German version of a EU driving licence card with the EU flag on it (2013, specimen)
Driving licences within the European Union are subdivided into different categories (Note: Above graphic may be outdated since 19 January 2013)
The European driving licence is a driving licence replacing the many driving licence styles already in use in the member states of the European Economic Area (European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway). It has the credit card-style with a photograph and possibly a microchip. They were introduced to replace the 110 different plastic and paper driving licences of the 300 million drivers in the EEA. The main objective of the licence is to decrease the risk of fraud.
The first step to a European driving licence was taken on 4 December 1980, when the Council of Ministers adopted Council Directive 80/1263/EEC on the introduction of a Community driving licence, which established a Community model national licence that guaranteed the mutual recognition by Member States of national licences. It also established the practice of exchange of licences by holders moving from one Member State to another.
On 29 July 1991, the Council of Ministers adopted the Council Directive 91/439/EEC on driving licences. The directive required Member States to adopt laws implementing the directive before 1 July 1994, which laws would take effect on 1 July 1996. Directive 80/1263/EEC would be repealed on the same date. Directive 91/439/EEC specified the European Union driving licence until its repeal 19 January 2013.
The directive harmonises the categories of driving licences among the Member States and establishes two Community driving licence models, one paper version and one plastic card version. It furthermore establishes an obligatory test of knowledge (theory) and a test of skills and behaviour (practical) which has to be successfully passed before an individual is offered a driving licence. It also requires an applicant to meet the minimum standards of physical and mental fitness to drive. The directive specifies the minimum ages for driving different types of vehicles, and establishes progressive access in categories A, C, and D, from light vehicles to larger or more powerful vehicles. The directive stipulates that it is mandatory to have the normal residence in the Member State issuing the licence.
The Directive has been substantially amended by nine directives and two acts of accession. The plastic card version of the Community licence model, for example, was added to the Directive by Council Directive 96/47/EC of 23 July 1996.
In March 2006, the Council of Ministers adopted a Directive proposed by the European Commission to create a single European driving licence to replace the 110 different models currently in existence throughout the EU/EEA. The European Parliament adopted the Directive in December 2006. Directive 2006/126/EEC was published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 30 December 2006. Its provisions took effect on 19 January 2013; Directive 91/439/EEC was then concurrently repealed.
The licence is a credit-card-style, single plastic-coated document, very difficult to falsify. The document will be renewable every 10 or 15 years depending on the member state. Several member states will have the option to include a microchip containing information about the card holder on the card. This will prove extremely useful because police can access the driving licence in their own language. This would solve the problem with the three kinds of alphabet (Latin, Greek and Cyrillic) used in the EEA. In addition, the fields of the driving licence are uniformly numbered, thus allowing the police to decipher the meaning of the fields without electronic access.
Some categories like C and D will be issued for five years only. After expiration, a medical check-up is necessary in order to renew the licence for another five years.
The directive stipulates that members states should adopt laws implementing the directive no later than 19 January 2011. Those laws should take effect in all EEA members states on 19 January 2013. All licences issued before that date will become invalid by 2033.
Motorcycles with a cylinder capacity not exceeding 125 cubic centimetres and a power not exceeding 11 kW; and motor tricycles with a power not exceeding 15 kW.
16 years. (17 years in the UK, 18 years in Greece, Belgium and the Netherlands).
AM, (also T in Finland)
B licence holders in Czech Republic (only motorcycles with automatic transmission), Italy, Latvia, Slovakia (after two years and only motorcycles with automatic transmission), Spain (after three years), Poland (after three years), Portugal (at least 25 years old or additional licence for mopeds) and Belgium (only with a Belgian Driving Licence, after two years) are allowed to drive motorcycles not exceeding 125cc within the respective countries. In Austria (after five years, training of 6 hours), France (after two years, a training of 7 hours), Luxembourg (after two years, training of 7 hours) and the United Kingdom (Compulsory Basic Training), a practical training without exam is needed for B licence holders.
Motorcycles of a power not exceeding 35 kW and with a power/weight ratio not exceeding 0,2 kW/kg and not derived from a vehicle of more than double its power.
18 years. (19 years in the UK, 20 years in Greece and the Netherlands).
A1, AM, (also T in Finland)
Replaced class "A" on 19 January 2013 in Malta.
