Accept Refuse

EUR-Lex Access to European Union law

Back to EUR-Lex homepage

This document is an excerpt from the EUR-Lex website

Document 62016CJ0314

Judgment of the Court (Ninth Chamber) of 25 January 2018.
European Commission v Czech Republic.
Failure of a Member State to fulfil obligations — Transport — Directive 2006/126/EC — Driving licences — Definitions of categories C1, C and D1.
Case C-314/16.

Digital reports (Court Reports - general - 'Information on unpublished decisions' section)

ECLI identifier: ECLI:EU:C:2018:42

JUDGMENT OF THE COURT (Ninth Chamber)

25 January 2018 ( *1 )

(Failure of a Member State to fulfil obligations — Transport — Directive 2006/126/EC — Driving licences — Definitions of categories C1, C and D1)

In Case C‑314/16,

ACTION under Article 258 TFEU for failure to fulfil obligations, brought on 1 June 2016,

European Commission, represented by J. Hottiaux and Z. Malůšková, acting as Agents,

applicant,

v

Czech Republic, represented by M. Smolek, T. Müller and J. Vláčil, acting as Agents,

defendant,

THE COURT (Ninth Chamber),

composed of E. Juhász (Rapporteur), acting as President of the Chamber, K. Jürimäe and C. Lycourgos, Judges,

Advocate General: Y. Bot,

Registrar: I. Illéssy, Administrator,

having regard to the written procedure and further to the hearing on 1 June 2017,

after hearing the Opinion of the Advocate General at the sitting on 7 September 2017,

gives the following

Judgment

1

By its action, the European Commission asks the Court to declare that:

by failing to comply with the obligation to ensure that the definition of categories C1 and C covers only motor vehicles other than those in category D1 or D, the Czech Republic failed to fulfil its obligations under Article 4(1) and (4)(d) and (f) of Directive 2006/126/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 December 2006 on driving licences (OJ 2006 L 403, p. 18), and

by restricting the definition of category D1 to motor vehicles designed and constructed for the carriage of more than eight passengers, the Czech Republic failed to fulfil its obligations under Article 4(1) and (4)(h) of that directive.

Legal context

EU law

2

Article 3(2) of Council Directive 91/439/EEC of 29 July 1991 on driving licences (OJ 1991 L 237, p. 1) provided:

‘Within categories A, B, B + E, C, C + E, D and D + E, a specific driving licence may be issued for the driving of vehicles in the following subcategories:

Subcategory D1:

motor vehicles used for the carriage of passengers and having more than 8 seats in addition to the driver’s seat but not more than 16 seats in addition to the driver’s seat; motor vehicles in this subcategory may be combined with a trailer having a maximum authorised mass which does not exceed 750 kilograms;

…’

3

Recitals 2 and 12 of Directive 2006/126 state:

‘(2)

The rules on driving licences are essential elements of the common transport policy, contribute to improving road safety, and facilitate the free movement of persons taking up residence in a Member State other than the one issuing the licence. … Despite the progress achieved with harmonising the rules on driving licences, significant differences have persisted between Member States in the rules on periodicity of licences renewal and on subcategories of vehicles, which needed to be harmonised more fully, in order to contribute to the implementation of Community policies.

(12)

The definitions of the categories should reflect to a greater extent the technical characteristics of the vehicles concerned and the skills needed to drive a vehicle.’

4

The first sentence of Article 1(1) of Directive 2006/126 provides that ‘Member States shall introduce a national driving licence based on the Community model set out in Annex I, in accordance with the provisions of this Directive’.

5

Article 4 of that directive, entitled ‘Categories, definitions and minimum ages’, provides:

‘1.   The driving licence provided for in Article 1 shall authorise the driving of power-driven vehicles in the categories defined hereafter. It may be issued from the minimum age indicated for each category. A “power-driven vehicle” means any self-propelled vehicle running on a road under its own power, other than a rail-borne vehicle.

