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Vermont Motorcycle Noise Law Kick-Starts Loud Pipes Discussion

February 18, 2010

Vermont Motorcycle Noise Law Kick-Starts Loud Pipes Discussion

Representative Dave Sharpe, of Bristol, has proposed a motorcycle noise ordinance that he hopes will start conversation about how to prevent loud motorcycles from annoying residents of his district.

The proposal H.0733, which is currently in the Transportation Committee, sets an 80 decibels maximum noise level and prohibits removing, bypassing or modifying exhaust in a manner that causes the motorcycle to exceed the limit. The bill also requires sellers of replacement exhaust systems to include specifications on the noise level emitted by systems.

Sharpe said that complaints about loud motorcycles from Bristol residents – especially those who live on VT-17 –motivated him to sponsor the bill. “It’s unfortunate when a few impinge upon the enjoyment of other residents”, Sharpe said.

“I hope a little self-regulation might go further than having the State come in and pass laws”, Sharpe said. “This puts it out there on the table. I hope this is a conversation starter.”

New Hampshire, Massachusetts and New York have noise laws and Maine is working on a proposal. The noise level and method of measurement varies considerably among states.

“We’re seeing a lot of one-offs [laws] based on the Federal pass-by test”, said Mike Richards, Manager of Government Affairs for Harley Davidson in Milwaukee, WI.

The federal pass-by test requires that the motorcycle be ridden at an exact speed through a “trap” where the decibel level is measured. The test is difficult for law enforcement to properly administer on the roadside and is influenced by factors in the test environment, such as street noise and buildings.

The current Vermont proposal is based on the Federal pass-by test, as are the Massachusetts and New York laws.

The Massachusetts level is 82 decibels for motorcycles traveling at less than 45 Mph, when measured from 50 feet and 86 decibels for motorcycles traveling at greater than 45 Mph. In New York, the level is 82 decibels at 35 Mph and 86 decibels over 35 Mph.

Richards said that Harley Davidson, along with the AMA and Motorcycle Industry Council would like to see states base their laws on a test developed by the Society of Automotive Engineers. The SAE test measures the noise level from the rear. The meter is placed 20 inches behind the tailpipe, at a 45 degree angle, and the motorcycle is run at idle.

The New Hampshire law measures the noise level as specified by the SAE, but the maximum sound level is 106 decibels.The Federal level is 80 decibels.

“We’re concerned about how a rider knows they are in compliance”, said Richards. Harley Davidson manufactures all of their bikes to be within the Federal noise level of 80 decibels, but an improperly administered test could indicate that a bike exceeds the level, Richards said.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, a professional certification association for speech-language pathologists, audiologists and hearing scientists, states that a noise level of 80 decibels is about the same as an alarm clock or a busy street. A lawnmower, shop tools and truck traffic generate approximately 90 decibels. Sound greater than 80 decibels can cause hearing loss if the duration of exposure is long enough.

The bill is currently just a proposal. It will need six votes from the eleven member Transportation Committee before moving forward. It may also require a stop in the House Ways and Means Committee to determine a fine before moving to the House and Senate for votes and then to the governor for signature. Sharpe said that he felt passage would be unlikely during this legislative session.

“If there is a better way to solve this issue, then I’m all for it”, Sharpe said.


One Comment leave one →
  1. Frank permalink
    June 11, 2010 8:58 pm

    Concerned about motorcycle noise laws that vary from state to state? Concerned about how a rider or police knows that the exhaust is in compliance? Enforce the federal EPA regulations for motorcycle exhausts. The law applies to all states. EPA compliant mufflers say so, right on the muffler. Stop trying to reinvent the wheel. The EPA invented it long ago. Get on with it and enforce it already!

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