EU noise rules proposed for outdoor equipment

New directive to streamline, broaden, strengthen, EU rules, says European Commission

Streamlined EU noise limits for many types of outdoor equipment have been proposed by the European Commission in a draft directive published yesterday. If enacted in its present form, the measure will replace nine existing directives on specific types of equipment, increase to 55 the number of types of outdoor equipment for which noise emissions are controlled at EU level and tighten noise limits for some types of machinery.

A wide range of equipment is covered by the draft directive, including construction machines, garden machinery and working equipment on municipal vehicles. Under the measure, the Commission is proposing the first EU noise limits on apply to mobile cranes, dumpers, graders and other types of machinery. A tightening of existing limits by three to six decibels is foreseen for equipment such as compressors, tower cranes and hand-held concrete breakers.

The draft directive is the first legislative proposal to follow a green paper on EU noise policy produced by the Commission in 1996. Further initiatives are expected in May, when the Commission says it will describe in more detail its plans for legislation on methods of noise measurement, ambient noise exposure and public information on noise.

A notable feature of the draft directive is a two stage approach, under which noise limits are intended to eliminate the noisiest equipment in the short run, followed by stricter limits four years after entry into force of the measure, designed to take account of advances in technology.

The second phase will coincide with entry into force of new emissions controls on non-road mobile machinery, such as bulldozers, the Commission says, enabling equipment manufacturers to "take both tighter air pollution and noise emission requirements into account during the design phase".

Noise marking of outdoor equipment is a second key element of the draft directive. All machinery to be covered by the law will have to be labelled with its guaranteed maximum noise level, the Commission says, "thereby enabling buyers to make an informed choice".

Noise experts have welcomed the draft directive, one describing it to ENDS Daily as "potentially a very useful piece of legislation," and "indicative of a more serious attitude" towards noise adopted by the EU since the 1996 green paper.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: 322 295 1111.

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