4.   motor vehicles:

“motor vehicle” means any power-driven vehicle, which is normally used for carrying persons or goods by road or for drawing, on the road, vehicles used for the carriage of persons or goods. This term shall include trolleybuses, i.e. vehicles connected to an electric conductor and not rail-borne. It shall not include agricultural or forestry tractors,

(d)

Category C1:

motor vehicles other than those in category D1 or D, the maximum authorised mass of which exceeds 3500 kg, but does not exceed 7500 kg, and which are 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;

(f)

Category C:

motor vehicles other than those in category D1 or D, whose maximum authorised mass is over 3500 kg and which are 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;

(h)

Category D1:

motor vehicles designed and constructed for the carriage of no more than 16 passengers in addition to the driver and with a maximum length not exceeding 8 m; motor vehicles in this category may be combined with a trailer having a maximum authorised mass not exceeding 750 kg;

(j)

Category D:

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;

…’

6

Article 16 of that directive, entitled ‘Transposition’, provides:

‘1.   Member States shall adopt and publish, not later than 19 January 2011, the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with Article 1(1), Article 3, Article 4(1), (2), (3) and (4)(b) to (k) … They shall forthwith communicate to the Commission the text of those provisions.

2.   They shall apply those provisions as from 19 January 2013.

…’

7

Within Title I, entitled ‘Minimum requirements for driving tests’, Part A, entitled ‘Theory Test’, Section 4, entitled ‘Specific provisions concerning categories C, CE, C1, C1E, D, DE, D1 and D1E’, of Annex II to Directive 2006/126, points 4.1.9 and 4.1.10 of that annex provide:

‘4.1.9.

Safety factors relating to vehicle loading: controlling the load (stowing and fastening), difficulties with different kinds of load (e.g. liquids, hanging loads, …), loading and unloading goods and the use of loading equipment (categories C, CE, C1, C1E only);

4.1.10.

The driver’s responsibility in respect to the carriage of passengers; comfort and safety of passengers; transport of children; necessary checks before driving away; all sorts of buses should be part of the theory test (public service buses and coaches, buses with special dimensions, …) (categories D, DE, D1, D1E only).’

8

Also within Title I, Part B, entitled ‘Test of skills and behaviour’, Section 8, entitled ‘Skills and behaviour to be tested concerning categories C, CE, C1, C1E, D, DE, D1 and D1E’, points 8.1.6, 8.1.8, 8.2.3 and 8.2.4 of that annex provide:

‘8.1.6.

Checking the safety factors relating to vehicle loading: body, sheets, cargo doors, loading mechanism (if available), cabin locking (if available), way of loading, securing load (categories C, CE, C1, C1E only);

8.1.8.

Being capable of taking special vehicle safety measures; controlling the body, service doors, emergency exits, first aid equipment, fire extinguishers and other safety equipment (categories D, DE, D1, D1E only);

8.2.3.

Parking safely for loading/unloading at a loading ramp/platform or similar installation (categories C, CE, C1, C1E only);

8.2.4.

Parking to let passengers on or off the bus safely (categories D, DE, D1, D1E only).’

Czech law

9

Article 80a(1)(g) to (i) of the Zákon č. 361/2000 Sb. o provozu na pozemních komunikacích (Law No 361/2000 on road transit), in the version in force at the material time, provides:

‘Category

(g)

C1 covers motor vehicles, other than tractors, the maximum authorised mass of which exceeds 3500 kg but does not exceed 7500 kg, which are designed for the carriage of no more than eight persons, in addition to the driver, and to which a trailer may be attached having a maximum authorised mass not exceeding 750 kg;

(h)

C covers motor vehicles, other than tractors and the vehicles referred to in point (g), the maximum authorised mass of which exceeds 3500 kg, which are designed for the carriage of no more than eight persons, in addition to the driver, and to which a trailer may be attached having a maximum authorised mass not exceeding 750 kg;

(i)

D1 covers motor vehicles with a maximum length not exceeding 8 metres which are designed for the carriage of more than 8 and up to 16 persons, in addition to the driver, and to which a trailer may be attached having a maximum authorised mass not exceeding 750 kg.’

