Loud Motorcycles

A simple and effective regulatory measure for states and municipalities to control motorcycle noise by utilizing the EPA's dormant "label match-up" program.

Written by Jeff McCulley. Forward by Jeff Rustowicz.


The Myth of Loud Pipes
On the surface it seems obvious that the noise emitted by loud motorcycle exhaust systems would aid in conspicuity and cause more watchful driving by other motorists. Yet not a single thoughtful study has been done that supports the theory.


Executive Summary
Noise caused by loud motorcycles - specifically, loud motorcycle exhaust systems - has long been identified as a societal problem. In the current day, however, the popularity among a small minority of motorcyclists for ever louder, even deafening, exhaust systems has never been greater.


Why are some motorcycles incredibly loud and others hardly noticeable? The answer is simple. The quiet ones are equipped with their original equipment exhaust systems. The loud ones have had either their original equipment exhaust systems modified, or replaced with an aftermarket exhaust system by their owners.


EPA's Position on Motorcycle Noise
The EPA looked at all sources of environmental noise and identified motorcycles and motorcycle exhaust systems as a major source of environmental noise. They examined several methods to abate motorcycle noise, and created a national plan that utilizes local level police as enforcement to achieve this goal.


Adverse Health Effects
The effects of excessive motorcycle noise on the health and welfare of the general public are well documented. The EPA became concerned about the issue of motorcycle noise when it became evident that in every survey, motorcycle noise was found to be a major source of disturbances of people's everyday activities. Excessive motorcycle noise can have serious negative health effects on the unsuspecting public.


Urban Blight
The traffic noise associated with the degradation of neighborhood citizens' health is also recognized as a leading factor of urban blight. Police officials learned from neighborhood community meetings that residents were more concerned with crimes that caused the degradation of their neighborhoods than high profile crimes.


The Problem
The EPA stated that modified motorcycles could easily increase noise emissions to over 100dba. The type of motorcycles that typically uses loud aftermarket competition use exhaust systems currently represents over fourty-five percent (45%) of new motorcycles sold today.


Rider Safety
The EPA also considered the issue of "noise visibility" as popularized by the slogan, "loud pipes save lives". This is the theory that a small group of motorcyclists believes that they are making themselves more conspicuous to other motorists in traffic by modifying their motorcycle exhaust systems to produce an excessive level of exhaust noise.


Addressing Motorcycle Noise
The EPA addressed this the motorcycle noise problem by creating a simple enforcement tool specifically for local police, called the "label match-up".


The Label Match-Up Program
Two key elements of the label match-up are contained in the federal regulations. They are noise emissions testing, and labeling. This applies to street (highway use), and off road (dirt bikes) motorcycles.


The EPA and the States
Loud aftermarket exhaust systems manufacturers are aware of the fact that there aren't any states enforcing the Noise Control Act and motorcycle noise emissions regulations, so these manufacturers intentionally make simple and crude exhaust systems that barely meet states' ineffective and antiquated muffler laws.


The Solution
Congress gave states and their subdivisions broad powers to control motorcycles and motorcycle exhaust systems with respect to vehicle owners who deliberately make their motorcycles loud.


The Role of Political Subdivisions
Most states allow their subdivisions to restrict vehicle noise by measuring noise emissions with sound level meters either passively (vehicle in use), or by ineffective stationary testing procedures.


Noise Control of Pre-Regulation Motorcycles
When a state recognizes, and enforces the Noise Control Act and the EPA's motorcycle and motorcycle exhaust system noise emissions regulations, they will be utilizing the highest standard of motorcycle exhaust system technology.


Prohibited Exhaust Systems
The following section contains photo examples of loud aftermarket exhaust systems, and definitions that are designed to allow police, including vehicle owners, to easily identify them.


This proposal will have no effect or impact at all, on any motorcycle that is equipped with its original (from the factory) unmodified exhaust system. It only singles out motorcycles that are equipped with loud aftermarket, or tampered with original equipped, exhaust systems.


Appendix I
Examples of label match-up on exhaust systems.


Appendix II
Examples of illegal tampering on exhaust systems.


Appendix III
Examples of loud aftermarket mufflers designed and marketed to be installed on federally regulated motorcycles that are missing the match-up label as required by law.


Appendix IV
EPA regulatory analysis appendices for the noise emissions regulations for motorcycles and motorcycle exhaust systems.


Appendix V
Example ads from the motorcycle aftermarket exhaust industry and how they market their mufflers.