A Problematic New Law to Control Excessive Sound in Motorcycles

In the most recent issue of the American Motorcyclist Journal, former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was dubbed the Motorcyclist of the Year. This title was given to Schwarzenegger because of the impact he has made on the future of motorcycling through the signing of Senate Bill No. 435, a bill intended to address excessive motorcycle sound via an eco-friendly agenda.

The First Step: Customizing Bikes with CARB-Approved Pipes
Almost 4 years ago, in 2007, Schwarzenegger signed a similar bill legalizing dealership installations of California Air Resources Board (CARB)-approved emissions-related parts on new motorcycles, making these customizations compatible with “anti-tampering” rules which only allow the sale of factory-condition motorcycles.
The AMA’s Ed Moreland criticized the CARB law’s blind spot, noting that “the law didn’t mandate specific equipment. It didn’t restrict design or tuning creativity. It set an achievable sound level, and left it to the motorcycling community to meet it.” And because the community has not been responding to the government’s subtle prod, they are now subject to their forceful push in the form of Senate Bill No. 435.
The Follow Through: Senate Bill No. 435
This bill-turned-law “requires all California-registered motorcycles and exhaust systems built in 2013 and later to display a federal Environmental Protection Agency label somewhere on the exhaust itself, certifying that the exhaust meets federal sound standards.”
Though this law sounds potentially beneficial to the environment and people’s ear drums everywhere, several criticisms and concerns about its overall efficacy have been brought up, which, according to the article, are agreed upon by a range of people involved in motorcycling, “from lawmakers to motorcyclists’ rights organization leaders to business people.” They are summarized as follows:
  • Availability and Cost: Only a few aftermarket manufacturers currently offer the EPA-labeled pipes–pipes suited to a small class of specific motorcycles. And the cost to receive EPA certification will delay the availability of pipes for more bikes by more manufacturers. As a result, can we expect enough riders to buy quieter pipes?
  • Enforcement: The EPA label can still be on a modified exhaust that exceeds sound regulations whereas a pipe without a label could still be quiet enough to meet the law’s standards. And the location of these labels can be difficult for law enforcement to see, which might lead to an increase in unwarranted tickets–tickets that cost up to $100 on the first offense and up to $250 for subsequent ones. It is important to note that “a violation is considered a secondary offense, which means a police officer can’t stop a motorcyclist solely because the officer believes the rider is breaking the sound emissions label law.”

AMA President Rob Dingman insists that the AMA has “been saying for years that if the motorcycling community didn’t police itself on excessive sound, then the government would, and we wouldn’t like the results.” But Denis Manning of BUB Enterprises, a Northern Californian motorcycle exhaust systems company, believes that, despite their initial frustration, motorcyclists will eventually see the benefit of replacing their pipes to comply with the law.
In the end, the AMA’s stance on this issue is that only properly trained personnel can determine whether or not a motorcycle complies with sound laws through sound level tests based on an agreed-upon testing procedure.
What is your stance?

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