Pre-litigation procedure

10

On 11 July 2014, the Commission sent the Czech Republic a letter of formal notice, drawing that Member State’s attention to the fact that certain provisions of its legislation relating to the definition of vehicle categories C1, C and D1, were not consistent with the requirements of Directive 2006/126.

11

After examining the arguments put forward by the Czech Republic, contained in the response to that letter of 8 October 2014, the Commission delivered a reasoned opinion on 27 February 2015, in which it called on that Member State to take the measures necessary to comply with that reasoned opinion within two months of its receipt. At the request of the Czech Republic, that period was extended until 27 May 2015.

12

By letter of 22 May 2015, the Czech Republic replied to the reasoned opinion stating that, with respect to the definition of driving licence categories C, C1 and D1, ‘in order to avoid potential ambiguities and to ensure greater legal certainty, the Czech Republic agree[d] to amend in part the legal provisions in force which ought to meet the Commission’s requirements’.

13

Since it had not received any further information concerning the adoption of the planned amendments, and taking the view that, in any event, the failure complained of continued to exist at the time that the deadline set in the reasoned opinion expired, the Commission decided to institute the present proceedings.

The action

Arguments of the parties

14

The Commission puts forward two heads of claim. By its first head of claim, it submits that, while the definitions of categories C1 and C explicitly state that they are ‘motor vehicles other than those in category D1 or D’, Czech law did not include that criterion. Since that criterion is, however, used to establish correctly the necessary distinction between categories C1/C and D1/D, that omission would result, in the Member State concerned, in the holder of a category C1 or C driving licence being authorised to drive a vehicle constructed for the carriage of up to eight passengers, irrespective of the fact that the vehicle was designed for the carriage of passengers or goods, whereas Directive 2006/126 requires a category D1 or D driving licence if the vehicle is designed and constructed for the carriage of passengers.

15

By its second head of claim, the Commission states that, while Article 4(4)(h) of Directive 2006/126 defines category D1 as covering motor vehicles ‘designed and constructed for the carriage of no more than 16 passengers in addition to the driver’, Czech law, by imposing a lower limit of more than 8 passengers, introduced a further requirement, contrary to Article 4(4)(h) of that directive.

16

In respect of its two heads of claim, the Commission states that, typically, category C covers motor vehicles intended for the carriage of goods while category D covers motor vehicles intended for the carriage of passengers. However, that does not preclude category C motor vehicles from also being used for the carriage of passengers. The passengers contemplated, in the event thereof, are in particular the members of the team carried mainly for the purposes of handling the load, rather than passengers travelling from point A to point B.

17

Since certain technical characteristics of categories C and C1 are identical to those of categories D1 and D, the Commission stresses the need to accurately define categories C1 and C, on the one hand, and categories D1 and D, on the other. The definition chosen in that respect by Directive 2006/126, namely the words ‘other than those in category D1 or D’ in the definition of categories C1 and C, therefore means that cars which meet the technical criteria of categories C1/C and D1/D but which are primarily used for the carriage of passengers, fall within categories D1 and D, whereas vehicles not belonging to categories D1 and D fall within categories C1 and C.

18

The Czech Republic submits that the action is unfounded.

19

According to that Member State, there is no need for a literal transposition of the provisions of Directive 2006/126, provided that the objective pursued by those provisions is reached. That is the case, since the definition at national level of categories C1, C and D1, while not worded in terms that are identical to those of that directive, ensures that no vehicle can fall into more than one category.

20

The lower limit of more than eight passengers in addition to the driver in Czech law is necessary on account of the fact that, according to that Member State, vehicles in category D1 are a subset of category D.

21

Moreover, in the absence of that limit, category D1, in that it includes cars up to 8 metres in length which can carry up to 16 passengers, de facto absorbs categories C1 and C.

Findings of the Court

22

As a preliminary point, it should be recalled that, in accordance with recital 2 of Directive 2006/126, the rules on driving licences are an essential part of the common transport policy, contribute to improving road safety, and facilitate the free movement of persons taking up residence in a Member State other than the one issuing the licence.

