Lobby Action Pack - Third EC Driving License Directive

Published on 28 March 2006 by Gill

Action Pack: Third EC Driving Licence Directive


Update on Letter Campaign.

The Biker's Guide to the Current Position of the Third EC Driving Licence Directive Issue.

Suggested Response to Letter from UK Members of Parliament and how to find your MP.

How to Use This Action Pack:-

1) Read the 'The Biker's Guide to the Current Position of the Third EC Driving Licence Directive Issue'

2) Write to your MP on the issue using the form letter or in your own words using the Guide and/or the form letter as your information source.



Our last letter writing exercise in November was primarily aimed at MPs to bring pressure on the UK Government to take a more robust approach towards the motorcycling proposals in the draft Third EC Driving Licence Directive. The BMF's position remains that they are unduly complex, will deter potential riders from taking up motorcycling and will fail to make a positive contribution to road safety. Hence it should be deleted from the draft Directive and revisited in two years or so after existing and ongoing research, not previously considered, is taken into account. The European motorcycling community (FEMA, ACEM, FIM) called for amendments relating to moped access, the elimination of a test between intermediate and full-power motorcycles and less flexibility for member states to raise ages of access above the minima specified for each category in the directive.

The UK Government held the Presidency of the European Union during the last six months of 2005 and a Common Position by the Council of Ministers over which it presided was required to complete the First Reading of the 3rd EC Driving Licence Directive. The Second Reading cannot begin until the first is completed with an agreed Common Position. Our Government had refused to open any of the text for potential amendment in the draft directive and still did not propose to do so as the EU Presidency. Our 'representatives' also claimed that there was no support from other governments for the concerns of the motorcycle lobby and used this as an excuse not to consider the deletion of the motorcycling elements or the less radical amendments. Standard letters from the Government in response to our earlier communications continued to make these assertions and claimed that their hands were tied in doing anything for the motorcyclists. They even suggested that reopening the text could endanger the positive aspects of the draft directive.

As a fall-back we asked for the Common Position which the Council of Minister was seeking to reach at its summit meeting in December not to be agreed. Doing so would delay completion of the First Reading preventing the commencement of the Second Reading and its consideration by the European Parliament. This came to pass when Alistair Darling deferred a vote on the Common Position to the Austrian Presidency which is now in place for the first six months of 2006. While this was good news for the motorcycling lobby, it should not be seen as a victory but more a stay of execution. The reason for the deferment was primarily over disagreements from Germany about licence life and renewals rather than the motorcycling issues. It appears that the Austrian Presidency does not wish to pursue the 3rd EC Driving Licence Directive and it will be left to the Finnish Presidency for the second half of 2006 to do so. It is not clear whether they will wish to do so but the German Presidency which follows is less than enthusiastic about the draft Directive. In the interim, behind the scenes discussions are taking place between national governments.

Current responses to our letters from the Minister, Stephen Ladyman and officials from the Department for Transport use identical wording and are a slightly watered down version of those sent prior to the Council of Ministers. Most significantly, the references to positive aspects of the Directive have been dropped suggesting less enthusiasm to move it forward.

If you have received one, a suggested response can be found at the bottom of this page. Don't forget to include your name and address and to sign it.

If the Government's form letter is quoted in a letter from an MP, you will need to adapt the text to reflect this.


The Biker's Guide to the Current Position of the Third EC Driving Licence Directive Issue


The draft Third EC Driving Licence Directive has been stalled at the end of its First Reading for some time since a Common Position by the Council of Ministers has not been achieved. You will find details of the motorcycle-related proposals elsewhere on the Notice Board but while the original draft from the European Commission was not particularly good for motorcycling, the amendments from the Rapporteur in the European Parliament, has made them likely to be devastating for the future of motorcycling in Europe and in the UK, in particular. A testing requirement between each of the motorcycle classes, a rigid minimum age ladder of two years between each classification, Direct Access at 24 and Minimum Test Vehicle specifications to be decided by the undemocratic Committee for the Adaptation to Technical Progress are currently on the table. The Luxembourg Presidency for the first half of 2005 put this forward as a 'compromise' but the Council would not agree to it.

