This rule covers safety and maintenance requirements for equipment fitted to motor vehicles: warning devices, speedometers, sun visors, mudguards, footrests on motorcycles and mopeds, child restraints, televisions, fuel tanks and fuel lines.
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Proposed changes to the vehicle noise testing provisions in the Land Transport Rule: Vehicle Equipment 2004 (the Vehicle Equipment Rule). The proposed changes are contained in Land Transport Rule: Vehicle Equipment Amendment 2007 (the Rule amendment).
The purpose of the Rule amendment is to reduce vehicle noise by targeting the noisiest vehicles in the fleet (the ‘gross emitters’), while minimising the impact on the majority of vehicle owners whose vehicles are not causing a noise problem. The ‘gross emitters’ tend to be vehicles purposefully fitted with modified exhausts that emit noise well above the legally allowable decibel limits. Although they make up a small percentage of the overall vehicle fleet, these vehicles cause a great deal of public annoyance.
Excessive vehicle noise is a significant public concern, particularly in some urban areas. Numerous public complaints are made about people operating noisy vehicles in an inconsiderate manner, often in the early hours of the morning and most nights of the week. This behaviour affects many, especially in residential areas, and can lead to health issues from stress to lack of sleep. Hotels in affected areas are reporting loss of trade. Police enforcement alone cannot solve the problem, legislative change and in-service enforcement will help contribute to the solution.
Currently, clause 7.4 of the Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004 provides for on-road enforcement of vehicle noise. Under this Rule, a Police officer can issue an instant $250 infringement offence notice carrying 10 demerit points if a person operates a vehicle that creates noise which, having regard to all the circumstances is excessive. Since February 2005 this has included noise from stereos and “boom boxes”.
In addition to roadside enforcement, all vehicles undergo a subjective noise test during warrant and certificate of fitness (WOF/COF) checks. Subclause 2.7(3) of Land Transport Rule: Vehicle Equipment 2004 states that noise from an exhaust system must not be noticeably and significantly louder than it would have been when the motor vehicle was manufactured with its original exhaust system.
Under section 115(1) of the Land Transport Act 1998, a Police officer can also ‘green sticker’ a vehicle, that is seen to breach the noise requirements of the Vehicle Equipment Rule, and direct that the vehicle not be driven on a road until it has passed a warrant of fitness (WoF) test at an independent testing station.
Regulation 29(4) of the Traffic Regulations 1976 allows a Police officer to refer a vehicle to be tested for noise output if the vehicle has been modified, in a way that could affect the noise output of the vehicle, subsequent to being introduced, manufactured, or sold for first registration in New Zealand.
An interim objective noise test was introduced in July 2006. Specialist sound measuring equipment is used to determine whether vehicles meet the acceptable noise standard on an ‘as required’ basis when requested by the Police, and on all cars that enter New Zealand. However, the existing legislation does not permit either an extension of the regime beyond these requirements or a review of the current noise levels. Additionally, the law did not permit the test to be a part of in-service warrant and certificate of fitness (WoF/CoF) inspections for vehicles already in New Zealand.
The main changes in the Rule amendment relate to:
The changes in the amended Vehicle Equipment Rule will cover light vehicles – those with a gross vehicle mass of 3500 kg or under – including motorcycles, cars, light trucks and light omnibuses.
A subjective test relies on judgment and experience to form an opinion. During a vehicle inspection, the exhaust noise is assessed subjectively to compare the level of exhaust noise against the level with the original manufacturer’s exhaust. The Rule amendment changes the wording of the subjective noise test for light vehicles to improve its application at warrant of fitness/certificate of fitness inspections.
The previous wording of the subjective noise test stated that the exhaust noise output:
“must not be noticeably and significantly louder than the noise output from the vehicle’s original exhaust system at the time of the vehicle’s manufacture”.