23

Having regard to the persistence of significant differences between Member States in that respect, Directive 2006/126, which is the Third Directive on driving licences, seeks, as is apparent from that recital, to achieve further harmonisation in order to contribute to the implementation of EU policies.

24

The methods which it lays down in order to achieve that objective include, in particular, the definitions of categories of driving licence which, under recital 12 of that directive, ‘should reflect to a greater extent the technical characteristics of the vehicles concerned and the skills needed to drive a vehicle’.

25

Whereas First Council Directive 80/1263/EEC of 4 December 1980 on the introduction of a Community driving licence (OJ 1980 L 375, p. 1) created an initial classification of vehicles for the purposes of establishing the Community model national driving licences, Directive 91/439, which replaced the First Directive, clarified the definitions of vehicle categories and the types of driving licence required for driving such vehicles, including a more refined definition and demarcation of the various categories of driving licence.

26

While pursuing harmonisation in that field, Directive 2006/126 provided that both categories C and C1 relate to motor vehicles designed and constructed for the carriage of up to eight passengers, though a distinction is made between them on the basis of maximum authorised mass. With regard to categories D and D1, while maintaining the lower limit of more than 8 passengers for category D, Directive 2006/126 abolished that same limit for category D1, with the result that, for the latter category, the sole upper limit of 16 passengers applies.

27

As the Commission explains in its written pleadings, those clarifications and amendments in relation to Directive 91/439 enabled certain vehicles now to be classified in category D1, and no longer in category C1. By way of example, the Commission mentions very comfortable minibuses and private armoured vehicles. Those vehicles, in so far as they are designed and constructed for the carriage of up to eight passengers in addition to the driver and provided that their maximum length does not exceed 8 metres, now fall within a category that is appropriate, having regard to their technical characteristics and their typical use, namely category D1.

28

Thus, in the current state of EU law, categories C and C1, defined, in accordance with Article 4(1) of Directive 2006/126, in (4)(d) and (f) of that article, relate to motor vehicles other than those in category D1 or D, the maximum authorised mass of which exceeds 3500 kg for vehicles in category C, or exceeds 3500 kg but not 7500 kg for vehicles in category C1, and which are designed and constructed for the carriage of up to eight passengers in addition to the driver. Category D1, defined in Article 4(4)(h), covers motor vehicles designed and constructed for the carriage of no more than 16 passengers in addition to the driver and with a maximum length not exceeding 8 metres.

29

Under Czech law, the definition of categories C and C1 does not include the demarcation of categories C/C1 and D/D1 provided for by EU law and expressed by the words ‘other than those in category D1 or D’. It therefore appears that Czech law did not reproduce the deletion of the lower limit of more than eight passengers that the EU legislature intended to introduce with the adoption of Directive 2006/126 in the context of the abovementioned regulatory developments.

30

The existence of those differences in definition results in vehicles of category D1 being able to be driven, under Czech law, by holders of a C1 licence, which is contrary to the objective of Directive 2006/126.

31

The examples submitted by the Commission, namely the high-comfort minibuses and the private armoured cars which have the technical specifications set out in paragraph 27 of the present judgment, illustrate the existence of such differences. Whereas, under Article 4(4)(h) of Directive 2006/126, those vehicles fall into category D1, under the Czech legislation transposing that directive, they fall within category C1. In addition, by virtue of the words ‘other than those in category D1 or D’, by which that directive defines categories C/C1 and D/D1 respectively, such vehicles, since they fall within category D1, do not, in any circumstances, fall, under EU law, within category C1.

32

Thus, for a certain type of vehicle, the category of driving licence required in the Czech Republic differs from that which must be held by drivers in other Member States. Such a situation is contrary to the primary objectives pursued by Directive 2006/126.

33

The arguments put forward by the Czech Republic do not call that finding into question, or the actual existence of the failure to fulfil an obligation.

34

First, that Member State argues that EU law does not require Member States to undertake a literal transposition of the definitions laid down by Directive 2006/126, provided that the objective pursued by the directive is achieved.

