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Third EU Directive on Driving Licences

Volume 499: debated on Wednesday 11 November 2009

The Department for Transport has today published a consultation document that outlines our proposals for implementing the third EU Directive on Driving Licences (Directive 2006/126/EC), adopted in December 2006.

Most features of the directive must be transposed into national law by mid-January 2011 and come into practical effect by mid-January 2013. In general, the directive harmonises definitions of vehicle sub-categories and rules on the duration of the validity of a licence; it introduces minimum standards for driving examiners and aims to ensure that no one can at any one time possess more than one licence issued by an EU state. Most of its provisions are consistent with current UK practice or with measures the Government anyway intended to take.

The main changes required by the directive to current practice in Great Britain are:

changes to the size categories of motorcycles, including a new medium-sized category;

an increase from 21 to 24 in the minimum age for motorcyclists gaining direct access to the most powerful motorbikes;

a new test or a training programme for younger motorcyclists wishing to progress in stages to the larger and more powerful machines (currently, unlimited access to all motorcycles is gained automatically after two years’ experience on less powerful machines);

drivers of medium and large buses and lorries must renew their licences and demonstrate continuing medical fitness every five years (the present requirement in Britain is five-yearly renewal only after age 45);

a new category for car and light van drivers wishing to tow a medium-sized trailer, with qualification via a test or a training programme.

Major changes to entitlement, for example, those applying to motorcyclists and drivers towing trailers outlined above, will apply only to people first acquiring driving licences on or after 19 January 2013. Drivers and riders will keep any entitlement they already have on that date.

The consultation document explains in detail the changes involved. We intend to introduce them in a way which involves the minimum amount of departure from current practice, at the least possible cost.

The estimated cost of implementing the directive is £10 million for developing the necessary systems and annual operating costs of £2.1 million thereafter. These figures would rise to £14.9 million and £3.1 million respectively if the training options for motorcyclists and drivers towing trailers were taken up (all figures in 2009 prices).

Some further changes will be required in the future. For instance, all paper licences must be withdrawn by 2033.

The consultation period will run until 11 February 2010. Copies of the consultation document have been placed in the Library of the House. Further copies are available on the DfT website at:

Depending upon comments received and the Government’s response, implementing regulations will be laid before Parliament in order to transpose the directive into law in Great Britain by the due date of January 2011. Separate arrangements apply in Northern Ireland, where driver licensing is a devolved matter.