Loud Motorcycles

The EPA and the States

So with motorcycle manufacturers building EPA noise emissions compliant motorcycles for the last twenty six years, why are there so many loud motorcycles on the roads today? Because states and localities were never made aware of the simple "label match up" plan created by the EPA.

When the EPA was faced with a restricted budget in 1981 they were forced to cut funding for its noise control programs. This left Office of Noise Abatement and Control (ONAC), which provided states and localities with information, educational materials, financial support for equipment and training and further research for new noise control technologies, without any means to carry out its duties. However, due to many pleas from manufacturers, Congress chose to leave the federal regulations for manufacturers in place, to create a nationwide standard for interstate commerce.

Loud aftermarket exhaust systems manufacturers are aware of the fact that there aren't any states10-1 enforcing the Noise Control Act (NCA) and motorcycle noise emissions regulations, so these manufacturers intentionally make simple and crude exhaust systems that barely meet states' ineffective and antiquated muffler laws. They do so to give this group of motorcyclists what they want: noise.

Although it is a violation of federal law to operate a federally regulated motorcycle with a loud competition use exhaust system installed10-2, the federal government [EPA] is powerless to remedy this problem10-3. This is not merely because of the loss of ONAC, but more so because only states have the authority and appropriate police powers to enforce this federal law (if they chose so) against the real cause of this problem: motorcyclists who modify their vehicles into loud noisy machines.

When Congress drafted the NCA they decided that "primary responsibility for control of noise rests with states and local governments10-4". That is to say they chose to let states and their subdivisions be the primary tool to enforce the NCA and the "label match-up". And since ONAC was de-funded before it got the chance to inform the states of this fact, the makers of loud aftermarket exhaust system will continue to build and market loud exhaust systems for this group of motorcyclists until the states and localities put a stop to this practice.

Although the manufacture of a loud aftermarket exhaust system for a regulated street use motorcycle may be legal in the eyes of state law, the same cannot be said regarding federal law. Federal regulations10-5 permit aftermarket exhaust system manufacturers to make competition use exhaust systems, but only for unregulated (competition use) motorcycles10-6; provided if labeled as such. "The motorcycle exhaust system regulation will make it illegal to manufacture or sell non-complying exhaust systems for regulated [street and off road use] motorcycles thereby precluding many of the consumer modifications."10-7

However, you would never know this fact by the marketing and advertisements for loud aftermarket exhaust systems. Manufacturers boldly showcase non-EPA compliant loud competition use exhaust systems installed on regulated (1983 and newer) street use motorcycles complete with turn signals, mirrors, and license plates, which is in violation of the NCA.

Why not field-test all motorcycle exhaust systems or, relay on in use vehicle pass-by testing?

Although states are preempted by section 4905e(1) of NCA from enforcing their own noise emissions limits (maximum noise levels) on manufacturers of regulated motorcycles and exhaust systems unless identical to the federal standard, they are free to establish their own noise emissions standards for competition use motorcycles and loud aftermarket exhaust systems. This is because the EPA has no noise emissions standards for these products; only labeling to show intent.

The only easily applicable testing procedure police could use is the stationary measurement type like the SAE J1287. Unlike the EPA's test (j331a) this test does not measure the in-use noise levels encountered while the vehicle is moving, under heavy load and large throttle openings. The J1287 test is part-throttle, no load, and has a very poor correlation to real world, in-use conditions as commented on by the EPA "the simple stationary tests usually offer such poor correlation that they would seem to be highly ineffective in actual use10-8." This will also require police and inspection shops to purchase expensive testing equipment, and create an additional burden to the socially responsible motorcyclists who don't modify their exhaust systems to increase noise.

Some states utilize a method commonly referred to as a "vehicle pass-by" testing procedure. This method of vehicle noise control measures the noise levels of vehicles in use as they pass by the testing area. The pass by method of noise control has many faults that hinder its adoption by police departments.

The current pass by test that many states use was created by ONAC and field tested in a pilot program in Allentown PA in mid-seventies. The pass by method was only intended to be used to bring immediate control of major noise sources until federal regulations could be promulgated for them10-9. The pass by testing method is only the first phase of a three-phase EPA national plan. The second phase of the national plan is what this legislative proposal is for. As intended by the EPA, the second phase eliminates the need for sound measurement equipment by allowing states and sub divisions to use the federal motorcycle exhaust system labeling requirements as an enforcement tool10-10.