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Guide to the Approximation of European Union Environmental Legislation

Part 2

Overview of EU environmental legislation

H. Noise From Vehicles and Machinery

Existing noise control legislation can be divided into four categories. The noise emissions from motor vehicles are covered by two directives introducing sound level limits. Three directives limit noise emissions from aeroplanes by reference to the Convention on international Civil Aviation. Noise emission from household appliances has been the object of a framework directive on household appliances. The last sector, construction equipment, is based in the EEC conformity assessment procedure framework directive which led to the adoption of seven daughter directives on particular types of equipment.


H.1 Motor Vehicles, Motorcycles

Motor Vehicles

Directive 70/157/EEC introduces limits on the sound levels of noise for road vehicle and gives requirements for measuring sound levels and exhaust systems and silencers. Several amendments, the latest by Directive 96/20/EC, have reduced these permissible sound levels. Limit values for eight types of passenger and goods vehicles range from 74 dB(A) to 80 dB(A). It applies a system of optional harmonisation to the approval of motor vehicles and exhaust system. The Member States may not refuse to grant EEC or national type-approval to vehicles which meet the requirements of the directive.


Directive 78/1015/EEC on motorcycles establishes limits for the permissible sound level of motorcycles and requirements for exhaust or intake silencer. It introduces a harmonised testing procedure before issuance of the sound level measurement certificate. A system of optional harmonisation is applied to the checks carried out by the Member States which may not refuse to grant EEC or national type-approvals, although they are not required to adopt these standards for domestic producers. Limit values are given for three categories of motorcycles and range from 75 dB(A) to 80 dB(A). Member are required to respect the validity of each other's certificates.

Implementation considerations
  1. Manufacturing plants may need to be adapted to apply the limit values and measurements required to their products.
  2. The existing type-approvals needs to be reviewed to include the changes implied by the directive for the internal market.
  3. The countries should decide whether to apply a two-step legislation (standards for domestic market different from the EU internal market) or harmonise national standards with EU ones.
  4. Countries should organise compliance monitoring, and carry out spot checks and measurement controls.

Motor Vehicle Noise Emissions Directive – Implementation Considerations

National Legislative Framework
  • Compare directive requirements to existing national laws.
  • Identify legislative gaps.
  • Implement changes to motor vehicles legislation and/or national environmental protection legislation governing noise emissions.
Competent Authorities (CAs)
  • CAs must have administrative systems to enforce noise emissions standards on a national basis to road vehicles. CAs must also implement prescribed noise measuring methods.
  • Local CAs could assume responsibility for inspection and monitoring vehicles within their jurisdiction. This role should include the power to ban vehicles which do not comply with noise emissions standards.
Legal Checkpoints
  • Implementation of a national type-approval system governing both imported and domestically manufactured vehicles.
  • Legal measures to ensure implementation of test procedures, including spot checks and fines.
  • Penalties for breaches of maximum emission standards as well as for import/production of vehicles which do not meet standards.
  • Prohibit sale or use of non-EEC type approved vehicles.
Compliance Considerations
  • Assess whether new vehicles proposed for introduction into country market have received EU certification under Directive EEC/92/97.
  • Consider use of fine system for violations of use prohibitions.
  • Ensure discussion with vehicle industry experts on compliance methods and incentives for meeting noise reduction targets.
  • CAs should meet with industry, public and consumer groups on vehicle noise reduction planning, including measures to introduce quiet heavy vehicle technologies.
  • Ensure regular public communications about vehicle noise reduction measures.
Financial Considerations
  • Government to provide CA and administration.
  • Industry to meet costs of compliance.
  • Government and industry co-operation in development of fiscal incentives to reward earlier introduction of vehicles which meet new noise emission limits.

H.2 Aeroplanes

This category comprises four directives. The first lays down limits on noise emissions for aeroplanes registered in the territory of the Member States. The second applies these limits to aircraft from third countries. The third stops older noisy aircraft from being added to Member States registers. The fourth sets stricter rules on the operation of aeroplanes by submitting to international noise standards all aeroplanes operating on airports situated on the territory of the EU.

Civil Subsonic Aircraft

Directive 80/51/EEC lays down limits on noise emissions from subsonic aeroplanes based on standards specified by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. The goal is to reduce aeroplane noise, taking into account environmental factors, technical feasibility and economic consequences. It defines the contents of the documents attesting to noise certification and requires the Member States to respect the validity of each other's documents. Exemptions may be granted for specific types of aircraft. Directive 83/206/EEC applied directive 80/51/EEC to third countries.

