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It helps to improve road safety: it introduces a new category of licence for mopeds and requires a mandatory theory test beforehand as well as a graduated access to heavier motorcycles. It further specifies testing requirements. Professional drivers must have medical checks every 5 years. Requirements are laid down for the qualification and training of driving examiners.
It facilitates free movement of people: it introduces a European driving licence model and establishes a network for the exchange of information on driving licences between European Union (EU) Member States, simplifying the administrative work required for the mutual recognition of driving licences.
It reduces the scope for fraud: the new licence has a microchip incorporating the information printed on the card. It introduces a validity period for car and motorcycle licences of 10–15 years to allow for a regular update on the protection features and the holders. It sets up a new electronic network to ease communication between national authorities for licence checks.
Mutual recognition of licences
Licences issued by Member States must be mutually recognised. The driving licence categories are as follows:
category AM – for 2-wheel and 3-wheel vehicles with a maximum design speed of not more than 45 km/h, as well as light quadricycles;
category A1 – for light motorcycles with a cylinder capacity not more than 125 cubic centimetres and a power rating less than 11 kW;
category A2 – for motorcycles with a power rating under 35 kW;
category A – for heavy motorcycles without power restrictions;
category B – for passenger vehicles weighing up to 3,500 kg and seating not more than eight passengers;
category BE – for a vehicle of category B towing a heavy trailer of under 3,500 kg;
category B1 (optional) – for quadricycles;
category C1 – for goods vehicles between 3,500 kg and 7,500 kg and for up to eight passengers;
category C1E – for a vehicle of category C1 or B towing a heavy trailer; with a combined mass of up to 12,000 kg;
category C – for goods vehicles weighing more than 3,500 kg and seating not more than eight passengers;
category CE – for a vehicle of category C towing a heavy trailer;
category D1 – for passenger vehicles built for fewer than 16 passengers and that is no longer than 8 m;
category D1E – for a vehicle of category D1 towing a heavy trailer;
category D – for passenger vehicles for more than eight passengers;
category DE – for a vehicle of category D towing a heavy trailer;
light trailers up to 750 kg may be towed with categories B, C1, C, D1 and D.
A table of equivalences between these categories and those set out in licences issued in Member States prior to this directive are contained in Decision (EU) 2016/1945.
Conditions for issuing licences
Licences must state the conditions subject to which the driver is authorised to drive. If driving is authorised only for certain types of vehicle or for adapted vehicles, then this should be indicated by a code in the licence.
The issue of licences is also subject to conditions:
licences for categories C1, C, D1 and D are only issued to drivers already entitled to drive category B vehicles;
licences for categories BE, C1E, CE, D1E and DE are only issued to drivers already entitled to drive category B, C1, C, D1 and D vehicles, respectively.
The minimum age for the issue of driving licences is
16 years for categories AM, A1 (light motorcycles) and B1 (motor-powered tricycles and quadricycles)
18 years for categories A2, B, BE and C1
21 years for categories C, CE, D1 and D1E
24 years for categories D and DE;
Member States may raise or lower the minimum age, within given limits, for certain categories.
Member States must ensure that licence applicants possess the knowledge and skills and exhibit the behaviour required for driving a motor vehicle. In general, the tests to this effect must involve
a theory test
a test of skills and behaviour.
Driving licence examiners
They must have minimum competences for the skills and behaviour test.
They are under a quality-assurance regime and have to undergo periodic training.
Amendments following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic
Due to difficulties in renewing driving licences as a consequence of the extraordinary circumstances caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, which had started by 1 February 2020 in some Member States, Regulation (EU) 2020/698 extends the validity of certain driving licences for a period of 7 months from their date of expiry, in order to ensure the continuity of mobility by road.
Where a Member State considers that the renewal of driving licences is likely to remain impracticable beyond 31 August 2020, due to its COVID-19-related measures, it must submit by 1 August 2020 a reasoned request for an authorisation by the European Commission to extend the periods in question.
In view of the persistence of the COVID-19 crisis, Regulation (EU) 2021/267 lays down specific and temporary measures concerning the renewal or extension of licences and authorisations and the extension of certain periods referred to in Regulation (EU) 2020/698. The measures are described below.
The validity of driving licences which expire between 1 September 2020 and 30 June 2021 is deemed to be extended for a period of 10 months from their date of expiry.
The validity of the driving licences which, by application of Regulation (EU) 2020/698 would otherwise expire between 1 September 2020 and 30 June 2021, are deemed to be, or to have been, extended for 6 months or until 1 July 2021, whichever is the later.
Where a Member State considers that the renewal of driving licences is likely to remain impracticable beyond 30 June 2021, due to measures that it has taken to prevent or contain the spread of COVID-19, it may submit a reasoned request for an authorisation to apply an extension of the above periods. That request may concern the period between 1 September 2020 and 30 June 2021 or the period of 10 months, or both. It must be submitted to the Commission by 31 May 2021.
If the requirements are fulfilled and the requested extension does not lead to disproportionate risks in terms of transport safety and security, the Commission can authorise the Member State concerned to apply an extension. The extension must be limited to reflect the period during which the renewal of driving licences is likely to remain impracticable and, in any event, cannot exceed 6 months. The Commission’s decision in this regard is published in the Official Journal of the European Union.
Where a Member State does not need to avail of the measures laid down in Regulation (EU) 2021/267, it should inform the Commission of this by 3 March 2021. The Commission must inform the other Member States thereof and publish a notice in the Official Journal. A Member State in this situation must not impede the cross-border activities of any economic operator or individual that has relied on these exceptional measures in another Member State.
FROM WHEN DOES THE DIRECTIVE APPLY?
It has applied since 19 January 2007 and had to become law in the Member States by 19 January 2011.
Member States must apply the rules of the directive as of 19 January 2013.
Directive 2006/126/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 December 2006 on driving licences (recast) (OJ L 403, 30.12.2006, pp. 18–60)
Successive amendments to Directive 2006/126/EC have been incorporated into the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.
Regulation (EU) 2021/267 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 February 2021 laying down specific and temporary measures in view of the persistence of the COVID-19 crisis concerning the renewal or extension of certain certificates, licences and authorisations, the postponement of certain periodic checks and periodic training in certain areas of transport legislation and the extension of certain periods referred to in Regulation (EU) 2020/698 (OJ L 60, 22.2.2021, pp. 1–20)
Regulation (EU) 2020/698 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 May 2020 laying down specific and temporary measures in view of the COVID-19 outbreak concerning the renewal or extension of certain certificates, licences and authorisations and the postponement of certain periodic checks and periodic training in certain areas of transport legislation (OJ L 165, 27.5.2020, pp. 10–24)
Commission Decision (EU) 2016/1945 of 14 October 2016 on equivalences between categories of driving licences (OJ L 302, 9.11.2016, pp. 62–162)
Commission Regulation (EU) No 575/2014 of 27 May 2014 amending Regulation (EU) No 383/2012 laying down technical requirements with regard to driving licences which include a storage medium (microchip) (OJ L 159, 28.5.2014, pp. 47–49)
Commission Regulation (EU) No 383/2012 of 4 May 2012 laying down technical requirements with regard to driving licences which include a storage medium (microchip) (OJ L 120, 5.5.2012, pp. 1–11)