Driving licence changes to allow teenagers to drive HGVs criticised

13 December 2023

"Dangerous" is how some have described plans to let 17-year-olds operate heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) under an accompanied driving program.

Proposals to amend driving license laws in the EU have received formal support from the transport committee of the European Parliament with a majority vote.

According to the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC), if the agreed-upon revisions are included in the final law, the committee's position would have disastrous effects on road safety.

MEPs supported the European Commission's demand that, going forward, all EU Member States grant driving licenses to 17-year-olds so they can operate heavy-duty vehicles under the supervision of an accompanied driving program.

According to ETSC, this might lead to a significant increase in the number of juveniles operating lorries, which would be extremely detrimental to road safety.

Nowadays, only Finland, Germany, Ireland, Poland, and Spain permit youngsters as young as 18 to operate a truck.

The road safety group asserts that data from Finland, Germany, and Poland unequivocally demonstrate that the youngest truck drivers (18–19 years old) are significantly more likely to cause an accident.

From the standpoint of road safety, it states that the current'recommended' minimum age in the EU for truck drivers should be 21.

The transport committee was also in favor of the Finnish concept of letting 16-year-olds drive cars with speed limits.

The proposal in question may present an additional road safety risk, particularly for vulnerable road users, according to the Commission's own impact assessment.

Policy Director at ETSC Ellen Townsend stated: "This legislation was introduced under the banner of a 'road safety package' - but frankly, the consequences will be devastating if we end up encouraging large numbers of teenagers to drive lorries."

"We hope policymakers will pause and consider the implications of these changes before voting on plans that will make our roads more dangerous for everyone before the plenary vote in the European Parliament in January."

More than two thirds (69%) of respondents to a government consultation stated that drivers should have automatic permission to operate vehicles weighing up to 7.5 tons after passing their driving test. The UK government is currently examining these reforms on its own.

Launched in August 2022, the Department for Transport (DfT) sought feedback on a number of modifications to the driving license regime, such as enabling drivers who have only passed their car driving test to operate a vehicle weighing up to 7.5 tons.

Fleets were split on whether or not to expand a car driver's entitlement to big vans and trucks in a quick Fleet News online poll conducted at the time, with over half (53.4%) of respondents being opposed to the proposal.

The United Kingdom government is presently examining adjustments to its own driving license regulations. According to a government questionnaire, nearly two thirds (69%) of participants stated that drivers should have the automatic right to operate vehicles up toThe maximum authorized mass (MAM) of a trailer is 750 kg, while medium-sized cars between 3.5 and 7.5 tons are covered by the C1 license, for a combined total of 8.25 tons.

Prior to January 1997, drivers who completed their automobile test were also eligible to drive a light truck or heavy van (C1) without taking an additional test.

When a different exam was adopted to gain C1 entitlement, it was because of an EU directive that such drivers were still able to operate a vehicle up to 8.25 tons.

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