Loud Motorcycles

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 some motorcyclists for louder, even deafening, exhaust systems has never been greater. Even people deeply devoted to the sport of motorcycling acknowledge that many bikes are so loud that they keep people awake at night, ruin the peace and tranquility of the home, and create a nuisance in traffic. Most importantly, serious negative health effects exist from loud noise.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), acting under the authority of the 1972 Noise Control Act (42 U.S.C. 4901 et seq.), in 1980 enacted regulations addressing this very issue. Among other things, the regulations specified (as they still do) that, commencing in 1983, exhaust equipment on new motorcycles be so designed that they do not (currently) emit more than 80 decibels. Just as importantly, EPA required that compliant replacement, or aftermarket, exhaust systems, be clearly labeled as meeting the same requirements. Replacement, or aftermarket systems that do not meet such specifications, because designed for competition use, must be labeled as such.

EPA, and hence the federal government, have thus occupied the field of regulating the manufacture of original equipment and replacement motorcycle exhaust systems. Nevertheless, states, are free to pass laws governing motor vehicle noise. Indeed, states can even adopt EPA motorcycle exhaust systems standards into their own motor vehicle laws. However, states cannot impose manufacturing requirements that are more stringent than federal standards.

It is submitted that the increasingly dire problem of noise caused by motorcycle exhaust systems can be solved by legislative and administrative amendment to the states Motor Vehicle Code and to the regulations promulgated thereunder. This can be accomplished:

~ by changing statute and regulations to require that all motorcycles made after December 31, 1982 must have (as they are originally equipped) an EPA-approved muffler for the vehicle being inspected. The muffler must have an EPA-embossed label as described in the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) tit. 40, 205.169a(1) as illustrated below:

~ by defining, in statute and/or regulation, the term "muffler," in the following fashion: "Muffler - every motorcycle shall be equipped with an adequate muffler in constant operation, free of defects and modifications, that prevents the escape of any excessive or unusual noise. The muffler if not originally equipped, must reduce exhaust noise levels to that of the vehicles original equipment;

~ by prohibiting the "worst offenders" of the noisy exhaust systems, specifically: (a) straight pipes, with or without baffles; (b) hollow-core (open center design) mufflers; and (c) any exhaust system with a label affixed that implies it is for closed-course or competition use.