The Land Transportation Office (LTO) has long tried to address the problems on the noise created by motor vehicles and motorcycles. In the past, the LTO regulations have set a maximum sound limit of 115 decibels (dB) in an effort to help reduce the country’s noise pollution. Just recently, the agency has announced changes in the recommended national standard to 99 decibels, saying that “the sound level of the motor vehicle for the exhaust of the muffler shall not exceed 99 dB, taken at an engine speed of 2,000 to 2,500rpm.”
Aside from the LTO regulation on sound level, several bills have been proposed by lawmakers to address the issue of noise caused by motor vehicles. The Senate Bill No. 1148, otherwise known as the Muffler Act of 2022, is also in process of ratification to address the same problem—the noise pollution caused by motor vehicles on Philippine public roads.
Car Noise Decibels: What are the National Sound Level Standards of Cars in Philippines?
Most motor vehicles are designed to have low noise levels. This is because exposure to loud noises can be harmful to both drivers and passengers. Despite this, the LTO deems it necessary to have a national standard to ensure that all motor vehicles would have a maximum noise level limit.
This standard was originally set at 115 decibels, but this has recently changed to 99bB, with the release of LTO Memorandum Circular No. 2020-2240.
What is the LTO sound level standard of motor vehicles for?
This national standard is set by the LTO not only for the benefit of motorists, but also to help reduce the country’s noise pollution. Sure, we understand the satisfaction of hearing that loud sound of a powerful engine, but if this “noisy” fix can cause long-term damage to you as the car owner, imagine what it would do to the well-being of those around you. After all, sound levels beyond 85dB, when listened to for an extended period of time, may already cause hearing loss. Even normal conversations which are set at around 50-60dB can be annoying. Imagine what hearing something like a chainsaw or jackhammer next to you on a regular basis would do. According to the US Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC), people who are constantly exposed to loud noises are at risk of experiencing “stress, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, heart disease, and many other health problems.”
How to measure the motor vehicle sound level?
According to LTO Memorandum Circular No: 2020-2240, the sound level of motor vehicles for exhaust or muffler should not exceed 99 dB at an engine speed of 2,000 to 2,500 rpm. This means that the Motor Vehicle Inspection Technician (MVIT) from the Private Motor Vehicle Inspection Center (PMVIC) will rev your motorcycle or other motor vehicle up to 2,500 rpm while taking sound readings with a decibel meter. The LTO rule also explicitly states that the sound level meter is to be positioned 0.5m to the rear of the exhaust, parallel to the ground, and at a 45-degree angle. The exhaust noise should read 99 dB or less.
How loud is 99 dB?
To put things into perspective, a normal conversation between individuals goes up to about 60 dB. A typical lawn mower, or a blender, or hair dryer have sound levels that go up to 90dB. When an abnormally obnoxious car with a ridiculously noisy muffler drives past, chances are you might need to shout so you can be heard by the person in front of you. Sure, you may say that it’s no worse than being in a local coffee shop, but then again, that’s already at about 90dB including all the ambient noise. So this gives you an idea of the minimum noise level we’re using as a reference.
Plus, do note that sound levels beyond 90 dB are already medically considered as “Very Loud.” These sounds are equivalent to pumped up earphones at maximum volume, which can go up to 100bdB. Concerts and sporting events’ volumes can go up to 110dB, which is about as noisy as a car’s standard horn. It’s not surprising to hear some people complaining of throbbing headaches when someone mashes on a car horn in traffic.
Simply put, the new LTO Motor Vehicle Inspection Center’s maximum is set at 99 dB. It cannot be louder than what the human ear perceives to be music cranked up to 10 directly into their ears. So if you have an exhaust that screams too loud, then you may very well have a problem in your hands.
What will happen if my motor vehicle exceeds the national standard?
If your exhaust sound reading is louder than 99 dB, then it simply means that you failed the test. MV and motorcycles with exhaust pipes that surpass 99 decibels are still issued a Motor Vehicle Inspection System Report (MVIR) as a guide for the needed repairs or corrections to be done. After the repairs or corrections are done, the motorcycle can be brought back to the Private Motor Vehicle Inspection Center (PMVIC) for re-inspection. A P300.00 re-inspection fee will be collected.
If no correction was made, the vehicle can risk apprehensions or impounding as per current LTO regulations. Once apprehended, vehicles that exceed the national standard will be required to install an exhaust pipe that complies with the aforementioned regulation. Those with exhaust pipes that violate the sound level standards will only be able to get his motor vehicle back after replacing the exhaust system with the one that is compliant with the regulation.
Note that the installation or replacement of the loud pipe can only be done within the impounding area. The MV will then be subjected to inspections and re-inspections. Once the machine inspections are completed, the data will be sent to the host computer and uploaded to the Land Transport Management System (LTMS) portal along with the data of the visual inspections.
What is the penalty for violating the LTO national sound level standard?
Do note that a violation of this LTO rule would mean a violation of the LTO regulation on the unauthorized/improper use of accessories, devices, equipment, and parts, which translates to having to pay a penalty amounting to five thousand pesos (₱5,000.00). It may even lead to impounding and a mandatory replacement of the exhaust pipes, right there at the impounding area.
For your reference, here are some important reminders worth taking note of:
- The LTO has announced a lower standard sound level for motor vehicles, from the original 115dB to the new 99dB.
- 99dB qualifies as very loud in terms of noise level.
- The LTO has also given out guidelines on how to check the sound level of a motor vehicle.
- Violation of the LTO standards may entail a penalty of up to P5,000.00, a mandatory replacement of exhaust pipes, and a re-inspection.
- In cases of impounded motor vehicles, the owner may need to get the exhaust pipes replaced at the impounding area.
- Other fees may need to be paid for, including a re-inspection fee amounting to P300.00.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
For your reference, here are some of the common questions and answers related to the national sound levels.
1. Are MVIS and MVIC the same?
No. MVIS refers to the Motor Vehicle Inspection System, or the system or method used to evaluate whether or not a vehicle is roadworthy. On the other hand, the MVIC refers to the Motor Vehicle Inspection Center, or the facility in charge of conducting computerized and automated vehicle inspections. It examines your vehicle to see if it is roadworthy and if it follows the emission standards. If you pass the test, MVIC will provide a certificate, which is required for vehicle registration with the Land Transportation Office (LTO).
2. What is a sound level meter?
A sound level meter is a device used to measure sound pressure level. It is commonly used in the quantification of noise pollution levels of industrial and environmental noise.
3. What are mufflers for?
A muffler works to deaden the booming sound your vehicle’s engine makes when the internal combustion engine creates the power to propel the vehicle by way of combustion. As the engine goes through the combustion process, large bursts of burnt gasses are released through the exhaust system which creates loud sounds and these sounds are reduced by the mufflers, making driving convenient and comfortable.
4. Can a muffler help with your vehicle’s performance?
A properly working muffler can help the engine generate more power without killing off your ears or causing stress, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, heart disease, and many other health problems related to overly loud noise.
5. What happens after the motor vehicles pass the MVIC?
Once a vehicle comes back and passes the test, the MVIC can return the front plate and the motor vehicle’s registration can be renewed.
Most vehicles are designed to have low noise levels. This is because exposure to loud noises can be harmful to drivers and passengers. Having said that, the LTO has set a lower national standard not only for the benefit of motorists but also to help reduce the country’s noise pollution. The LTO regulation is subject to sanctions and penalties, in cases when motor vehicles are apprehended or failed to pass the inspection mandated by the LTO.