The UK Presidency current for the latter half of this year failed to discuss the Third EC Driving Licence Directive at the October Council of Ministers meeting shortly after UK riders mounted a protest in Brussels and deferred it to the meeting of 5th December. The UK Government claimed that it had achieved as much as it could from which its citizens would benefit and was unwilling to open any of the text of the draft Directive for discussion since it was feared that they could lose these concessions. Unfortunately, there had been no movement on the motorcycling proposals and it was clear that our Government was willing to sell out on our interests to retain their negotiated concessions. This was particularly hypocritical since it was contrary to The Government's Motorcycling Strategy published in February where the Government recognised motorcycles as practical transport and a legitimate leisure activity complete with recommendations to make motorcycling both safer and more accessible. In the interim, several member states including Austria , France , Germany and Poland expressed concerns about some aspects of the draft Directive predominantly related to the exchange of old licences for harmonised EU licences and the principle of a licence for life. They called for the subject to be deferred to the Austrian Presidency which will take over from the UK from 1 st January, 2006 for six months. Following approaches by FEMA, Italy and Spain expressed concerns about the motorcycling proposals. The BMF had also mounted a letter writing campaign through MPs aimed at the Government and calling for it to address the motorcycling proposals. If a Common Position were to be achieved, we asked that the motorcycling elements should be deleted with a view to being revisited in three years or so or, as a fall-back to include the European motorcycling community's amendments aimed at making access to motorcycles and mopeds easier and removing the testing requirement from intermediate to unlimited motorcycles. If this were not possible, we asked for the Common Position to be deferred to a subsequent presidency.

At the 5 th December meeting chaired by Secretary of State for Transport, Alistair Darling, the Third EC Driving Licence Directive was briefly discussed and deferred to the next presidency. Several member states expressed concerns about licence exchange and Germany even praised the motorcycling proposals! No other references were made to motorcycling with Alistair Darling suggesting that there were too many differences to be resolved to achieve a Common Position. It was agreed that the Austrian Presidency should take it up although there are suggestions that they may choose not to and defer discussion to the Finnish Presidency for the latter half of 2006. The Third EC Driving Licence Directive rated only half a dozen lines in a 51-page press release on the proceedings.

Although this was a positive result for the UK 's motorcycling community, it should not be regarded as a victory but more of a stay of execution. There was an expectation to implement the Third EC Driving Licence Directive by 2011 but following the stalled proceedings by the Luxembourg Presidency; this has slipped to 2012. The latest deferment will have caused a delay of at least six months which could be extended depending on the progress made by the Austrian Presidency and possibly the Finnish Presidency which will follow. In the short term, negotiations will continue at COREPER which comprises the permanent representatives of the Council of Ministers. They will aim to agree a package which their national governments can support when the full Council again discusses it. We need to follow-up the decision of 5th December by pressuring the UK Government through our MPs to reconsider the motorcycling proposals and preferably delete them from the draft Directive. The Second Reading cannot commence until a Common Position has been reached, so at this stage the European Parliament has no direct bearing on the form of the draft Directive. However, this has given time the to talk the UK MEPs into questioning the motorcycling proposals when they are finally put before them and calling for a full Second Reading under the Co-Decision Procedure including a Conciliation Committee comprising MEPs and Council members to discuss them in detail. This will also afford them an opportunity to persuade their colleagues from other member states around to their way of thinking.

Please write to your MPs and MEPs expressing these sentiments.