The amended Vehicle Equipment Rule revises the wording so that the exhaust noise output:
“must be less than, or similar to, the noise output from the vehicle’s original exhaust system at the time of the vehicle’s manufacture”. This still provides for inspector discretion but is a more defined description.
An objective noise test (ONT) uses scientific procedures to measure noise levels. The equipment used will measure the vehicle’s exhaust noise levels against a pre-determined standard. The objective noise test provides a robust, consistent and workable, science-based method of assessing vehicle exhaust noise to supplement the subjective noise test currently in place at WoF/CoF and Entry.
A subjective test will still be the main part of the warrant of fitness/certificate of fitness (WoF/CoF) noise testing regime, it will be used to ‘filter out’ the majority of quieter vehicles that do not need an objective noise test.
If a vehicle does fail the subjective noise test, the vehicle may be referred for an objective noise test to ensure that it meets the decibel limit, at the owner’s expense. The vehicle owner would have the option of repairing or replacing the exhaust and re-sitting the WoF/CoF test, should they not wish to proceed with an objective noise test.
Vehicles may also be referred to an objective noise test if they fail the subjective noise test at entry to New Zealand, or as part of on-road policing.
The current decibel limit for exhaust noise for cars and light trucks is 95 decibels (dBA).
The limit for motorcycles is as follows:
The following table lists the existing objective tail-pipe noise test decibel limits:
|Motorbikes with engine capacity of 125cm3 or less (classes LC, LD, LE)||
|Motorbikes with engine capacity of more than 125cm3 (classes LC, LD, LE)||
|Cars, 4x4s, light goods vehicles (classes MA, MB, MC and NA)||
Motorcycle limits will remain the same.
For cars and light trucks (3500 kg or less) entering the New Zealand fleet after introduction of the Rule amendment , the noise limit is reduced to 90dBA.
The 95dBA limit is retained for cars and light trucks (3500 kg or less) already in the fleet before introduction of the Rule. The 95dBA limit will also be retained for older vehicles (vehicles first registered in New Zealand or overseas before 1985), including those entering the New Zealand fleet after introduction of the Rule.
The following table lists the new objective tail-pipe noise test decibel limits:
|Motorbikes with engine capacity of 125cm3 or less (classes LC, LD, LE)||
|Motorbikes with engine capacity of more than 125cm3 (classes LC, LD, LE)||
|Cars, 4x4s, light goods vehicles (classes MA, MB, MC and NA)|
|- if first registered in New Zealand before 1 June 2008||
|- if first registered outside New Zealand before 1 January 1985 and first registered in New Zealand on or after 1 June 2008||
|- if first registered outside New Zealand on or after 1 January 1985 and first registered in New Zealand on or after 1 June 2008||
|- if a new vehicle first registered in New Zealand on or after 1 June 2008||
A range of decibel limits were assessed using the following criteria:
The Ministry of Transport and NZ Transport Agency have undertaken vehicle noise testing of over 250 vehicles and have sourced information on noise testing from overseas jurisdictions. This research has revealed that the vast majority of standard light vehicles fitted with manufacturer’s exhaust systems, or exhausts similar to the original exhaust, would be under the current 95dBA limit with most less than 90dBA. As the majority of vehicles in the New Zealand fleet are standard, most vehicles in New Zealand would easily comply with the proposed changes.
The Rule targets the gross emitters – those exceeding 95dBA. The current 95dBA limit for vehicles already in the fleet is retained to minimise the impact on these vehicles – the vast majority of which are already compliant. The Rule brings a reduction in overall fleet noise over time by reducing the limit to 90dBA for post-1985 vehicles entering the fleet.
The character of older vehicles (pre-1985) is allowed for by retaining the current 95dBA limit. This reflects that older vehicles were subject to lesser noise control measures when new and can be harder to adapt to reduce noise.
