MEPs have narrowly voted through a proposal to introduce new legislation on maximum vehicle noise that would see most new heavy road-going trucks restricted to a maximum of 79dB(A) with new off-roaders limited to 80dB(A).

The vote, held by the EU Parliament’s Environment Committee on 18 December, also moves forward a plan to introduce an obligatory labelling scheme to inform operators about the noise rating of vehicles in brochures and at the point of purchase.

The 79dB(A) limit would apply within six years of the new regulation coming into force to new truck types with a mass of over 12 tonnes incorporating engines with a power rating of over 250kW (335hp), and to all new registered vehicles of the same specification within eight years. However, the Environment Committee has also called for a review of the targets by 2018 with the aim of approving a further 2dB(A) reduction by 2023.

The change, which would require measuring the noise of both moving and stationary vehicles, is designed to help protect EU citizens from the health effects of persistent exposure to high levels of traffic sound, which the Environment Committee says can exhaust physical reserves, disrupt proper functioning of organs and lead to the development of cardiovascular and other diseases.

The 79dB(A) limit represents a 1dB(A) reduction over current maximum noise levels for large trucks and is “a notable change, but not beyond the realms of possibility,” said Tony Pain, marketing director at Daf Trucks. A further reduction of 2dB(A), however, would be “a bit of a problem”, he added, as it represented an effective halving of total truck noise.

“A reduction at the level they are talking about is actually quite a major deal, despite seeming like a small amount,” said a spokesman for the SMMT. The measures needed to achieve the new limits could lead to a decrease in engine efficiency and a rise in fuel consumption, he added. “Every time you make a reduction in one area, it has an impact on another,” he warned.

A plenary vote on the new legislation will now take place in Strasbourg in March.