There is an EU directive on the dimensions and maximum weight authorised for national and international traffic. Member states may not authorise normal use on roads of goods that are outside the characteristics set in the legislation apart from standards relating to maximum height. Vehicles exceeding the maximum dimensions may only be used on the roads if a special authorisation is received.

States may not refuse or ban the use of goods registered or placed in service in other EU states for reasons related to weight and dimensions.

States must take action to ensure vehicles are provided with one of the following three proofs;

  • a manufacturer’s plate supplemented by a plate concerning dimensions.
  • a single plate containing data from two plates above.
  • a single document issued by the competent authority where the vehicle is registered which contains the requisite data.

Standards and Compliance

Vehicles must be registered or put into circulation in compliance with EU law.

There are provisions for roadworthiness tests for heavy goods vehicles. Roadside checks may be undertaken on commercial vehicles travelling within EU states. Technical roadside inspections will include one or more of a visual check on the state of maintenance, a check on the documentation in relation to compliance and checks to uncover poor maintenance.

States must introduce regular, appropriate roadside checks to be carried out without discrimination, which every year cover a significant representative cross-section of commercial vehicles in all categories. The checks must be carried out in accordance with checklists in the legislation.

If the examination discloses poor maintenance such as to require a more detailed examination, the vehicle may be inspected at an approved roadworthiness testing station. If the vehicle does not meet the requisite standards or is not shown to comply during a subsequent road worthiness test at an approved testing center and constitutes a major risk to occupants and road users, the use of the vehicle may be immediately prohibited.

Serious and repeated offences by a vehicle belonging to a non-resident must be reported to the authorities of the EU country where the vehicle or company is registered. The country in which the offence has been repeated may then request that action be taken against the offender. The country of registration must then inform the country in which the offence has been committed of the action taken against the carrier concerned.

Further Measure on Vehicle Standards

A 2013 Directive on roadside inspections of safety in commercial vehicles seeks to improve road safety and reduce negative environmental impacts of commercial vehicles.  It provides minimum requirements and harmonised rules for technical roadside inspection within the EU.

It applies to buses and coaches, trucks and trailers over certain sizes, as well as tractors used in commercial road haulage and capable of over 40 km/h.  States may also carry out inspections on vehicles not covered by the law such as light commercial vehicles and carry out inspections in places other than public places.

Actions comprise initial inspections, and where necessary, a more detailed inspection focusing in particular on breaks, tyres, wheels, chassis, and nuisance elements such as exhaust, fumes, emissions and noise.  The rate of inspection is to be proportionate to the number of vehicles registered in each State.  It should cover at least be 5% of all commercial vehicles registered annually, inspected annually.

Inspectors must not discriminate on grounds of the nationality of the driver, or country of registration on selecting a vehicle for inspection.  They must be free of any conflict of interest which might compromise their impartiality.  Remuneration must not be dependent on the outcome of inspections.

Drivers are required to carry on the vehicle’s most recent roadworthiness certificate as well as most recent roadside inspection record, if available.  Drivers must cooperate with inspectors and give them access to the vehicle part and documentation.

States must use a risk rating system, enabling inspectors to identify transport companies with high-risk profile, so that they might be checked more closely and frequently.

Defects are classified as minor, major or dangerous.  Major or dangerous deficiencies revealed by an inspection must be rectified before the vehicle is used further on a public road.

States must designate a contact point to ensure information exchanges, and assist the contact points of other States.  States may be expected to regularly participate in concerted roadside inspection activities with the neighbouring States.

Vehicle Testing

A 2014 Directive seeks to improve existing regulation by setting minimum requirements for periodic roadworthiness test for vehicles and traders in the EU. It applies to vehicles capable of travelling at more than 25 km/h in the following categories:

  • passenger cars and light commercial vehicles;
  • taxis or ambulances; buses, minibuses, heavy goods vehicles; heavy trailers.

Powerful motorcycles are tested from 2022 unless road safety statistics show other alternative measures be satisfactory.

Vehicles may be required to undergo a test before the due date after an accident:

  • where the holder of the registration certificate has changed;
  • on reaching 160,000 km;
  • in cases where road safety is seriously affected.