35

In that regard, it must be recalled that it is settled case-law that transposing a directive into national law does not necessarily require its provisions to be reproduced verbatim in an express, specific law or regulation; a general legal context may be sufficient, provided that it does effectively ensure the full application of the directive in a sufficiently clear and precise manner (judgment of 30 June 2016, Commission v Poland, C‑648/13, EU:C:2016:490, paragraph 73 and the case-law cited).

36

However, as is apparent from paragraphs 29 to 32 of the present judgment, the national provisions relied on by the Czech Republic do not make it possible to attain the result pursued by Article 4(1) and (4)(d), (f) and (h) of Directive 2006/126. In those circumstances, the argument that a literal transposition is not mandatory is ineffective in the context of the present case.

37

Secondly, the Czech Republic argues that it drew up a definition, at national level, of vehicle categories C1, C, and D1, which is precise, understandable and, in practice, unlikely to give rise to dispute. Assuming that no car should fall within several categories, that Member State takes the view that this objective may be achieved in two ways, namely, either by establishing the definition of a category negatively compared to other categories, the solution adopted in Directive 2006/126, or by defining individual categories so that they do not overlap, which is the solution that the Czech legislature adopted by setting a lower limit for the number of passengers that category D1 vehicles may carry.

38

In that regard, it is sufficient to note that, as the Czech Republic itself concedes, in order to implement that definition, it included in the national definition of category D1 a condition which does not, however, appear in Article 4(4)(h) of Directive 2006/126, in which EU law defines that category. As noted in paragraphs 29 to 32 of the present judgment, the existence of that additional condition leads to differences in how that directive is applied in the Czech Republic compared to other Member States when determining the category within which a vehicle falls, and, accordingly, the type of driving licence required for that vehicle.

39

Therefore, choosing a method of definition that generates such differences with what is required by EU law does not, in any event, amount to a complete and correct transposition of Directive 2006/126.

40

Thirdly, the Czech Republic argues that vehicles falling within category D1 are a subset of category D, as is apparent from the name given to category D1 and the legislative history of the definitions of the categories at EU level. It is an ‘abridged’ version of category D, and the category D1 vehicles thus cover a specific section of category D vehicles which, in the light of their characteristics, require only an abridged version of the category D driving licence. Since the lower limit relating to the number of persons who may be carried appears in the definition of category D, it should be reproduced in Category D1.

41

In that respect, it should be noted that, while Article 3(2) of Directive 91/439 had intended category D1 to be a subcategory of category D, as evidenced by the words ‘within categories A, B, B + E, C, C + E, D and D + E, a specific driving licence may be issued for the driving of vehicles in the following subcategories’, those terms do not, however, appear in the definitions of the driving licence categories laid down in Article 4(4) of Directive 2006/126. The fact that, for example, category D1 includes vehicles not falling under category D, like the implications entailed by the categorisation of the different driving licences, is therefore a choice that the EU legislature made and whose usefulness may not be called into question in the context of the present action for failure to fulfil obligations.

42

Fourthly, the Czech Republic argues that, in the absence of the lower limit of more than 8 passengers provided for in Czech law, category D1, in that it includes cars up to 8 metres in length which can carry up to 16 passengers, de facto incorporates categories C1 and C. It might even be considered that the driving of a lorry less than 8 metres in length requires a category D1 driving licence, and that a category C1 driving licence is required only where the lorry’s length exceeds 8 metres.

43

In that respect, it should be noted that, as regards categories C/C1 and D1, the definition of a motor vehicle, apart from the factors relating to the number of passengers, mass and length, is identical for those categories, in particular in that those motor vehicles are ‘designed and constructed for the carriage of … passengers’.

44

It follows from the definition of categories C/C1 and D1 by the words ‘motor vehicles other than those in category D1 or D’ that, in the determination of the category of driving licence, the competent authorities of the Member States will be obliged to examine first of all the applicability of category D1 and, where applicable, will have to issue the driving licence for that category.