Civil Subsonic Jet Aeroplanes

Directive 89/629/EEC lays down stricter rules to limit noise emissions from certain subsonic jet aeroplanes registered in EU territory. As under Directive 80/51/EEC, these rules are incorporated by reference from the Convention on international Civil Aviation. It prohibits the addition of certain types of noisy aircraft in the civil air registers of Member States.. Some exemptions are allowed, provided the other Member States and the Commission are informed.

Limitation of the operation of aeroplanes

Directive 92/14/EEC imposes restrictions on the use of certain aeroplanes so as to reduce noise and limit the operation at airports in the EU of aeroplanes which do not comply with the standards set in Annex 16 to the Convention on international Civil Aviation. The restrictions apply to civil aeroplanes of 34 000 kg and a capacity of 19 seats or more.

Implementation considerations
  1. Countries must designate competent authorities to be responsible for controlling the application of international noise standards.
  2. Countries should adopt strict enforcement measures and penalties against aeroplanes which do not comply with the directives.

H.3 Noise measurement methods: Construction Plant and Equipment

Directive 79/113/EEC on the determination of the noise emission of construction plant and equipment introduces a test method for determining the noise emissions of construction plant and equipment, that is, machinery, appliances, plant and installations or components thereof which are used to perform work on civil engineering and building sites. Equipment primarily intended for the transport of goods or persons and agricultural and forestry tractors are not included. The tests procedures applying to construction plants must be applied to determine the maximum sound emission levels of equipment for which detailed requirements concerning sound levels are laid down in separate directives.

Implementation considerations

  1. The directive's test method shall replace the existing one, if any.
  2. Technical requirements should be given to specialised laboratories or institutions which would be responsible for carrying out the control functions.

H.4 Permissible noise emission: Construction Plant and Equipment

Permissible sound power levels are laid down within the framework of directive 84/532/EEC on the EEC type-examination for construction plant and equipment, with regard to harmonised requirements for these types of equipment, in seven separate directives, each of them concerning a particular equipment. All the seven 'daughter' directives require that the products covered must be labelled with a mark indicating the noise levels guaranteed by the manufacturer, and contain annexes which define a method of measuring airborne noise and a spot check procedure for checking the conformity of production models with the type examined. Member States are not allowed to keep equipment which meet these requirements out of their markets, but are allowed to regulate the use of the equipment in areas they consider sensitive (e.g. near hospitals).

EEC type-examination certificates are valid for a period of five years and may be renewed.


Directive 84/533/EEC lays down noise limits for the environment and related requirements for the issuance of an EEC type-examination certificate for compressors.

Tower Cranes

Directive 84/534/EEC lays down noise limits for the environment, noise limits at the operator's position, and related requirements for the issuance of an EEC type-examination certificate for tower cranes. It lays down limits for the lifting mechanism, the energy generator and the assembly comprising the lifting mechanism and energy generator. Member States may limit the noise level at the work place.

Welding Generators

Directive 84/535/EEC lays down noise limits for the environment and related requirements for the issuance of an EEC type-examination certificate for welding generators.

Power Generators

Directive 84/536/EEC lays down noise limits and related requirements for the issuance of an EEC type-examination certificate for power generators.

Concrete breakers

Directive 84/537/EEC lays down noise limits for the environment and related requirements for the issuance of an EEC type-examination certificate for concrete breakers. The Member States may limit the noise level at the work place.


Directive 84/538/EEC defines noise limit values for the environment, noise limits at the operator's position, and measurement methods for noise from certain lawnmowers.

Hydraulic Excavators

Directive 86/662/EEC lays down noise limits and related requirements for the issuance of an EEC type-examination certificate for earth-moving machines used on civil-engineering and building sites. Additional it requires labelling of the products with the noise level at the operator's position. The Member States may limit the noise level at the work place.

Implementation considerations
  1. A general programme could be drawn up for the implementation of the seven directives.
  2. In order to apply the EU method of measuring airborne noise, manufacturing plants will need to obtain appropriate technical equipment.
  3. A monitoring programme should be drawn up
  4. A system of competent authorities ("appointed bodies") must be set up. The competent authorities must be appropriately equipped and trained.

H.5 Household Appliances

Directive 86/594/EEC is a framework directive on airborne noise emitted by household appliances. It provides consumers and users with standards and procedures governing the provision of accurate information about the noise levels of household appliances by means of clear labels combined with other mandatory consumer information such as energy consumption levels. It intends to avoid the proliferation of national labels and to encourage manufacturers and importers to produce less noisy appliances. It provides general principle regarding public information about these noise levels.

Implementation considerations
  1. Countries must follow the general guidelines for test and statistical methods set up by the directive, which means that laboratories in charge of the tests must have appropriate equipment and training.
  2. Countries should decide whether they will publish of information on airborne noise or not. If they do not, they must ensure that the manufacturer or importer publishes it.
  3. The national competent authority must define a general label format.

Further information on noise policy.