Heavy Construction Equipment — Diesel or Electric? The Impact of Noise Ordinances on Construction Equipment”

Volvo L25 Electric Wheel Loader

Heavy construction equipment — diesel or electric?

Increasingly, contractors are facing options for how a machine is powered when they’re buying or renting. The decision for your business can come down to a lot of different criteria, but one important factor may simply be noise. Generally, noise ordinances are designed to limit the amount of sound that heavy equipment can produce — especially in residential or urban areas. In certain situations, diesel-powered machines can be disruptive and even harmful to people living or working nearby.

As an example, some cities have noise restrictions near certain types of buildings such as schools, hospitals and courts — even during normal working hours. In areas with strict noise ordinances like these, diesel-powered heavy equipment may be subject to noise pollution restrictions or even outright bans. This could potentially result in fines or other penalties if noise levels exceed allowable limits.

In contrast, electric heavy equipment is generally quieter, which could make it a more attractive option to get work done without disturbing nearby residents or businesses. For example, the Volvo ECR25 Electric compact excavator has exterior noise levels much lower than its diesel counterpart, which makes the electric machine nearly silent.

Noise ordinances and bylaws in the United States and Canada — at the federal, state/provincial and local levels — may impact your decision to buy diesel or electric construction equipment in the near future. Here are a few examples to give you an idea of what’s out there, but note that rules vary by jurisdiction, so be sure to look them up in areas where you work.

Sec. 9-68-2. – Excessive noise near school, church, court or hospital.
(Code 1967, § 24-2; Code 1985, § 22-2)

The creation of any excessive noise on any street adjacent to any school, institution of learning, church or court while the same are in session, or adjacent to any hospital, which unreasonably interferes with the workings or sessions thereof is prohibited.

In simpler terms, if there’s utility work, landscaping needs, site development work or other jobs near these types of businesses or organizations that need to be completed during the day, diesel-powered machines might be too loud to comply. Electric equipment, however, may be an option. For contractors in Memphis (even the city council itself), it’s worth the time to investigate the viability of quiet electric heavy equipment for jobs in these types of areas.

Volvo ECR18 Electric Excavator

§ 591-2.3. – Construction.

No person shall emit or cause or permit the emission of sound resulting from any operation of construction equipment or any construction that is clearly audible at a point of reception: (1) from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. the next day, except until 9 a.m. on Saturdays; and (2) all day on Sundays and statutory holidays.

In Toronto, electric machines can help you work extended hours when diesel-powered machines likely aren’t a fit. They can give you a big advantage on jobs with extremely tight deadlines — you could potentially work early on Saturdays, on Sundays, and even after 7:00 each evening. Smaller project work can be completed during these noise-restricted days and times to keep jobs moving forward and ultimately meet target completion dates.

Volvo L20 Electric Wheel Loader


Here in the United States, the Noise Control Act of 1972 is a federal law that establishes a national policy to promote an environment free from noise that jeopardizes human health and welfare. The act provides for the establishment of national guidelines for noise control and encourages the adoption of these guidelines by states and local governments.

An amendment to this law called the Quiet Communities Act was reestablished to enhance the federal government’s efforts to control and reduce noise pollution and to promote quiet environments in communities.

The U.S. Congress has found that approximately 28 million individuals in the United States are afflicted with some hearing impairment, and it’s been estimated that 10 million of those impairments are at least partially attributable to damage from exposure to noise.

Volvo ECR25 Electric Excavator working near a Hospital

As a result, the federal government and local municipalities continue to look for ways to reduce excessive noise in and around heavily populated urban areas and noise-sensitive locations like jobsites near hospitals. Those who run electric heavy equipment put themselves in a better position to bid on and win jobs where noise ordinances are in place.


Examples like these span coast to coast across North America. The good news is more electric machines are entering the market, and many government entities offer incentives or grants for companies that purchase electric heavy equipment as part of their efforts to reduce noise and air pollution. For example, businesses may be eligible for tax credits or rebates for purchasing electric equipment, which could make it a more cost-effective choice.

Ultimately, the impact of noise ordinances on the decision to buy diesel or electric heavy equipment will depend on the specific construction noise regulations in place in a given area, as well as other factors such as the cost and performance of different types of equipment. However, it’s clear that noise pollution control is becoming an increasingly important issue for communities across North America, and companies that invest in quieter, cleaner equipment may be better positioned to succeed in the long term.

If you’re interested to know what incentives are available in your area, talk to your Construction Equipment salesperson at Nuss who can work directly with you to find what you need.

You can also check out this handy database of federal, state/provincial and local noise ordinances that details what must be followed when working in major urban areas in both the U.S. and Canada (we found some of the links to be outdated, but simply searched those ordinance titles via a search engine). Be sure to also reference the EPA’s Summary of the Noise Control Act.

Ordinances like these mean Volvo electric machines may allow contractors to work longer throughout a day, even when working near churches, hospitals, schools and more — and almost all cities would allow for immediate exemption from these bylaws once applied for locally. Proactive and reasonable control of construction equipment noise results in happier communities plus, successful, on-schedule projects with a minimum of hassle due to noise. It can also remove the inconvenience of civil penalties, abatement orders or stop work orders. Be sure to check out the list of noise ordinances in your area.

By Nick Tullo