in real traffic situations. The current limits (valid since 1995) are in the table below.

Vehicle categories
Limit value in dB(A)
Vehicles intended for the carriage of passengers, and comprising not more than nine seats including the driver's seat
74
Vehicles intended for the carriage of passengers and equipped with more than nine seats, including the driver's seat; and having a maximum permissible mass of more than 3,5 tonnes and with an engine power of:
-         
-          > 150 kW
 
 
 
 
 
78
80
Vehicles intended for the carriage of passengers and equipped with more than nine seats, including the driver's seat; vehicles intended for the carriage of goods with a maximum permissible mass:
-         
-          between 2 and 3.5 tonnes
 
 
 
 
 
76
77
Vehicles intended for the carriage of goods and having a maximum permissible mass
exceeding 3,5 tonnes and with engine power:
-         
-          between 75 kW and 150 kW
-          > 150 kW
 
 
 
77
78
80

For certain types of vehicles the limit value is raised by 1 dB(A), e.g. when they have a diesel engine with direct injection (an injection engine has a lower CO2 emission, but makes more noise). For vehicles with a maximum permissible mass of more than 2 tonnes made for off road use (e.g. tractors), the limit values are raised by 1 or 2 dB(A), depending on whether they have an engine power of less or more than 150 kW.

In 2014, the noise standards for vehicles were updated for the first time in 20 years (Regulation no. 540/2014). The limit values will be reduced in two phases, by 2 dB(A) each time, in case of vehicles meant for transporting passengers, buses and light commercial vehicles; in case of heavy commercial vehicles, the reduction in the first phase shall be by 1 dB(A), and in the second phase by 2 dB(A). The first phase shall apply in 2021; the second will follow four years later (in 2025). These standards will enable a long-term reduction of noise emissions from road traffic. The proposed reduction will apply to the noise values obtained with the new test method, which reflects the current driving behaviour. It was also decided to impose a noise label at the point of sale. The European Commission is responsible for developing the label. The FPS Mobility and Transport is responsible for implementing the new legislation in Belgium.


From a certain speed it is particularly the rolling noise of the tyres which constitutes the biggest part of the sound the vehicle makes. This is why at the European level standards have been introduced to limit the rolling noise of tyres. You can read more on this on the page “quiet tyres”.


Motorcycles

Mopeds and motorcycles also contribute significantly to noise of road traffic. This is particularly disturbing because of the specific noise they make, which unfortunately is sometimes worsened by reckless driving and/or tampering with the exhaust system. Directive 97/24/EC establishes the permissible sound levels for motorcycles with 2 and 3 wheels and their exhaust systems, and provides measures to discourage tampering with the exhaust system. The sound limits to allow the marketing of these motorcycles, are listed in the table below:

Type of motor bike
Limiting value in dB(A)
Two-wheel mopeds with a maximum speed of:
25 km/h
> 25 km/h
Three-wheel mopeds
 
 
66
71
76
Motorcycles with an engine capacity of:
80 cm3
> 80 cm3, 175 cm3
> 175 cm3
  
75
77
80
Tricycles
80

Quadricycles (also known as "quads") must meet the standards applicable to three-wheel mopeds (76 dB) or motorised tricycles (80 dB), depending on their weight, maximum speed and power.

New limits shall apply from 1st January 2016. These are defined in Regulation No. 168/2013 on the approval and monitoring of the two-wheel or three-wheel vehicle market and of quadricycles. At present, noise standards have been established only for Euro 4 motorcycles (which will be placed on the market from 2016 onwards). As you can see, there are more vehicle categories than in Directive 97/24/EC, given the wide variety of vehicles, but the noise standard is the same beyond a certain engine capacity. Noise standards have not yet been defined for Euro 5 motorcycles. These are only planned for early 2020. Euro 4, Euro 5, etc. standards pertain to the reduction of fine particle emissions, nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons, as well as to the noise generated by these vehicles.

Vehicle category
Euro 4 sound level (dB(A))
Powered cycle (cycles designed to pedal equipped with an auxiliary propulsion)
63
Two-wheel moped vmax ≤ 25 km/h
66
Two-wheel moped vmax ≤ 45 km/h
71
Three-wheel moped
76
Two-wheel motorcycle
Engine capacity ≤ 80 cm3
75
Two-wheel motorcycle
80 cm3 3
77
Two-wheel motorcycle
Engine capacity > 175 cm3
80
Two-wheel motorcycle with side-car
80
Tricycle
80
Commercial tricycle
80
Light on-road quad
80
Light quadrimobile
80
Heavy on-road quad
80
Heavy all terrain quad
80
Heavy quadrimobile
80