Brief History of the 3rd Driving Licence Directive

Before the introduction of the Second EC Driving Licence Directive in the mid 1990s, access to motorcycles in the UK was relatively straight forward although we were still recovering from domestic legislation in the form of the Transport Act 1981 which had made motorcycle access more difficult, particularly for young riders. At this time many of the provisions of the Act had been changed. So, any rider from the age of 17 would take Compulsory Basic Training, ride an up to 125 cc/9 kW motorcycle (11 kW came with the Second EC Driving Licence Directive) displaying learner plates with the option of continuing to take training and then take a practical motorcycle test. Difficulties in obtaining insurance for the more powerful motorcycles would usually result in their progressing to a 500 cc twin or a 600 cc roadster.

The BMF and indeed FEM / EMA opposed the principle of a split licence and progressive access since most of the studies available at that time indicated that there was no correlation between motorcycle capacity/power and casualties. Indeed, the Motorcycle In-Depth Accident Study (MAIDS) has indicated that the more powerful bikes under-represented in accidents. Consequently we do not support the principle of Progressive Access but have been forced to accept it because it will not go away. With the implementation of the Second EC Driving Licence Directive, it was difficult to fit UK training practice into the EC framework but it was eventually achieved with training organisations phasing out their old test vehicles of under 120 cc and replacing them with those between 120 cc and 125 cc and capable of 100 km/h for Progressive Access and investing in over 35 kW motorcycles for Direct Access. It also brought with it the Theory Test for all vehicle groups which now includes an interactive hazard awareness test.

Under Progressive Access, most riders choose to ride an artificially restricted 25 kW machine for two years and then either derestrict it or ride something more powerful. In theory a 19 year old could have access to a GSX-R 1000. I don't believe that this endangers others or himself from riding this machine other than the impetuousness of youth. So why change something which works? The age ladder from the 3rd EC Driving Licence Directive would mean that in the UK and A2 would not be accessible until age 19 and A until 21 with a testing/training requirement at each step. I have been given to understand that the Dutch Government would not consider access to A1 at 16 so this is not an exclusive UK problem. Even with the removal of the A2 to A testing/training requirement a younger rider¹s development will be seriously delayed.

Most training organisations use 500 cc twins for Direct Access for over 21 year old riders. The main problem with this is that riders passing their test on a 125 in the past were happy to progress to this sort of bike. Learning on it has increased their aspirations to ride something better and so, subject to insurance, the more wealthy riders in their mid 30s and above, want at least a 600 cc sports bike or even a 1000 cc supersports. With fast track training and testing, these are predominantly the riders who are causing a casualty problem. There is nothing in the 3rd EC Driving Licence Directive which will address this problem although under subsidiarity, the UK is looking at improving training through instructor registration, a review of Direct Access and other post-test training inducements.

If the UK Government gets its way on minimum test vehicles to be considered by the Committee for Adaptation to Technical Progress rather than as part of the directive, minimum capacity limits of 600 cc for A2 and 800 cc for A will apply resulting in training schools needing to invest in new machines being unable to use the existing ones and difficulties for physically small new riders and further increased aspirations to ride something bigger.

The UK Presidency has proven not only to be one of the most inactive Presidents of the EU on record but through the Council of Ministers and the Permanent Representatives Committee (COREPER) has been cynically using motorcycling as a bargaining tool to get what they want elsewhere in the directive. They claim that they have been unable to gain support from overturning the motorcycling measures although I suspect that they have not asked and their own proposals have been even more draconian.

So, the 3rd EC Driving Licence Directive is likely to bring:

More complexity above existing requirements which riders and the enforcement community already have difficulty in understanding which will lead to less compliance.

Measures which have ignored research, particularly MAIDS and national best practice to improve motorcycle safety.

The inclusion of mopeds (AM) into the licensing regime but only subject to a theory test.

A rigid age ladder which will delay progress to larger motorcycles.

A testing/training requirement between each category for Progressive Access.

Minimum test vehicle requirements which will create a whole range of problems.

Direct Access increased from 21 to 24 but mandatory rather than optional.

