Transport noise comes under a range of different laws. This page has summaries of transport noise types, the laws they are under and who’s responsible for regulating them.
About noise from motor vehicles and the law
Under Part 5.6 the Environment Protection Regulations 2021, motor vehicles must meet noise standards when travelling on roads. Motor vehicles include:
- light trucks up to 4.5 tonnes
- buses up to 4.5 tonnes.
It is an offence to sell a motor vehicle or modify it so that it doesn’t meet noise standards.
The Victorian Road Safety (Vehicles) Regulations 2021 also has a regulation (289(1)) for noise. It states, ‘a person must not use a vehicle on a highway if the vehicle is creating undue noise’.
New motor vehicles in Australia must meet Australian Design Rules (ADRs) for noise and emissions to air. This is for both newly built and imported motor vehicles. There are different design standards for light vehicles. For example, motorcycles and cars. There are also different design standards for heavy vehicles. For example, trucks and buses. The Australian Design Rules come under the Commonwealth Government Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989.
Noise from a vehicle idling at a residence for too long may be unreasonable under the Environment Protection Act 2017.
EPA authorised officers and police can report noisy vehicles travelling on roads. EPA can order you to get your vehicle noise tested if reported for being too noisy.
You can report noisy vehicles driving on a road to the police by providing a licence plate number and vehicle description.
Regulating noise from trucks and buses
Heavy vehicles weighing more than 4.5 tonnes, such as trucks, come under the control of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator. When travelling on roads, heavy vehicles must comply with the noise levels in the Heavy Vehicle (Vehicles Standards) National Regulation.
New heavy vehicles must meet the noise standards in the Australian Design Rules.
Report noisy exhaust from large trucks and buses over 4.5 tonnes to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator.
Managing road traffic noise
Road traffic noise is the combined noise from all vehicles driving on roads. A combination of policies, contracts and land use planning requirements manages noise from road traffic.
The VicRoads Traffic Noise Reduction Policy sets noise level objectives for noise from freeways. It also applies to some road widening and upgrade projects. Where a freeway operates privately, legal agreements can set out the requirements to manage noise in line with the policy. Newer private road projects may also have specific noise standards applied during the planning and approval process.
Land use planning manages the impacts from road traffic noise on houses, schools and other sensitive uses. Under the Victoria Planning Provisions, you must design and build new apartments to reduce noise if near busy roads. Council may set planning permit conditions for noise control for new developments with sensitive buildings near existing freeways.
Regulating noise from passenger trains and trams in service
Noise from passenger trains and trams during passenger services is exempt from the requirements of the Environment Protection Act 2017. This exemption is in section 251B of the Transport (Compliance and Miscellaneous) Act 1983.
Under the law, this noise isn’t a nuisance. This exemption applies when trains and trams are:
- travelling on tracks
- entering or exiting a siding, yard, depot or workshop
- in a siding, yard, depot or workshop, when starting up to begin a passenger service, or shutting down after a passenger service.
While exempt from the Act, noise from passenger trains and trams can still disturb people. You can report noise from trains and trams to the companies that manage them. Only contact the Public Transport Ombudsman after the public transport company has had a chance to respond to your concern.
Reporting noise from freight trains
You can report noise from freight trains travelling on rail lines to Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC).
Restricting noise from train and tram maintenance
Noise from a passenger train, or tram may be unreasonable when it’s not in service. This is when it’s in a siding, marshalling yard or maintenance depot and involves activities like maintenance and cleaning. These activities must comply with the noise requirements for commercial, industrial and trade premises in Part 5.3 of the Environment Protection Regulations 2021.
Noise from freight trains may be unreasonable when they’re in a siding, marshalling yard or maintenance depot. This includes loading and unloading activities. These activities must comply with the noise requirements for commercial, industrial and trade premises in Part 5.3 of the Environment Protection Regulations 2021.
You can report noise from train and tram maintenance to EPA.
Read more about transport noise
Reviewed 11 November 2021