Healthy Environment, Healthy Community, Healthy Business

Environment Protection Authority

Motor vehicle noise

The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) administers the Protection of the Environment (Noise Control) Regulation 20017 (Noise Control Regulation) which, among other things, controls noise from motor vehicles and motor vehicle accessories.

Some of the key requirements of the Noise Control Regulation for which on-the-spot fines may be issued are:

  • Noise levels from exhaust systems of vehicles being used on roads or road-related areas must not exceed specified maximum noise levels.
  • Engines of vehicles being used on roads or road-related areas must not be louder than when originally manufactured.
  • Noise control equipment on motor vehicles being used on roads or road-related areas must not be defective and be securely in place.
  • A person must not modify a vehicle so that its exhaust system exceeds the specified maximum noise level or its engine is louder than when originally manufactured.
  • Noise from vehicle sound systems must not be offensive.
  • Motor vehicle intruder alarms must not sound for longer than permitted times.
  • Noise from vehicle refrigeration units must not be audible within residences at night.
  • Noise levels from motor vehicles used off-road must not be offensive.

Maximum on-the-spot fines under the Noise Control Regulation for a motor vehicle exceeding the specified noise levels are $500 for an individual and $1000 for a corporation. The maximum court penalties that may be imposed when on-the-spot fines are court-elected or are applied to repeat offenders are $16,500 for individuals and $33,000 for corporations.

The Road Transport (Vehicle Registration) Regulation 2007 administered by Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) includes the following provisions:

  • The use of a registrable vehicle must not constitute an imminent and serious safety risk (major vehicle defect) or constitute a safety risk (minor vehicle defect). Safety risk means danger to a person, property or the environment.
  • A motor vehicle propelled by an internal combustion engine must be fitted with a silencing device through which all the exhaust from the engine passes.
  • The stationary exhaust noise test levels that must be met for different types of pre Australian Design Rule (ADR) 83/00 vehicles are specified. These levels are the same as those listed in schedule 1 of the Noise Control Regulation. 
  • Vehicles must continue to meet relevant ADRs including the drive-by noise test levels for vehicles certified to ADR83/00.

The following Road Rules 2008 administered by the NSW Police Force for which on-the-spot fines may be issued also apply:

  • Road Rule 224: A driver must not use, or allow to be used, a horn or similar warning device, fitted to or in the driver's vehicle unless:
    • it is necessary to use the horn, or warning device to warn other road users or animals of the approach or position of the vehicle; or
    • the horn or warning device is being used as a part of an anti-theft device fitted to the vehicle.
  • Road Rule 291: A person must not start a vehicle, or drive a vehicle, in a way that makes unnecessary noise or smoke. Example: Causing the wheels of the driver's vehicle to lose traction and spin on the road surface may make unnecessary noise or smoke. (Note: Under Schedule 2 of the Road Transport (Driver Licensing) Regulation 1999, police officers can issue 3 demerit points for this offence).
  • Road Rule 291 - 1: Engine to be stopped where necessary. So far as may be necessary for the prevention of noise, the driver of a motor vehicle on a road must, whenever the vehicle is stationary, stop its engine. This clause does not apply to an enforced stoppage:
    • owing to the necessities of traffic; or
    • so as to prevent the examination of any machinery of the motor vehicle if the examination is necessary by any failure or derangement of the machinery.

The EPA is continuing to assist the Police and RMS with enforcement campaigns relating to noise from motor vehicles.

For further information visit managing noise from vehicles.

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Page last updated: 01 September 2017