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Road safety: dimensions and maximum weights authorised for both national and international journeys

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Road safety: dimensions and maximum weights authorised for both national and international journeys

This Directive aims to harmonise the maximum dimensions authorised for national traffic and the maximum weight authorised for international traffic of road vehicles intended to carry goods and passengers.

ACT

Council Directive 96/53/EC of 25 July 1996 laying down for certain vehicles circulating within the Community the maximum authorised dimensions in national and international traffic and the maximum authorised weights in international traffic [Official Journal L 235 of 17.09.1996] [See amending acts].

SUMMARY

This Directive applies, in international and national traffic, to the dimensions of those road vehicles that are intended to carry goods (weighing more than 3.5 tonnes) or passengers (with more than 9 seats). In international traffic it also applies to the weights and certain other vehicle characteristics specified in Annex I.

Member States may not authorise the normal use on roads within the national frontiers of goods vehicles or vehicle combinations that do not display the characteristics set out in Annex I, apart from the standard relating to maximum height. Any vehicles or vehicle combinations exceeding the maximum dimensions may only be used on the roads if a special authorisation has been received.

In international traffic terms no Member State may refuse or ban the use, on its territory, of vehicles registered or placed in service in other Member States for reasons deriving from their weights and dimensions. In the case of national traffic that State may also not ban the use, on its territory, of goods vehicles registered or placed in service in other Member States for reasons relating to their dimensions. These two situations only apply if those vehicles comply with the values laid down in Annex I, which sets out the maximum weights and dimensions and the attendant characteristics.

Member States will take any action needed in order to ensure that vehicles are provided with one of the three proofs set out below:

  • a manufacturer's plate supplemented by a plate concerning dimensions; or
  • a single plate containing the data from the two plates referred to above; or
  • a single document issued by the competent authority in the Member State in which the vehicle is registered or was placed in service, and which contains the same data as those on the other plates.

Some exemptions from the Directive are intended for Ireland and the United Kingdom up to 31 December 1998.

That Directive replaces the following directives:

  • Directive 85/3/EEC (Official Journal L 2 of 3.1.1985)
  • Directive 86/360/EEC (Official Journal L 217 of 5.8.1986)
  • Directive 86/364/EEC (Official Journal L 221 of 7.8.1986)
  • Directive 88/218/EEC (Official Journal L 98 of 15.4.1988)
  • Directive 89/338/EEC (Official Journal L 142 of 25.5.1989)
  • Directive 89/460/EEC (Official Journal L 226 of 3.8.1989)
  • Directive 89/461/EEC (Official Journal L 226 of 3.8.1989)
  • Directive 91/60/EEC (Official Journal L 37 of 9.2.1991)
  • Directive 92/7/EEC (Official Journal L 57 of 2.3.1992).

REFERENCES

Act

Entry into force - Date of expiry

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 96/53/EC

17.9.1996

7.9.1997

OJ L 235 of 17.9.1996

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2002/7/EC

9.3.2002

9.3.2004

OJ L 67 of 9.3.2002

RELATED ACT

Report - Not published in the Official Journal

On 27 May 1998 the Commission produced a report on the placing in service of buses and coaches having a maximum length of 15 m [COM(97) 499 final].

Directive 96/53/EC authorises a maximum length of 12 metres for rigid buses and coaches operating on international routes. However, since 15-metre buses and coaches are already in service in several Member States the report takes stock of the situation.

More particularly it lists the commercial benefits to be gained from large vehicles and notes that the inventiveness of certain operators in putting the extra space offered by 15-meter vehicles to good use encourages a modal shift towards public transport.

In addition the report examines the safety factors and concludes that there is nothing to support the assumption that a 15-metre vehicle is less safe than a similar 12-metre-long vehicle. Moreover the environmental impact of this type of motor bus may be positive where such vehicles are operated efficiently i.e. either by carrying more passengers than 12-m vehicles (their fuel consumption per passenger is lower and traffic flows decrease) or by attracting a body of passengers who would otherwise have travelled by car.

Conversely the use of 15-metre buses requires a certain adaptation of infrastructures (barriers for pedestrianised precincts, street lighting ...) Therefore a decision authorising wider use of this type of bus will have a financial impact on the local public authorities who are generally responsible for this type of infrastructure.

The report ends by describing the conceivable options linking the legal and technical aspects of 15-metre bus and coach use. The Commission expressed a preference for setting a harmonised limit of 15 metres for international services while leaving room for national rules that may differ.

Proposal

Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 96/53/EC of 25 July 1996 laying down for certain road vehicles circulating within the Community the maximum authorised dimensions in national and international traffic and the maximum authorised weights in international traffic. [COM(2013)195 final/2 of 21.5.2013 - not published in the Official Journal].

The aim of the proposal is to improve the aerodynamics of vehicles and their energy efficiency, while continuing to improve road safety, and within the limits imposed by the geometry of road infrastructures. The amended Directive would:

  • grant exceptions from the maximum dimensions of vehicles for the addition of aerodynamic devices to the rear of vehicles or to redefine the geometry of the cabs for tractors, improving drivers’ field of vision, and improving their safety and comfort;
  • authorise a weight increase of one tonne for vehicles with an electric or hybrid propulsion, to take account of the weight of batteries or the dual motorisation, without prejudice to the load capacity of the vehicle. Furthermore, the maximum weight of buses would be increased by a tonne to take account of developments such as the increase in the average weight of passengers and their baggage, of new equipment imposed by the safety regulations, and the new Euro VI class;
  • facilitate the development of intermodal transport by allowing a derogation of 15 cm in the length of trucks carrying 45-foot containers, which are increasingly used in intercontinental and European transport;
  • confirm that cross-border use of longer vehicles is lawful for journeys that only cross one border, if the two Member States concerned already allow it and if the conditions for derogations under the Directive are met;
  • add new provisions to enable the inspection authorities to better detect infringements and harmonise administrative penalties that apply to them.

The Commission would publish guidelines on inspection procedures to ensure harmonisation of inspection methods between all Member States. EU member countries would carry out a minimum number of vehicle checks, using either weighing systems built into the road or by means of onboard sensors in vehicles that communicate remotely with roadside inspectors.

Last updated: 12.02.2014

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