(This answer was updated by Brian Freskos on Jan. 20, 2011.)
“The reason why motorcycles are loud is because riders and unscrupulous dealers change out the factory exhaust system for aftermarket exhaust systems that do not meet EPA regulations for noise emissions. As a result, a modified motorcycle can sound ten times (literally, as sound is measured logarithmically) as loud as a stock motorcycle,” NoiseOff.org, an organization trying to reduce noise pollution, wrote in an e-mail to the StarNews.
Indeed, James Pinkney Jr., a spokesman for the Environmental Protection Agency, said the EPA put emission standards into effect in 1982, requiring that manufacturers produce exhaust systems that comply with specified noise limits. NoiseOff.org said the current standard is 80bB(a).
The federal standards also require permanent labels on both the motorcycle frame and its exhaust system, the primary noise reduction component. NoiseOff.org said the label is a certification that can be used to prove compliance in enforcement.
“The regulations also prohibit any person from tampering with noise control components or systems, except for purposes of replacement, repair or maintenance,” Pinkney wrote. “Tampering includes the removal or rendering inoperative of any noise control device or element of design incorporated into new vehicles prior to their sale or delivery to the ultimate purchaser. It also prohibits the use of the vehicle after such device or element of design has been removed or rendered inoperative by any person. Tampering is punishable by fines of up to $10,000 per day of violation.”
When Congress passed the Noise Control Act of 1972, lawmakers concluded that primary responsibility for controlling noise rests with state and local governments, “while federal action is essential to deal with major noise sources where national uniformity of treatment is required,” Pinkney said.
In other words, while noise emission limits are a federal law, it’s up to state and local governments to enforce them.
“As you may know, the U.S. Congress has not provided the EPA with an appropriation or authorization to maintain its Office of Noise Abatement and Control since 1982 ,” Pinkney said. “Therefore, the agency does not have the resources to routinely check on motorcycle or muffler manufacturers to determine compliance with our regulations, nor does it have the capability to monitor for and enforce its anti-tampering regulation.”
NoiseOff.org also noted that motorcycle organizations often pressure legislators and police to weaken noise regulations and enforcement. “As a result, legislation intended to protect the communities from noise pollution are sufficiently weakened,” the organization said.
Date posted: October 14, 2009
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