Any motorcycle or motor tricycle not in category A1. Limited to 25 kW and 0.16 kW/kg for 2 years.
20 years. (21 years in the UK, 22 years in the Netherlands). However, access to the driving of motorcycles of this category shall be subject to a minimum of two years' experience on motorcycles under an A2 licence. This requirement as to previous experience may be waived if the candidate is at least 24 years old.
A2, A1, AM, (also T in Finland)
B licence holders who are at least 21 years of age are allowed to drive motor tricycles (including three-wheeled motorcycles with a power exceeding 15 kW) in the following countries: Czech Republic, Italy, Latvia, Spain and United Kingdom. In France a practical training (at least 7 hours) without exam is needed for B licence holders who want to drive motor tricycles only. In France this option is available only after at least two years of B licence. Replaced class "A+" on 19 January 2013 in Malta.
Motor vehicles with a maximum authorised mass not exceeding 3500 kg and designed and constructed for the carriage of no more than eight passengers in addition to the driver; motor vehicles in this category may be combined with a trailer having a maximum authorised mass which does not exceed 750 kg.
Without prejudice to the provisions of type-approval rules for the vehicles concerned, combination of vehicles consisting of a tractor vehicle in category B and a trailer or semi-trailer where the maximum authorised mass of the trailer or semi-trailer does not exceed 3500 kg.
Motor vehicles designed and constructed for the carriage of no more than 16 passengers in addition to the driver.; motor vehicles in this category may be combined with a trailer having a maximum authorised mass not exceeding 750 kg.
Combinations of vehicles where the tractor vehicle is in category D1 and its trailer has a maximum authorised mass of over 750 kg.
D or D1
Vehicles with more than 8 + 1 seats (buses).
Motor vehicles designed and constructed for the carriage of more than eight passengers in addition to the driver; motor vehicles which may be driven with a category D licence may be combined with a trailer having a maximum authorised mass which does not exceed 750 kg. Includes articulated buses (at least in the UK).
Combinations of vehicles where the tractor vehicle is in category D and its trailer has a maximum authorised mass of over 750 kg.
Furthermore there are more national categories for tractors, large motorcycles, motorised wheel boats, motor tricycles (modern voiturettes, Category B1 or S) and military categories such as for driving tanks. National categories means they are not harmonised and only valid within the issuing country.
Begleitetes Fahren - Accompanied driving: the young driver must be accompanied by someone aged 30 or above who has held a valid B-licence for a minimum of 5 years. Germany and Austria introduced this model a few years ago to decrease the accident rate among young drivers. When the driver reaches legal age BF17-licences are exchanged for B-licences.
Even though Switzerland is a EFTA member state, it is not a member of the European Economic Area. Switzerland has, however, generally adopted much of the harmonised EU legislation with regard to driving licences. Swiss licences can be exchanged in most EEA countries. Switzerland has, since the 2000s, used the EU system of vehicle categories and issued EEA-style credit-card licences.
To apply for a car driving licence (category B), the applicant must be 18 years old. They must first attend first aid courses, and pass an eyesight test. Passing a theory exam is required to receive a learner's permit/licence valid for two years. This allows holders to drive a car only if accompanied by an adult aged 23 or more who has had a full driving licence for a minimum of three years. Before passing the practical exam, the candidate must attend 10 hours of theory lessons on "sensibilisation [familiarisation] to road traffic". Practical driving lessons are not legally required, but are considered a de facto prerequisite for passing the practical exam [taken] with a government official [Driving Test Examiner]. Upon succeeding the practical exam, a probationary driving licence is issued for three years. To obtain the full, unlimited, driving licence after these three years, the candidate must not commit a serious traffic offence, and attend two days of further driving training.
For motorcycles and heavier vehicles, the regulations are different, and some agrarian vehicles can be driven without a licence. As of 2011, a 45-minute driving lesson costs around 90 CHF, while the various fees and theoretical instruction costs associated with getting a car driving licence can amount to up to CHF 600, without counting the costs for the two days of further training.
To help users of different languages to understand what each of the data fields on the licence contains, they are labelled with a number. A legend is usually supplied on the reverse of the card in the issuing authority's language.
a): Though the EU directive states, this to be other names, local variations may occur b): The addition of the personal number, is a local variation. The EU directive states that 4(d) is optional and should be a number other than the one listed under number 5 c): The address is optional in the EU directive, and thus not implemented by all countries