Proposals to reduce noise produced by cars, vans, buses and coaches as well as light and heavy trucks have been put forward by the the European Commission (EC).

Noise limit values would be lowered in two steps of each 2 dB(A) for passenger cars, vans, buses and coaches. For trucks the reduction would be 1 dB(A) in the first step and 2 dB(A) in the second step.

The first step is to apply two years after the publication of the text once approved by the European Parliament and Member States and the second step is foreseen three years after that. The Commission claims these measures will reduce vehicle noise nuisance by 25%.

In addition, the Commission says it intends to introduce a new and more reliable test method to measure sound emissions. It is also proposing electric and hybrid electric vehicles can be fitted optionally with sound-generating devices to make them safer. Noise emissions limits have not changed since 1996 despite increasing traffic.

The World Health Organisation concluded traffic-related noise may account for one million healthy years of life lost per year in Western Europe.

"Noise emissions due to road traffic, from which our citizens are suffering, will be significantly reduced," said EC vice-president responsible for industry and entrepreneurship, Antonio Tajani.

"Our proposal will lead to quieter motor vehicles on our roads and a healthier environment. Our proposal will also make international rules for industry clearer, so it will be easier for European manufacturers to sell cars outside the EU."

So-called additional sound emission provisions (ASEP) will be included. These are preventive requirements which will ensure the sound emissions of a vehicle under street driving conditions will not differ significantly from what can be expected from the type-approval test result for this specific vehicle.

Equally, 'approaching vehicle audible systems' requirements will ensure only adequate sound-generating devices are used which will also lead to a harmonisation of the applied technology. The fitting would remain an option for the vehicle manufacturer.

The Commission also noted with the proposal, the current EU rules applicable to noise emissions from vehicles will be updated and further aligned with internationally recognised UN standards.

"This should enable improve [d] market access for European car manufacturers in those third countries which are contracting parties to the UNECE Agreement of 1958 and thus boost the competitiveness of European industry," noted an EC statement.

The proposal will now be submitted to the European co-legislators, the European Parliament and to the Council.