The following vehicles will be required to undergo an objective noise test or have the exhaust repaired or replaced to make the vehicle compliant:
New vehicles are tested by manufacturers using a vehicle ‘drive-by’ noise test. This is a measurement of vehicle noise during acceleration and is part of certification for use in New Zealand. Irrespective of exhaust tail-pipe noise levels, a vehicle that has passed a drive-by noise test and is unmodified is compliant in New Zealand. Most vehicles in the New Zealand fleet are fitted with standard exhaust systems to replace the manufacturer’s original exhaust. As long as the exhaust noise output is similar to standard the vehicle will still comply.
It is estimated that five percent of standard vehicles (approximately 130,000 vehicles in the New Zealand fleet) tested on the tail-pipe noise test are above 90dBA, but these standard vehicles will continue to be allowed to enter, and operate within, the New Zealand fleet, provided they have passed a recognised overseas noise standard and have not since been modified.
There is no change in decibel limit for older vehicles. Vehicles in this category are light vehicles first registered in New Zealand or overseas before 1985. The current decibel limit of 95dBA is retained to reflect that older vehicles were subject to lesser noise control measures when new and can be harder to quieten down. Currently, there are approximately 45,000 vehicles over 20 years old in the fleet. While many of these are likely to be fitted with ‘similar to standard’ exhausts, many could fail a limit of 90dBA. These vehicles make up a very small percentage of the New Zealand fleet and are not considered to contribute significantly to the problem of excessive vehicle noise.
Not all vehicles fitted with modified exhausts will be affected by the change in decibel limits. This is because a modified exhaust system can operate with a similar noise output level as the vehicle’s original exhaust system, and comply with the decibel limits.
Under the amended Vehicle Equipment Rule , vehicles fitted with modified exhausts are required to undergo an objective noise test or have the exhaust repaired or replaced to make the vehicle compliant if they produce a noise output which is not “less than or similar to” the original manufacturer’s exhaust system or is not “clearly below the maximum decibel level”. It is estimated that up to 1.3 percent of the current fleet (maximum 50,000 vehicles) may fall into this category.
The vast majority of the vehicles tested that were fitted with modified exhaust systems emitted noise well in excess of the current decibel limit of 95dBA. These are the ‘gross emitters’ targeted by the Rule amendment.
Not all vehicles referred to an objective noise test by WoF/CoF testers will undergo the test. The vehicle owner may decide to repair or replace the exhaust system to make it compliant, rather than undertake the objective noise test.
If a vehicle owner chooses to undertake the objective noise test and the vehicle is within the decibel limit, the exhaust system will be certified. Provided the exhaust system remains unaltered, the vehicle will not have to undergo an objective noise test as a result of future WoF/CoF inspections.
Testing will be carried out by certifiers trained and approved by The Low Volume Vehicle Technical Association (LVVTA). The certifier will conduct a stationary exhaust noise measurement using a procedure based on the internationally recognized ISO 5130 test.
If the vehicle passes the objective noise test, the tester will produce a comprehensive report for the owner and put a unique identification sticker on the exhaust to indicate that it has been tested and passed.
Vehicles will be tested at the facilities of the approved LVVTA certifiers. A list of providers and their contact details can be found on the Low Volume Vehicle Technical Association (LVVTA) website: www.lvvta.org.nz(external link).
Information can also be obtained by contacting the NZ Transport Agency Contact Centre on 0800 699 000.
If a vehicle fails the objective noise test, it will need to be repaired before it can legally be driven again. If a further objective noise test is conducted this will be subject to an additional fee.
It is illegal for any vehicle to be driven if it does not meet WoF requirements, irrespective of when the vehicle’s WoF expires. However, the vehicle may be driven in order to be repaired, provided it is safe to drive the vehicle. The relevant requirements are Land Transport Act 1998, regulation 6 of the Traffic Regulations 1976 and paragraph 10.2(2) of Land Transport Rule: Vehicle Standards Compliance 2002.
The test requires expensive equipment and a controlled environment to be accurate. Not all testing stations will be able to provide these facilities. Therefore, it is not feasible to set up objective noise testing at all WoF/CoF stations due to the cost of equipment, training and upgrading sites to meet these new requirements.
