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European driving licence

17 January 2013
by eub2 -- last modified 17 January 2013

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An estimated 60% of the Union’s population holds a valid driving licence, meaning 300 million citizens. Improving road safety is one of the main objectives of driving licence legislation. Moreover the recognition of driving licences facilitates free movement of citizens. The implementation of a single model throughout the European Union is seen as ensuring greater security.


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Directive 2006/126/EEC of 20 December 2006 replaces directive 91/439 on 19 January 2013.

The new rules introduced by directive 2006/126/EC will reduce possibilities of fraud, guarantee a true freedom of movement for EU drivers and reinforce safety on European roads.

The main aspects of are:

  • Anti-fraud measures
    • Only plastic card
    • Optional microchip
    • Limited administrative validity
  • Further harmonisation of categories
    • Mopeds: AM
    • Motorcycles: A1, A2, A
    • Categories B and BE
    • Categories C1, C1E, D1, D1E
  • Reinforce progressive access to categories (age, dimensions)
  • Harmonised periodicity medical checks for group 2
  • Requirements for driving examiners: new Annex

Prerogatives of the Member State of residence

As driver licensing matters have not been the subject of exhaustive harmonisation, Member States have residual competence on various points.

Therefore, when the holder of a driving licence resides in the territory of a Member State which is not the state that issued the licence, that host country can require his compliance with certain rules, for example:

  • National provisions on the period of validity of driving licences.
  • The frequency of medical examinations: Annex III of Directive 91/439/EEC places drivers into two groups. With regard to medical examinations, different arrangements apply to each of them.

Group 1 includes the drivers of vehicles in categories A, B and B+E and in sub-categories A 1 and B 1.

Candidates have to undergo a medical examination if it appears, at the time of completion of the necessary formalities or during the tests that they are required to undergo before obtaining a licence, that they are suffering from one or more of the incapacities mentioned in the annex.

Group 2 includes the drivers of vehicles in categories C, C+E, D, D+E and in sub-categories C 1, C 1+E, D 1 and D 1+E.

Candidates have to undergo a medical examination before the first issue of a licence and, thereafter, drivers have to undergo the periodic examinations which will be prescribed by national legislation.

At the time of issue or at the time of any subsequent renewal of a driving licence, Member States will be able to require stricter standards than those mentioned in the annex.

Moreover, national legislation may provide for the provisions for Group 2 to apply to drivers of Category B vehicles using their driving licence for professional purposes (taxis, ambulances, etc.),

Moreover, other fields are not harmonised by the Community legislation and fall within the residual competence of the states.

  • States can take measures on taxation (connected with holding a licence)
  • They can impose sanctions (e.g. penalty points).
  • Member States can, for reasons of safety and of road traffic, apply their national provisions on withdrawal, suspension and cancellation of the licence, to any licence holder having taken up his normal residence on their territory. The host country can, in certain cases, call for exchange of the licence.
  • With regard to the provisions on the minimum age, Directive 91/439/EEC stipulates that Member States may derogate from the conditions laid down for categories A, B and B+E and issue these categories from the age of 17.
  • Sub-categories are optional. The decision whether or not to establish them is the prerogative of the Member State.
  • Member States may grant certain equivalences for driving in their territory, such as motor-powered tricycles and quadricycles under a category A or A1 licence and light motorcycles under a category B licence
  • The choice of a "plastic" or "paper" driving licence model is the prerogative of the Member State.
  • National vehicle categories still exist. This is the case, for example for agricultural tractors or mopeds. A moped licence, issued by one Member State is not automatically valid on the territory of another Member State.

Source: European Commission

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