There has been mumblings of this ‘new’ type of camera being trialed on the UK’s streets since June 2019 when it was first published by the Department Of Transport’s website. So what is it exactly and how will affect the glorious engine note of a classic v8? First we need to look at the reasons behind the noise cameras.
A note on the information that I have found from many different sources. Depending on where you look and what you read the noise level limits are all over the place. Some say 80db others say 72 to 80, one even says 68db. So the lack of documented consistency is worrying.
Why are they being introduced?
The reason it seems is for anti-social behaviour of the typical stereo typical boy (or girl) racers who enjoy the loud exhaust note or the much sort after pop and bang of revving, and if you’re unlucky a flame to cremate your front bumper if you are behind them.
From what I have found out, the actual legal noise limit for road cars is 74 decibels – the equivalent noise of a vacuum cleaner at full pelt or a chain saw.
For non-compliance, it can lead to a £50 on-the-spot fine or as much as £1000, that’s worrying differences. Persistent offenders in ‘extreme cases’ could have their vehicle seized.
Where are they?
Postcode lottery for the initial trials by the looks of it. The scheme is backed by a £300,000 government investment towards efforts to tackle the “social cost” of noise pollution which is estimated to be £10bn annually. (Where do they get these figures from?) Great Yarmouth was chosen to be included in the scheme as ‘Boy racers’ have congregated at Great Yarmouth’s Golden Mile for decades with drivers showing off their souped-up engines into the early hours.
Other locations are Bradford (from October this year), Bristol and Birmingham following along after a competition launched in April. The locations for the new cameras was decided based upon the impact to locals from illegal noisy vehicles, after MPs across the country applied for the cameras to be set up in their area.
I suspect that they will start popping up all over the place soon, maybe portable versions ones for car cruises and car shows?
How do noise cameras work?
The new technology uses a video camera and several microphones which can accurately pinpoint excessively noisy vehicles as they pass by. When the camera hears a vehicle making a noise of 80db, it takes a picture and records the noise level to create a digital package of evidence.
This will then be used to issue a fine — much like a regular traffic camera would for a speeding ticket. An earlier trial in Chelsea in London – a magnet for supercars – saw more than 130 drivers fall foul of the limits in the first 11 days.
What do they look like?
There are varying designs that are getting more sophisticated as time goes on. Some virtually hidden and other more traditional looking. However, unlike the speeding cameras that need to show warning signs and the speed cameras themselves have to be visible usually being marked in yellow, these sound cameras by the looks of it don’t need to follow those rules.
Or you could get something like this that could be slapped on the side of a road in minutes and looks super safe – NOT! Now I’m pretty sure a friendly lorry driver on a narrow road like this one, could cause enough draft to knock it over if they got close to it, and that would be a real shame I’m sure.
I have done a few searches for some ‘official’ signs and there aren’t any I could find, the only pics I did find are these below and I suspect they aren’t official either.
Current UK MOT Rules
In the UK vehicles older than three years must pass an annual MOT test in order to inspect the
roadworthiness of a car or motorcycle. When a vehicle fails an MOT, it is prohibited from being driven on
the public highway, other than to or from the test center if appropriate, until the defect is corrected. The
testing consists of the following:
- The exhaust system is examined visually for any defects during the MOT test, such as holes in the
pipes. Although this is an inspection that is undertaken mainly for safety reasons, it does identify
exhaust systems that may be producing excessive noise due to poor maintenance or simply an old
- A subjective assessment is also made as to the effectiveness of the silencer in reducing exhaust
noise to a level considered to be average for the vehicle.
I personally want to know who decides this ‘average’ limit and what experience do they have to determine that!
Police Reform Act 2002 and Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014
Section 59 of the Police Reform Act 2002 gives the police powers to stop, seize and remove a vehicle if
they have reasonable ground for believing that the motor vehicle is being used on any occasion in a
manner which constitutes careless and inconsiderate driving (as defined by the Road Traffic Act 1988
) or which is causing, or likely to cause, alarm, distress or annoyance to members of the public.
Section 60 allows the relevant Secretary of State to make regulations relating to the removal, retention,
release or disposal of motor vehicles seized in accordance with Section 59.
Following the amendment in Part 1 of Schedule 4 to the Police Reform Act 2002 (powers of community
support officers), Schedule 10 “Powers of Community Support Officers” outlined in Chapter 12 of the
Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 has been modified to provide authorised officers with
additional powers to issue a fixed penalty notice under Section 42 of that Act of contravening or failing to
comply with a construction or use requirement about the use on a road of a motor vehicle in a way that
causes excessive noise.
What are the limits?
There are two parts to this ‘report’ the first being 103 pages from 2019 and part two 70 pages from 2020. A lot of this documentation is technobabble and technicalities. I have better things to do than read all of it thoroughly, so I tried to pick out a couple of relevant parts. But, as the DfT hasn’t updated their pages, all I can do is show what they have. The final report looks to be two years old already with more ‘trials’ taking place from April this year. I haven’t seen any ‘trials’ being removed when it comes to motorists, have you? these are the full documents if you are having trouble sleeping;
Regulation (EU) 540/2014
The noise levels accepted for vehicle type approval are set out in Regulation (EU) 540/2014  for motor
vehicles and Regulation (EU) 168/2013  for motorcycles.
Regulation (EU) 540/2014 which repeals European Directive 70/157/EEC , outlines limits on the
sound levels from road vehicle and gives more representative procedures for measuring sound levels
from exhaust systems and silencers. These limits have been tightened through several amendments.
Limit values for eight types of passenger and goods vehicles range from 72 dB(A) to 80 dB(A). These
limits are expected to be again tightened over 10 years. By 2026 the limit for most new passenger cars is
expected to be 68 dB(A) .
Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986
The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 , also made under the Road Traffic Act
1972 (as amended) , aim to ensure that vehicles used in the UK are built to a high standard. These
Regulations are also used to implement EU Directives.
The following regulations address noise emission controls on road vehicles:
- Regulation 54 requires equipment such as silencers not to be altered in such way that the noise is
greater than when it was first manufactured. Replacement silencers for mopeds and motorcycles
- must comply with certain noise requirements which effectively imply there is no increase in noise
- emissions compared with the original silencer. In addition, no increase in noise must be caused by
- poor maintenance.
- Regulation 55 (for cars) and Regulation 57 (for motorcycles) require new vehicles to be controlled by
type approval limits.
- Regulation 97 requires avoidance of excessive noise which includes the behaviour of the driver in
operating the vehicle including the use of audible warning systems.
There are certain tests that can be performed, stationary or accelerating.
Category M vehicles are ‘Passenger vehicles’, category N vehicles are ‘goods vehicles’.
ISO 362-1:2015 – Measurement of noise emitted by accelerating road vehicles – engineering method. Part 1: M and N categories
ISO 362-1:2015  specifies a method for measuring the noise emitted by road vehicles under typical urban traffic conditions. The test aims to approximate real world part throttle vehicle operation with a weighted average of a wide open throttle test at a target acceleration with a constant speed test. To achieve stable and repeatable test conditions, the procedure requires a Wide Open Throttle (WOT) test and a constant speed test. The WOT test specifies that a target acceleration be achieved. The gear selection for this test is determined by the target acceleration. The constant speed test is undertaken at 50 km/h. These tests are then combined in a weighted average which is a function of the actual acceleration achieved in the WOT test and the Power-to-Mass Ratio. The test track construction and road surface are required to meet the requirements of ISO 10844:2014 .
ISO 5130:2007+A1:2012 – Acoustics – Measurements of sound pressure level emitted by stationary road vehicles
ISO 5130:2007+A1:2012  specifies a test procedure for measuring the noise level from road vehicles under stationary conditions. The test method essentially involves holding the vehicle at a set engine speed and measuring the noise level when the throttle is released. The microphone is positioned 0.5m from the exhaust outlet. As specifically stated by the Standard, this procedure is not intended as either a method to check the exhaust sound pressure level when the engine is operated at realistic loads nor a method to check the exhaust sound pressure levels against a general noise limit for categories of road vehicles.
- 75% of the rated engine speed, where the rated engine speed is ≤ 5,000 RPM
- 3,750 RPM for a rated engine speed 5,000 – 7,500 RPM
- 50% of the rated engine speed, where the rated engine speed is ≥ 7,500 RPM
It all gets very technical, but to break it down; somebody sets up a sound meter to listen to the noise of the exhaust. At some points these guides even go on to mention the use of “mobile phone apps”, I kid you not. Can you imagine some jobs worth police saying “according to my iPhone 11, your car is loud”. Yeah like that’s gonna hold up in court. Even the report goes on to say that the apps are inaccurate!
Simple Answer For Our Classics….
Most vehicles, including imports and classics aged over 10 years, will not need vehicle approval. Therefore, however loud your classic car or motorcycle is when idling or driving sensibly, it shouldn’t be a cause for concern in areas that feature noise cameras.
A ‘Classic Car’ definition according to Wikipedia;
A classic car is an older car, typically 25 years or older, though definitions vary. The common theme is of an older car of historical interest to be collectible and tend to be restored rather than scrapped.
So from what I can make out, a 10 year old Honda civic worth £2000 with a frying pan sized exhaust bolted on it is not a classic, sorry.
My Opinion (for what it’s worth)
All this as far as I can see is pointless, the types of people (boy or girl racers) who have these types of exhausts are mostly over ten years old. So somebody in a beautiful Skyline R32 with an exhaust you climb into doesn’t have to worry either.
If you have a hotrod with straight pipes – that seems to be OK as well.
The point is where these police “powers” come into play could be subjective. On one hand stop the noise, but a car over ten years old is fine, as it’s a ‘classic’. So if you have a nicely tuned, Charger, Plymouth, Chevy, Mustang, a blown v8, turbo Porsche or some other classic American muscle, is the police going to know what the car should sound like or not? Cars over forty years old don’t even need an MOT, so they wouldn’t be pulled up on it then either. There are very strong chances that the car in question is older than the person trying to gauge how noisy it is. The contradiction of it’s over ten years old verses it’s ‘too loud’ is a joke.
The only people this legislation will effect will be the new Super or Hyper car owners like a Ferrari, Pagani, Lambo, Aston Martin etc. These cars come from the factory with loud ‘performance’ exhausts as standard because that is what the car needs. Perhaps restricting the noise from the factory in that case would be the answer? Good luck with that at the manufacturers. The owners buy the cars like that and then you fine them for buying that car often without any modifications being made. Besides, if they did get pulled over and given a £50 fine, will they be bothered? Of course not, that would just be the tip for the valet to park the car for them outside the casino. If they drive like an idiot, then they should get their just rewards, you need to be sensible.
The worst type of culprits are the cheaper boy racer cars made to sound loud and intentionally make noise as if to prove something. This type of ‘upgrade’ is done for no other reason than noise. Then yes – these are the idiots that need the fines, for being stupid. Just because it has a very big exhaust, it does NOT improve performance. Formula 1 cars rarely have an exhaust bigger than 3″.
This post was intended to be a quick one stating that sound cameras are being introduced and to beware of them. But, the more I looked into it, the deeper the rabbit hole went. After hours of reading and research, I came up with this; at the end of the day, people should be considerate with their cars, revving up at two in the morning is unacceptable.
Any thoughts on the topic? Let me know.