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Document 32006L0126

Road safety: driving licences

Road safety: driving licences



Directive 2006/126/EC on driving licences


  • It introduces a new European driving licence.
  • It recasts Directive 91/439/EEC — which it repeals.


The directive does the following.

  • It reduces the scope for fraud: the new licence has a microchip, incorporating the information printed on the card. It introduces a validity period for car and motorcycle licences of 10-15 years to allow for a regular update on the protection features and the holders. It sets up a new electronic network to ease communication between national authorities for licence checks.
  • It helps to improve road safety: it introduces a new category of licence for mopeds and requires a mandatory theory test beforehand as well as a graduated access to heavier motorcycles. It further specifies testing requirements. Professional drivers must have medical checks every 5 years. Requirements are laid down for the qualification and training of driving examiners.

Mutual recognition of licences

Licences issued by EU countries must be mutually recognised. The following are the driving licence categories:

  • category AM — for 2- and 3-wheel vehicles with a maximum design speed of not more than 45 km/h, as well as light quadricycles;
  • category A1 — for light motorcycles with a cylinder capacity not more than 125 cubic centimetres and a power rating less than 11 kW;
  • category A2 — for motorcycles with a power rating under 35 kW;
  • category A — for heavy motorcycles without power restrictions;
  • category B — for passenger vehicles weighing up to 3,500 kg and seating not more than eight passengers;
  • category BE — for a vehicle of category B towing a heavy trailer of under 3,500 kg;
  • category B1 (optional) — for quadricycles;
  • category C1 — for goods vehicles between 3,500 kg and 7,500 kg and for up to eight passengers;
  • category C1E — for a vehicle of category C1 or B towing a heavy trailer; with a combined mass of up to 12,000 kg;
  • category C — for goods vehicles weighing more than 3,500 kg and seating not more than eight passengers;
  • category CE — for a vehicle of category C towing a heavy trailer;
  • category D1 — for passenger vehicles built for fewer than 16 passengers and that is no longer than 8 m;
  • category D1E — for a vehicle of category D1 towing a heavy trailer;
  • category D — for passenger vehicles for more than eight passengers;
  • category DE — for a vehicle of category D towing a heavy trailer;
  • light trailers up to 750 kg may be towed with categories B, C1, C, D1 and D.

A table of equivalences between these categories and those set out in licences issued in EU countries prior to this directive are contained in Decision (EU) 2016/1945.

Conditions for issuing licences

  • Licences must state the conditions subject to which the driver is authorised to drive. If driving is authorised only for certain types of vehicle or for adapted vehicles, then this should be indicated by a code in the licence.
  • The issue of licences is also subject to conditions:
    • licences for categories C1, C, D1 and D are only to drivers already entitled to drive category B vehicles;
    • licences for categories BE, C1E, CE, D1E and DE are only to drivers already entitled to drive category B, C1, C, D1 and D vehicles, respectively.
  • The minimum age for the issue of driving licences is:
    • 16 years for categories AM, A1 (light motorcycles) and B1 (motor-powered tricycles and quadricycles);
    • 18 years for categories A2, B, BE and C1;
    • 21 years for categories C, CE, D1 and D1E;
    • 24 years for categories D and DE.
  • EU countries may raise or lower the minimum age, within given limits, for certain categories.
  • EU countries must ensure that licence applicants possess the knowledge and skills and exhibit the behaviour required for driving a motor vehicle. In general, the tests to this effect must involve:
    • a theory test;
    • a test of skills and behaviour.

Driving licence examiners

  • They must have minimum competences for the skills and behaviour test.
  • They are under a quality-assurance regime and have to undergo periodic training.

Amendments following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic

  • Due to difficulties in renewing driving licences as a consequence of the extraordinary circumstances caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, which had started by 1 February 2020 in some EU countries, Regulation (EU) 2020/698 extends the validity of certain driving licences for a period of 7 months from their date of expiry, in order to ensure the continuity of mobility by road.
  • Where an EU country considers that the renewal of driving licences is likely to remain impracticable beyond 31 August 2020, due to its COVID-19-related measures, it must submit by 1 August 2020 a reasoned request for an authorisation by the Commission to extend the periods in question.


It has applied since 19 January 2007 and had to become law in the EU countries by 19 January 2011.EU countries must apply the rules of the directive as of 19 January 2013.


For more information, see:


Directive 2006/126/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 December 2006 on driving licences (recast) (OJ L 403, 30.12.2006, pp. 18-60)

Successive amendments to Directive 2006/126/EC have been incorporated into the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.


Regulation (EU) 2020/698 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 May 2020 laying down specific and temporary measures in view of the COVID-19 outbreak concerning the renewal or extension of certain certificates, licences and authorisations and the postponement of certain periodic checks and periodic training in certain areas of transport legislation (OJ L 165, 27.5.2020, pp. 10-24)

Commission Decision (EU) 2016/1945 of 14 October 2016 on equivalences between categories of driving licences (OJ L 302, 9.11.2016, pp. 62-162)

Commission Regulation (EU) No 575/2014 of 27 May 2014 amending Regulation (EU) No 383/2012 laying down technical requirements with regard to driving licences which include a storage medium (microchip) (OJ L 159, 28.5.2014, pp. 47-49)

Commission Regulation (EU) No 383/2012 of 4 May 2012 laying down technical requirements with regard to driving licences which include a storage medium (microchip) (OJ L 120, 5.5.2012, pp. 1-11)

See consolidated version.

last update 22.09.2020