45

Thus, on the basis of the more literal interpretation of the provisions at issue of Directive 2006/126, for motor vehicles of up to 8 metres in length, category D1 completely incorporates categories C/C1.

46

Therefore, the definition of categories C/C1 and D1 set out in Article 4(4) of Directive 2006/126 does not appear to ensure a proper definition of those categories.

47

However, according to the Court’s settled case-law, in interpreting a provision of EU law, it is necessary to consider not only its wording but also the context in which it occurs and the objectives pursued by the rules of which it is part (judgment of 12 October 2017, Kamin und Grill Shop, C‑289/16, EU:C:2017:758, paragraph 22 and the case-law cited).

48

Thus, in order to arrive at a correct interpretation of those categories, it is necessary to take into account the entire text of Directive 2006/126, including the annexes thereto, which show that the use of motor vehicles plays a decisive role.

49

As noted by the Advocate General in point 47 of his Opinion, the model driving licence provided for in Article 1(1) of Directive 2006/126 and set out in Annex I thereto clearly illustrates, through a pictogram, the use of each category of vehicle, in particular in respect of the carriage of goods or passengers.

50

Similarly, the provisions of Annex II to that directive, referred to in paragraphs 7 and 8 of the present judgment, show that the requirements for obtaining a driving licence are different according to the use of the vehicle concerned.

51

It follows that the failure to observe the difference between categories C/C1 and D/D1 cannot be permitted to lead to an outcome contrary to that intended by Directive 2006/126, namely that of road safety. As noted by the Advocate General in point 56 of his Opinion, that would be the case if the exclusive carriage of passengers was effected by drivers authorised to drive vehicles in category C or C1, who have been asked to provide evidence primarily of their knowledge in respect of the receipt, loading, carriage, delivery, and unloading of goods.

52

Admittedly, in the field of driving licences, in which national administrations must process a high number of applications within a reasonably short period, the legislative solution, which requires resorting to elements that are not directly laid down in the definitions of driving licence categories, does not appear to be optimal.

53

However, a Member State is not authorised to adopt national legislation transposing Directive 2006/126 which introduces requirements not provided for in that directive or eliminates requirements laid down by that directive, which would result in the categories of vehicles defined by Directive 2006/126 being amended, to the detriment of road safety. Possible inaccuracies in the wording of the directive may, where necessary, require a reaction on the part of the EU legislature, but cannot lead the Court to dismiss an action for failure to fulfil obligations which must be upheld.

54

In those circumstances, the arguments put forward by the Czech Republic must be rejected.

55

Accordingly, it must be held that:

by failing to comply with the obligation to ensure that the definition of categories C1 and C covers only motor vehicles other than those in category D1 or D, the Czech Republic failed to fulfil its obligations under Article 4(1) and (4)(d) and (f) of Directive 2006/126, and

by restricting the definition of category D1 to motor vehicles designed and constructed for the carriage of more than eight passengers, the Czech Republic failed to fulfil its obligations under Article 4(1) and (4)(h) of that directive.

Costs

56

Under Article 138(1) of the Rules of Procedure of the Court, the unsuccessful party is to be ordered to pay the costs if they have been applied for in the successful party’s pleadings. Since the Commission has applied for costs and the Czech Republic’s failure to fulfil its obligations has been established, the Czech Republic must be ordered to pay the costs.

 

On those grounds, the Court (Ninth Chamber) hereby rules:

 

1.

By failing to comply with the obligation to ensure that the definition of categories C1 and C covers only motor vehicles other than those in category D1 or D, the Czech Republic failed to fulfil its obligations under Article 4(1) and (4)(d) and (f) of Directive 2006/126/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 December 2006 on driving licences;

 

2.

By restricting the definition of category D1 to motor vehicles designed and constructed for the carriage of more than eight passengers, the Czech Republic failed to fulfil its obligations under Article 4(1) and (4)(h) of that directive;

 

3.

The Czech Republic is ordered to pay the costs.

 

[Signatures]


( *1 ) Language of the case: Czech.

Top