The world of driving licenses could see a transformation in the near future.  The EU Commission presented a draft EU driving license directive in March 2023.  This gives an insight into the direction the EU would like to take, but does not necessarily show the final picture.  Especially since it resulted in an extremely large number of proposals for further changes, some of which are highly controversial.

The central ambition: a significant increase in road safety in Europe.  The EU aims to reduce the number of traffic fatalities to zero by 2050, despite progress already made in road safety.

 

This is what people are most upset about:

The following points are currently causing the most excitement, although it must be clearly stated here that it is currently still unclear whether these points will even make it into the driving license directive.

 Expiration times and medical-psychological examinations:

The driver’s license is generally to expire after ten years, for people over 60 every seven years, from 70 every five years and from 80 even every two years.  These proposals have triggered a wave of discussion and disagreement, especially among the EU’s older citizens.

This is because there are also calls for the introduction of compulsory medical-psychological examinations (MPU) for older drivers, at a cost.  Critics argue that this measure could be perceived as discriminatory and also represents a financial burden for those affected.  Proponents, on the other hand, stress the need for such examinations to ensure road safety, especially in view of increasing life expectancy and the increase in older drivers on the roads.

Restriction and graduated driving license in class B:

A restriction of Class B car licenses to vehicles with a maximum unladen weight of 1.8 tons is desired.  Accordingly, Class B should be divided into two levels: Class B for lighter cars and Class B+ for heavier cars.  The idea behind this is that novice drivers should first gain experience with lighter vehicles before being allowed to switch to heavier ones.

Speed limit and night driving bans for novice drivers:

Another concise point in the draft amendment to the EU driving license directives is the introduction of a 90 km/h speed limit and night driving bans for novice drivers.  Accordingly, EU member states could impose a night driving ban for novice drivers between midnight and 6 am.  The primary goal of this measure is to reduce the number of trips made under the influence of alcohol, which poses an increased risk, especially at night.  However, novice drivers would also be very limited by this, especially in the area of shift work.

New probationary period regulation:

Another issue in the draft amendments relates to probationary period regulations.  Under the new proposals, each newly acquired driver’s license class would start with its own probationary period.  Specifically, this means that if someone already holds a passenger car driver’s license and later acquires a motorcycle license, a new probationary period would begin for them.

Possible changes for motorcycle and trike riders:

One significant proposal discussed in the new guidelines affects motorcycle and trike riders.  Currently, Class A is required to ride all motorcycles and trikes, which can be obtained either through a graduated license or direct entry (minimum age 24).  However, under the proposed amendments, the direct entry option could be eliminated in the future.  This would mean that the acquisition of class A would only be possible after two years of prior possession of class A2.

 

More realistic proposals that could be implemented in this or a similar form:

Amidst the numerous discussions and debates about the possible changes to the EU driving license directives, there are also proposals that meet with broader approval and have a good chance of being implemented.

Expanded opportunities for Class B holders:

One such issue concerns Class B driving licenses.  Under the new directives, Class B license holders could in the future be authorized to drive vehicles weighing up to 4.25 tons, provided they run on alternative fuels.  However, this would be subject to the condition that the drivers have already held the class B driver’s license for at least two years.

This is to accommodate the fact that electric vehicles are much heavier than current internal combustion vehicles.  However, the restriction of the increase in the permitted weight only for vehicles with alternative fuels has also met with criticism.  Many would like to see a general increase here without the limitation to specific types of propulsion.

International recognition of the B-196 regulation for motorcycle crossers:

Also on the list is recognition of the B-196 regulation for motorcycle cross-entry drivers at the international level.  This B-196 scheme allows Class B license holders, after additional training and a practical test, to ride Class A1 motorcycles without having to take a full motorcycle license test.  Currently, however, this driving license extension is only valid within Germany; in other countries, the extension does not entitle the holder to ride small motorcycles up to 125cc.  This is to be changed in the future.

Discussion about the minimum age for the truck driving license:

Another point under discussion in the future EU driving license directives is the possible lowering of the minimum age for obtaining a truck driving license.  There is currently an intensive debate as to whether such a measure could help to solve the shortage of professional drivers in many European countries.

Trucks/buses: lowering the minimum age with a focus on public safety

Changes are also being debated in the area of heavy vehicles such as trucks and buses.  One specific consideration is lowering the minimum age for these vehicle classes, but with a clear focus on public safety.  This could be particularly relevant for drivers working in public safety areas, such as fire departments or emergency services.

Cross-border testing for learner drivers:

One proposal currently under discussion is the possibility for learner drivers to take theory and practical tests in different EU member states.

Accompanied driving – B17: EU-wide recognition

Another significant step envisaged in the future EU driving license directives concerns accompanied driving for 17-year-olds, known as B17.  Currently, the Class B passenger car driver’s license can be obtained in Germany at the age of 17 as part of accompanied driving.  This regulation faces possible EU-wide recognition.

Fitness to drive checks from 70: periodic checks for seniors

Another significant point in the proposed changes to the EU driving license directives concerns older drivers.  It is proposed that all seniors must have their driving ability checked every five years from the age of 70.

Digital driver’s license: QR codes for greater safety

One proposal within the future EU driving license directives concerns the introduction of a digital driving license.  In the future, this would allow drivers to show / prove their driving license via an app on their smartphone.  In addition, the traditional card driver’s license is to be supplemented by a QR code (or replace the current chip), which is to serve as an additional security feature to prevent forgeries.

Driving license revocation: harmonization of regulations at EU level

A fundamental innovation envisaged in the revised EU driving license directives relates to the regulations governing the withdrawal of driving licenses.  The EU plans to introduce EU-wide recognition of withdrawal grounds and procedures in order to harmonize and strengthen enforcement of road safety measures in member states.

Currently, it is possible to lose a driver’s license only for individual countries.  In the future, driving license revocations are to apply uniformly across all EU countries.  In addition, the offenses that lead to a driver’s license being revoked are also to be harmonized.

 

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