Mufflers on motorcycles; muffler system must be in good working order that meets federal standards. (SB933)

Introduced By

Sen. Toddy Puller (D-Mount Vernon)


Passed Committee
Passed House
Passed Senate
Signed by Governor
Became Law


Mufflers on motorcycles. Provides that motorcycles shall use a muffler system in good working order that meets federal standards. Read the Bill »


Bill Has Failed


01/06/2009Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/14/09 093821304
01/06/2009Referred to Committee on Transportation
01/29/2009Passed by indefinitely in Transportation (14-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)


Anton Largiader writes:

This seems to largely duplicate 1049, which applies to all vehicles whereas 1050 singles out motorcycles. 1049 doesn't work, why should 1050 work? If 1050 is going to work it should also apply to all vehicles. There are cars and trucks on the road with nonconforming mufflers as well.

I'm in favor of the idea, but I want it to apply to all vehicles.

Waldo Jaquith writes:

It's commonplace to introduce a pair of bills, one a bit stronger than the other. The idea is that if the broader one dies, the narrower one might still have a shot.

BTW, I love your R1100RS, Anton. :)

Anton Largiader writes:

Thanks! Just to clarify for others reading this, 1049 and 1050 refer to the actual VA code, not bills. 46.2-1049 applies to 'vehicles' and 46.2-1050 is specifically about motorcycles. I see no reason why cars and trucks should not be held to the CFR also, and I don't say that to try to poison this bill. I would want both bills to pass.

Todd writes:

I was the one who instigated the bill, which will be introduced again next year.

The proposed legislations is completely duplicative of 1049, is completely consistent with 1049 EXCEPT it provides a simple, clear, and fair enforcement method for police. By requiring that all mufflers conform to long standing federal regulations, all motorcycles would be required to use mufflers that have an EPA label - a requirement that only pertains to motorcycles, to provide an easy enforcement mechanism.

1050 is specific to motorcycles and that why that piece of VA code was chosen, rather than the 1049.

Here is a recent letter to the senator which outlines the arguments made against the bill, which seem a bit ridiculous.

I will be continuing to pursue the same course of action as reflected in the proposed legislation. The arguments made by the state police captain and the motorcycle lobbyist were very weak in my opinion, and I think that I’ll request several members of the Transportation Committee to remove the bills status as “tabled”. If I had a little more notification for the committee meeting, I would also have asked the city of Fredericksburg to testify and at least one other person from Richmond who helped defeat noise legislation several years ago. I let the police chief in Fredericksburg know that the bill was likely going nowhere, so he has directed the attorney to draft the city legislation similar to what Toddy introduced, to be reviewed by officers, and put forth to the city council.

Since the state police captain says that his group can enforce the current laws, and Fairfax Co. police are not able to, would Toddy request that the captain station two officers at the Mt. Vernon Estate to ticket loud motorcycles several times this year? It would be like shooting fish in a barrel, I can suggest exactly when they should station themselves at that location. To further illustrate the problem, I estimate that through Oct. 2009 we’ll hear loud motorcycles using clearly illegal mufflers, from within our home over the television or anything else, over 10,000 times. The potential health effects from this type of noise pollution is well studied and documentation can be found at the NIH and WHO websites.

I also wonder why Toddy announced at the end of the hearing that she thought the federal laws were weak, not well formed? My opinion which is shared by other folks who have a good background on this, is exactly the opposite, these laws provide the only logical way to provide efficient and fair enforcement to ensure that motorcycles use street legal mufflers. The main problem is that these laws have not been referenced previously by state and local governments, and the police almost never recognize noise pollution as even slightly important, and have certainly never read the federal laws. Myrtle beach has just enacted similar legislation to what we proposed as has Denver, and in NYC it is currently under consideration.

Let me make a few points about the arguments made by the lobbyist and police captain.

The captain said that $2 million to $3 million would be needed to equip and train police and that the current law is already enforceable. The main points of the legislation were to provide law enforcement with a simple, clear, and fair way to tell whether or not a motorcycle is using legal mufflers. An officer would just need to have a sense of hearing to identify a loud motorcycle (they are manufactured to be about as quiet as a car so a loud one is clearly illegal), and eyes to look for the required EPA label on the muffler. I am sure that the state police believe that decibel readers are required to measure the volume of noise – this is actually not effective for motorcycles, often doesn’t stand up in court because decibel readers mostly don’t record the type of noise generated by the illegal mufflers and how can the officers create a controlled environment not affected by other noise? One state police officer located near us said that he enforces the law all of the time, because his hobby is motorcycles so he knows by sight what is a legal muffler and what is not – this is effective for him based on his personal knowledge. The EPA labeling requirement was put in place so that officers don’t need to know everything about Harleys or to need equipment such as decibel meters which are expensive and often deemed to be subjective.

However, if the captain can enforce the law then more power to him, I would like to get him up here. Don’t you think its funny though that the lobbyists website states that the same law can’t be enforced?

The lobbyist stated that the legislation would cause an “undue burden” for motorcyclists because they would have to change their mufflers, and EPA labeled mufflers are not widely available. Hmmm…. Motorcyclists would have to change their mufflers because 80% of them have mufflers installed which are clearly illegal according to any law, its just that the law is not enforced / enforceable. I have heard that it can be difficult to find EPA labeled mufflers, but I have also heard that they are out there (maybe they have never heard of the Internet). How do these quiet mufflers get installed on all new motorcycles per federal law? How is it possible that the EU requires motorcycles to be even quieter than the US federal law? Even if a motorcyclist doesn’t have an EPA labeled muffler installed, what does he have to be afraid of if his bike isn’t loud and clearly illegal to begin with.

There is an answer to almost any argument along the lines of “undue burden” for motorcyclists. Isn’t it completely obvious that the general public is paying the “undue burden” of noise pollution generated by these scofflaws? There are even provisions in the federal laws for motorcyclists if they are sold motorcycles that don’t meet the labeling requirements – its called a product recall to fix the problem.

Todd writes:

It would be nice to shine some Sunlight on the relationships of our VA government officials in their role PROMOTING motorcycling and motorcycle related business development in VA.

The state police made a ridiculous uninformed argument against the bill. The person in charge of state police is a prominent figure on the VA Motorcycling Advisory Council, JOE MARSHALL. He even has a role on a recent task force!

Senator PHILLIP PUCKETT voted against the proposed legislation. You would think that he would at least recuse himself given his long standing participation in promoting motorcycling.

Maybe these people will eventually considering protecting the general public instead of promoting special interests? Maybe they will eventually consider reading the federal laws and educating themselves on issues related to noise pollution.

Doubtful though, considering their close relationship with our state motorcycling lobbyist, who states on his website that the current laws in place to govern noise from exhaust systems can't be enforced...

robert legge writes:

All I know is that some motorcycles make way too much noise. Half the noise from a car would get a ticket. Do other states have laws such as that proposed here?

Todd writes:

Some states have a clearly audible standard, which is actually more comprehensive to accommodate easy enforcement of other common types of noise pollution (boom cars, car mufflers, etc...). I chose to focus on motorcycles as they are by far the worst and most frequent source of noise pollution.

Denver and Myrtle Beach have enacted the EPA labeling requirements. NYC is considering it (fought by motorcycling interests), and a city in VA who I won't name for their protection is considering the same thing.

The entire issue (including physiological effects)as well as the solution proposed through this bill is thoroughly explained here at