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Road safety: authorised dimensions and maximum weights for trucks, buses and coaches

Road safety: authorised dimensions and maximum weights for trucks, buses and coaches


Directive No 96/53/EC - dimensions and weights of commercial vehicles



It sets out maximum limits for heavy goods vehicles, buses and coaches carrying out international transport within the EU.

It requires national transport companies to meet the standards set for international transport.


In international and national traffic the directive sets maximum limits on the dimensions of:

goods vehicles weighing more than 3.5 tonnes;

passenger vehicles carrying more than 9 people.

In international traffic it also fixes maximum limits on the weight and certain other vehicle characteristics defined in the directive’s annexes.

What is allowed?

In international transport, no vehicles that exceed the set limits are allowed to use the roads of an EU country, except with special permits.

In national transport, no vehicles that exceed the set limits on dimensions are allowed to use the roads of an EU country. However there are several derogations to these limits, including for:

length of vehicles with aerodynamic features designed to increase energy efficiency;

length of vehicles designed to transport particular goods such as timber;

weight of vehicles transporting containers in combined transport*.

Vehicles from one EU country which fall within the set limits must be allowed to use the roads of another EU country, with the possible exception of some limited stretches of road like small villages or places of special interest, where lower limits can be set by the administration. EU countries are allowed to have higher limits on weights for national transport inside their territories, and to test new technologies on vehicles that exceed the set limits for a limited time period.


EU countries must ensure that vehicles can prove they comply with the rules by providing one of the following:

a manufacturer’s plate with an additional plate showing dimensions;

a single plate containing both of the above;

a document issued by the EU country in which the vehicle was registered containing the same information.

Enforcing the rules

National governments decide how the rules are enforced and what penalties are imposed for exceeding the limits. A report must be sent to the European Commission every 2 years setting out:

the number of checks carried out in the previous 2 calendar years;

the number of overloaded vehicles or vehicle combinations detected.


From 17 September 1996. EU countries had to incorporate it in national law by 16 September 1997.


Road weights and dimensions


* Combined transport: goods haulage involving a combination of road transport with alternative rail and/or water-based transport. The use of these alternative modes should be for the majority of the journey, while the use of road haulage should be limited to a short distance at the start and/or end of the journey.


Council Directive 96/53/EC of 25 July 1996 laying down for certain road vehicles circulating within the Community the maximum authorized dimensions in national and international traffic and the maximum authorized weights in international traffic (OJ L 235, 17.9.1996, pp. 59-75)

The successive amendments to Directive 96/53/EC have been incorporated into the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.

last update 10.11.2015