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DfT pilots noise cameras to clamp down on illegal vehicles

Andrew Forster
21 June 2019

The DfT is to fund a pilot of noise detection equipment that could be used to enforce against vehicles breaching noise limits. 

The equipment features a microphone, automatic numberplate recognition camera and a video and image capture camera. It will be tested at a number of locations in England over the next seven months. 

EU type approval procedures require all vehicles to meet legal noise limits before being allowed on the road. Once in service, exhausts and silencers must by law be maintained in good working order and not altered to increase noise. 

A DfT spokeswoman told LTT: “An assessment will be made shortly to determine suitable areas for the trials – areas where there has been highly reported noise nuisance will be taken into account, as well as other factors e.g. the speed limits of the road.”

The trials will be overseen by consultants Atkins and Jacobs. They are also the authors of a report review of noise detection technologies and methods, which was released alongside the announcement of the trial.

Say the consultants: “It is envisaged that in order to capture the passage of noisy vehicles (cars and motorcycles), each location would be a single carriageway road with a reasonable traffic flow, ideally in an urban / semi- urban environment and a speed limit of less than 50mph. 

“A location with a speed limit above 50mph is considered undesirable for the trial since above this speed the noise from the passing vehicles is dominated by tyre noise rather than engine / exhaust noise.”

EU limit values for eight types of passenger and goods vehicles range from 72 dB(A) to 80 dB(A). By 2026 the limit for most new passenger cars is expected to be 68 dB(A), say the consultants. 

Various types of noise detection systems are on the market and in development, with systems  already in use in countries such as Australia, Canada and Singapore. 

Explaining the procedures for a noise camera system using measured sound levels, the consultants state: “Once an offending vehicle is identified that exceeds a predetermined noise limit, the evidence package can be reviewed by the police to ensure that the evidence is robust prior to taking action. 

“For example, the review would check that the noise exceedance wasn’t caused by an emergency services siren or multiple vehicles passing the measurement location simultaneously. 

“Depending on the level of complexity required, the noise limits can be set for different vehicle categories or potentially link to a database of type approval noise levels, noting that an allowance would be required to allow for wear and tear and the position of the microphone relative to the road.”

Atkins and Jacobs say a set of noise limits may be required to “take into account the speed limit of the road(s) at the monitoring site”. 

“If the offence is legitimate, a letter can be sent out to the registered keeper of the vehicle. This would provide an obligation to rectify the vehicle and provide evidence that this has been done within a defined timeframe. A fine or fixed penalty notice may also be issued.”

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