Vehicles, number plates and the environment

Discover must-know information about smoky and noisy vehicles, number plates and self-driving cars.

In this section we explore autonomous vehicles, restrictions to noisy or smoky vehicles and clear up any confusion about whether or not bicycles are considered vehicles.

Bicycles are considered vehicles under the road rules, and riders are permitted to ride on the road, even if there’s a nearby off-road path (unless signs indicate otherwise).

Motorcycle riders must obey the rules as other drivers would, however there are some additional rules that apply. For more information see the section on Motorcycle Riders.

Regulations exist to reduce noise and air pollution caused by motor vehicles, trams and trains.

The Environment Protection Act restricts people from:

  • owning or using a vehicle which exceeds prescribed noise levels
  • using a vehicle that emits visible smoke for a continuous period of 10 or more seconds.

As a result, the Victorian Road Safety Road Rules 2017 stipulate that:

  • A person must not start a vehicle, or drive a vehicle, in a way that makes unnecessary noise or smoke and
  • You must not use a horn or similar warning device unless it is to warn other roads users or animals of the position of your vehicle. 
  • Horns can be used as part of an anti-theft device or alcohol interlock fitted to the vehicle.

For more information see rule 224 and 291 of the Victorian Road Safety Road Rules 2017.

Visit the EPA Victoria website for more information on:

Number plates must be clearly displayed and visible from a distance of 20 metres.

If your plates aren’t you run the risk of an on-the-spot fine. So, we suggest checking your number plates and if they’re not up to scratch, contact VicRoads on 13 11 71 to arrange a new set.

Number plate warranty

  • All number plates carry a 10-year warranty from the date of issue.
  • Replacement plates are issued free of charge during this warranty period for any plate that has deteriorated due to the manufacturing process.
  • The warranty covers deterioration ranging from simple cracking to progressive or complete blackening of the retroreflective sheet.
  • Be aware though, that plates damaged due to normal wear and tear or impact damage are not eligible for free replacement.

To order a replacement plate visit VicRoads website.

If your plates don’t fall under the warranty guidelines, you’ll have to cover the cost of new plates.

  • Replacement plates will display a new number and can be issued immediately by VicRoads.
  • If you want to retain your existing plate number, you’ll have to purchase duplicate plates which can take three to four weeks to be issued.

For more information on pricing and the types of number plates available visit VicRoads website.

For more information see the Victorian Road Safety (Vehicles) Regulations regulation 48.  

Bicycle carriers and number plates

If you have a bicycle carrier on the rear of your vehicle, and it obscures or hides your number plate, you need to remove your number plate and attach it to the rack, or fit a bike rack number plate issued by VicRoads.

  • Hand drawn plates aren’t allowed.
  • The number plate on the bicycle rack must be adequately illuminated at night.

For more information, see the section Bicycle Carriers.

Levels of automation range from dynamic cruise control to full-automation/driverless vehicles.

While dynamic cruise control is common on Victorian roads, there’s still a long way to go before we have fully-automated vehicles everywhere.

How do road rules apply to automated vehicles?

To provide certainty regarding the road rules and the use of existing technology in vehicles, “transport ministers reaffirmed the existing policy position that the human driver remains in full legal control of a vehicle that is partially or conditionally automated, unless or until a new position is developed and agreed.” (Source: NTC)

This means drivers with vehicles using currently-available technology such as:

  • dynamic cruise control
  • lane keep assist
  • parking assist or,
  • collision avoidance

are responsible for the control of their vehicle even when operating these autonomous technologies.

What does the future for automation look like?

There are many trials being conducted of automated vehicles around Australia.

In Victoria, RACV is supporting a number of trials including a trial on EastLink testing the use of semi-autonomous features in cars that require the driver’s hands on the wheel and are already being sold in Australia (or will be released during the trials).  

Find out more about the trial on EastLink.

Other trials include a NAVYA autonomous bus trial through an agreement with HMI Technologies, a trial on parts of CityLink, and a Melbourne University trial which sees the streets in a section of Fitzroy and Collingwood (between Hoddle and Nicholson Streets and Alexandra and Victoria Parades) being wired with smart city technology that can ‘connect’ with existing semi-autonomous vehicles, such as high-end Mercedes-Benz vehicles, BMWs and Audis.

In Western Australia, our counterparts RAC WA, are conducting the first public trial of a fully driverless shuttle bus. Watch their videos.

For more information on autonomous cars, the technology and how they work read our articles Autonomous car – coming to a street near you and The Autonomous Car – What it will mean for you.

The summaries RACV provide on Victorian road rules are based on the Victorian Road Safety Road Rules 2017. We make sure to reference the exact rule where possible. When reading, keep in mind that we’re providing general information, not legal advice. If you’re looking for specific questions on any legal matter, consult with a lawyer for help.