New Driving Licences Directive: Driving licences now only valid for 15 years
In future, driving licences will only be valid for 15 years; they will then have to be replaced and renewed. This is a new procedure which is regulated by the third EU Driving Licences Directive, due to enter into force on 19 January 2013. As from this date, standardised driving licences will be issued throughout the 27 member states of the European Union. Old driving licences are also affected: they must be updated to a current status by 2033 at the latest. However, it is only a question of exchanging the old for the new – the driving licence itself remains effective; new medical checks or further driving tests are not required.
Most of the changes in the EU Directive affect the driving licence categories, which are to be standardised throughout the EU. However, these will only be relevant for those about to acquire their license. Holders of existing licences do not have to fear that their rights will be restricted in future.
The majority of the changes relate to the driving licence categories for two-wheel power-driven vehicles. For example, in addition to adaptation of national category M to the new EU category AM, motorised three-wheeled vehicles (trikes) will now also be integrated into the ‘A’ categories, depending on their power.
The importance of experience for novice drivers is reflected in the motorcycle categories through the “two-stage driving licence”. This means that it is easier for those who first gain their driving licence in a lower performance class (A2) to access the next-highest driving licence category (A). However, an unrestricted category A licence is no longer issued automatically after 2 years; a further test is required. On the other hand, it will now be possible to gain a licence of this category without previous experience at the age of 24 (instead of at 25).
In the case of category B, arrangements for trailers will become simpler as the complicated conditions regarding the different weights no longer apply. In future it will be possible to drive with a trailer heavier than 750 kg without restriction if the maximum authorised mass of tractor vehicle and trailer does not exceed 3.5 t.
However, those who wish to keep all options open with regard to trailers should aim directly for category BE. Here, the only restriction is on the maximum authorised mass of the trailer, which is 3.5 t. If it is necessary to tow even heavier trailers, category C1E applies. Here, the restrictions as regards trailer weight again no longer apply; it is the maximum authorised mass of the vehicle and trailer combination that is significant, namely 12 t.
For Categories C and CE, the minimum age has now been raised to 21 and for Category D, to 24. However, the minimum age can still be reduced within the framework of the German professional driver qualification legislation or approved vocational training as a heavy vehicle driver.
The important thing to remember for all changes that now apply is that the scope of a driving licence gained before 19 January 2013 remains the same; the new arrangements only apply to licences gained after this date.
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