Stage II noise exemptions

01 May 2008

Directive 2000/14/EC relates to noise emitted by equipment used outdoors, and this of course encompasses construction equipment. A major milestone in its implementation is due in January 2006, with Stage II of the Directive coming into force. This demands a further across the board -3dB(A) reduction in noise for most equipment from the various Stage I limits that were introduced in January 2002.

CECE has argued for a long time that there are major technical and economic barriers to implementing Stage II. The nature of the legislation is such that if a machine cannot meet the Stage II noise limits by January next year, it cannot legally be placed on the EU market. The result would be that the legislation would effectively ban certain types of equipment. With this serious consequence in prospect, CECE has been lobbying long and hard for amendments to the Directive.

In November 2002 CECE presented its proposal for modification of the Directive to the European Commission. The changes suggested were based on both technical issues, where there was no clear solution for noise reduction, and resource issues, where the cost of reducing noise from certain low unit volume machine types would be prohibitively expensive, and out of proportion with the environmental benefit.

This proposal for exemptions on purely technical points was supported in July 2004 by the Commission's own Working Group on Outdoor Equipment (WG7). The group submitted a position paper, proposing that the Directive be modified as CECE had suggested on all the technical issues. However, it declared itself not competent to judge the resource-related requests.

In December 2004, CECE sent letters to Commissioners Dimas (Environment) and Verheugen (Enterprise), asking that the decision-making process be accelerated, and proposing a meeting between the Commission and Industry CEOs. The following month, by which time the Directive had become the sole responsibility of DG Enterprise & Industry, Commissioner Verheugen replied to CECE, stating, “DG-ENT is evaluating the options available in respect of the points CECE has raised”

This was a positive development, with the Commission agreeing to look at the options available to make the Directive more realistic and workable from the industry point of view. However, amending the legislation through Europe's co-decision procedure in both the Parliament and Council is a lengthy process, in February 2005, CECE urged the Commission to have a proposal ready by the end of June 2005. This would give the industry just enough time to respond.

In parallel, CECE provided DG-ENT with data on the financial impact of the Directive in the cases of some specific products. The studies showed that these would not be available in the EU after January 2006, because of the technical impossibility of achieving the Stage II noise limits.

LATEST DEVELOPMENTS On 11 March the Commission informed representatives of the Member States and Stakeholders that it was, “Considering the possibility of delaying the application of the Stage II limits for certain types of equipment.” The equipment types identified by the Commission were:

• Steel tracked dozers

• Steel tracked loaders (>55kW)

• Vibratory plates

• Vibratory rammers

• Compactor screed paver finishers n Walk behind vibratory rollers

• Industrial lift trucks (>10 tonnes)

In addition to these, the Commission agreed that other machine types could be added to the list, as long as there were purely technical reasons why they could not achieve the Stage II noise limits. These additions would be permitted up until the full proposal was made to the Parliament and Council.

CECE responded on 17 March by proposing a moratorium until the necessary amendment(s) to the Directive would came into force, which it felt was a better defined deadline than just delaying matters until a proposal was made to the Parliament and Council. CECE also took the opportunity to state its regret at the absence of any solution for machine types where achieving Stage II limits will not be economically viable.

A meeting between the Commission and Member States representatives on 21 March accepted the Commission's proposal, including the list of exempt machines. A deadline of 22 April was set for adding any other product types to the list on technical grounds.

This meeting was followed by discussions between the Commission and the industry Noise Experts Working Group, of which CECE is a member. This meeting led to the clarification that within the vibratory plate category, only units of 3 kW or more should be exempt. The group also proposed that hand-held petrol engine concrete breakers and picks should be added to the list.

The Commission is likely to submit its proposal to Council and Parliament, including these amendments, by mid-year.

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