Currently, an objective noise test costs between $114 and $174 (excluding GST). This reflects the variation in time it takes to complete the test on different vehicles and the distance a certified tester may need to travel to test the vehicle.
The test is valid as long as the exhaust system noise output is not altered and the test certificate and exhaust label are present.
The objective noise testing regime will apply to vehicles driven by car enthusiasts with modified exhausts fitted due to the nature of the vehicle (eg, hot rods), or to enhance performance output and sound effect (eg, after-market sports exhausts). Some of these vehicles may exceed the maximum decibel limit and would need to be made compliant.
Under the Vehicle Equipment Rule it is the responsibility of a person who repairs or modifies a vehicle to ensure that the modification does not prevent the vehicle from complying with the rule. A person who repairs or modifies an exhaust should also ensure that the exhaust system is fit for purpose, or they may be in breach of the Consumer Guarantees Act. This should not apply if the noise output of the new exhaust is similar or less than the standard exhaust system. If the noise output is not similar and is higher, then the person who repairs or modifies the exhaust must ensure that the noise level is within the set limits.
A very small number of vehicles imported from Japan already fitted with modified exhausts could be affected once the reduced limit of 90dBA for used vehicles is introduced, as the exhaust noise limit in Japan is 96dBA.
Importers will need to be aware that a vehicle with a modified exhaust system may need repair to enter the New Zealand fleet.
A wide range of issues contribute to the problem of excessive vehicle noise (eg, enforcement practices, practical implementation of the subjective noise test, exhaust tampering, and illegal modification of exhausts). Reducing decibel limits alone will not be sufficient in addressing the problem if these wider issues are not addressed – this is why a package of complementary initiatives is being proposed to support the implementation of the Rule amendment.
These initiatives will include:
The New Zealand Police have a wide range of powers to deal with the noisy operation of vehicles, including the power to refer a vehicle for an objective noise test. However, there is public concern about excessively noisy exhaust equipment being fitted to vehicles, and that this problem requires additional controls.
Bringing the objective noise test into the WoF/CoF regime will help to target the noisiest vehicles in the fleet (the ‘gross emitters’) and ensure these vehicles are made to comply with the law. These vehicles tend to be purposefully fitted with excessively noisy modified exhausts and are well above the current decibel limits. These vehicles make up a small percentage of the overall vehicle fleet, and cause a great deal of public annoyance.
The objective noise test method for measuring exhaust noise allows a higher decibel limit for motorcycles compared to cars, in order to account for engine noise registering as part of the exhaust noise measurement. The engine is situated much closer to the exhaust system in a motorcycle than a car, so has a greater influence on the noise level. This is standard practice in overseas jurisdictions.
Heavy vehicles are outside the scope of this work as they are rarely fitted with excessively noisy modified exhausts. The stationary noise test is designed to measure exhaust noise, whereas public complaints regarding heavy vehicle noise are usually about engine braking noise.
The wording of the current subclause 2.7(3) of the Vehicle Equipment Rule has been retained for vehicles outside the scope of this work (eg, heavy vehicles).
Subclause 2.7(3) states: “Noise from an exhaust system must not be noticeably and significantly louder than it would have been when the motor vehicle was manufactured with its original exhaust system.”
The Rule will come into force by June 2008. The timing allows for training of vehicle inspectors to implement the revised subjective test at warrant of fitness and certificate of fitness.
Final rules are available on our website. Printed copies can be purchased at selected bookshops throughout New Zealand that sell government legislation, or direct from the Rule printers, Wickliffe Limited, PO Box 932, Dunedin or telephone (06) 358 8231.
You can download the Low Volume Vehicle Standard 90-20 (Exhaust Noise Emissions) from the Low Volume Vehicle Technical Association website at www.lvvta.org.nz(external link).
Last updated: 12 December 2007