This is not harmonisation since rather than standardising the requirements under the 2nd EC Driving Licence Directive it is completely tearing up and rewriting the licensing process for motorcycles. The European Motorcycling Community has chosen to limit its lobbying to removing the testing/training requirement from A2 to A and to prevent the minimum age for moped access from being greater than 16. While these are laudable aims, they will make little difference to the overall adverse effects of the Directive.

As I have said before it's making a disaster of a calamity, rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic or arguing about the colour of the seats on the bus to Hell. The tinkering of well-meaning but misguided individuals who may wish to improve safety but instead have brought about confusion and taken potentially workable Commission proposals into an unworkable mess which is beyond salvation. It is for this reason that the UK riders' organisations are calling for the motorcycling proposals to be deleted from the directive and revisited in three years time. This will enable ongoing research to be completed, existing research to be taken into account, measures introduced under Subsidiarity to be evaluated and the motorcycling community to play a part in drafting the new proposals.


Suggested Response to Letter from UK Members of Parliament (MP) and

How to Find Your MP

Use your postcode to find your MP HERE then cut and paste the following form letter:-

Your Name

Your Address



House of Commons,
London .



Re: Third EC Driving Licence Directive

Thank you for your letter of …………………. with regard to the draft 3rd EC Driving Licence Directive. I was disappointed but not entirely surprised by its contents and consider that you continue to overlook the devastating consequences not only for motorcycling in the UK but throughout the rest of the European Union if it is agreed in its present form. The motorcycling proposals are unduly complex, difficult to understand and unenforceable. They will deter the take-up of motorcycling with all of its benefits in reducing congestion, minimising the use of space for transport and addressing social exclusion and will contribute nothing to improving road safety. With a Common Position still to be agreed and the Government freed from the constraints of the EU Presidency, can I expect it to call for the deletion of the motorcycle-related proposals from the draft Directive? This would enable them to be revisited in two years allowing research not previously considered to be taken into account.

Your letter raises a number of points which I address in turn.

I question how diligently the concerns of the motorcycle community have been taken into account in negotiations and whether our representatives pressed their limits on the Council of Ministers. The UK motorcycling community's proposals have been dismissed all too readily. Hence, how actively has support from other national governments been sought? There were certainly indications that the Italian government, with its indigenous motorcycle industry, had concerns and other countries where motorcycles are manufactured are also potential allies. Similarly, the European Parliament's decisions appeared to have been driven by the Rapporteur's own agenda.

An ongoing problem which is particularly acute in the UK is the increasing average age of motorcyclists as a result of the obstacles put in the way younger individuals from safely taking up motorcycling. This is why a relatively low number of riders of under 24 years of age take the motorcycle test. The Directive will exacerbate this situation causing motorcycling to continues its long-term decline by further discouraging younger riders.

I do not accept the claim that minimum test vehicle (MTV) specifications are a technical matter that should be considered by the Committee for the Adaptation to Technical Progress. MTVs are not a complex issue and should be related to the specifications of each category of motorcycle. Minimum engine capacities should not play a part in the discussions. Whatever is decided about them, they should be subject to the EU Institutions' transparent procedures.

You refer to the anticipated implementation of the 3 rd EC Driving Licence Directive in 2012 in relation the proposals in The Government's Motorcycling Strategy and the work of the National Motorcycle Council ( NMC ). With the delays in agreeing a Common Position and the reluctance of the holders of the Presidency of the EU to take it forward, I suggest that this date is optimistic - for supporters of the Directive. In the interim, the threat of the Directive overshadows many of the positive licensing measures proposed in The Government's Motorcycling Strategy and militates against their implementation by the NMC.

In conclusion, I ask that the Government should seek support in eliminating this threat to motorcycling. The Government should call for the motorcycling proposals in the draft Third EC Driving Licence Directive to be deleted for fuller and more measured consideration or, in view of the ongoing disagreements over other aspects of licensing, call for the whole Directive to be dropped.

Yours sincerely,

Your signature


Last reviewed/updated 01/02/06