There are exceptions, where vehicles of historical interest, diplomatic vehicles, vehicles used by Armed Forces, police, customs, fire services or for forestry and agricultural purposes only, and vehicles used exclusively on small islands.

Each State must have approved and compliant Testing Centres with inspectors who will meet competence criteria and are subject to conflict of interest.

Defects are minor, major or dangerous.  When defects are dangerous, the use of the vehicle and roads may be suspended until the default is rectified.  Where a vehicle already registered in another State is reregistered, its certificate must be recognised in other EU States even where ownership has changed.  By 2021, testing centres will be required to share relevant information with authorities, competent authorities of their country.

The feasibility, cost and benefits of setting up a European electronic vehicle information platform are to be examined.

Data from the preceding test is to be made available in order to counter fraud on odometers.  Misrepresenting odometer information is to be a punishable offence.

Driving Hours I

There are EU regulations on driving time in the road transport sector. They apply to the carriage of goods by road by vehicles with a weight exceeding 3.5 tons and the transport of passengers by road by vehicles adopted for carrying more than 9 persons.

Certain classes of vehicles are exempt. This includes

  • passenger routes less than 50 km.
  • vehicles with a maximum speed of 40 km/hr.
  • vehicles for civil defence, fire services, police.
  • vehicles used in humanitarian emergencies and rescue operations.
  • vehicles undergoing road tests.
  • vehicles not exceeding 7.5 tons used for non-commercial carriage of goods.

Other class of exemptions may be granted by states including for:

  • vehicles belonging to public authorities which do not compete with private transport undertakings.
  • vehicles used in agricultural and horticultural within a 100 km radius.
  • vehicles with a maximum mass not exceeding 7.5 tons within a 50 km radius used by universal service providers or for carrying materials for the driver’s use in the course of their main activity.
  • not exceeding 7.5 tons and propelled by gas or electricity within a 50 km radius.
  • operating on small islands.
  • use for driving instruction and examination.
  • use for non-commercial carriage of 10-17 passengers.
  • use in connection with activities of general interest such as road maintenance.
  • for mobile projects.
  • use for milk collection and return of milk collected
  • use for carriage of animals between farms.

Drivers and their mates must be over 18, except in limited circumstances of trainees of at least 16 years.

Driving Hours II

The regulation applies to all cross-border and international transport carried out exclusively in the territory of the EU or between EU and EEA states.

There are detailed provisions in relation to driving time. Driving time must not exceed 9 hours. Twice a week, this may extend to 10 hours. Weekly driving time must not exceed 56 hours. Total driving time in two consecutive weeks shall not exceed 90 hours. The driver must record driving and other working time or hours when he has no access to a bunk or sleeping quarter.

After driving 4-1/2 hours, a driver shall have at least a 45-minute uninterrupted break or 15 minutes followed by 30 minutes over the same period.

A compulsory weekly rest period of at least 45 hours or 24 hours reduced weekly rest period is required. Over two consecutive weeks, only one reduced weekly rest period may be taken, and the reduction must be compensated by an equivalent period of rest taken en bloc before the end of the third week.

Between two weekly rest periods, a driver may not take more than 3 reduced daily rest periods.

Where a driver chooses this, the daily rest periods and reduced weekly rest periods may be taken in a vehicle, on condition it is stationary and has suitable sleeping facilities. Where a driver takes a rest period, but the vehicle is transported by ferry or train, that period may be interrupted not more than twice for a maximum of one hour. The driver must also have access to a bunk or sleeping area.


Transport businesses and other bodies offering services must ensure their drivers comply with the regulation and tachographs. They may not award bonuses relating to distances travelled or amount of goods carried if that payment is such as to impinge on danger road safety. They must ensure road transport schedules are in line with the regulation and the data from digital tachographs are downloaded at the right time and kept for at least 12 months.

Transport businesses are liable for infringements committed by their drivers. There are limited exceptions where a driver works for more than one transport undertaking and has not given sufficient information to enable compliance.

Member states may, with the approval of the Commission, authorise some limited exceptions in, from, or to areas in their own territory with a population density of less than 5 persons per square kilometre, grant exemptions for a period not exceeding 30 days and urgent cases and for operations carried out entirely on their territory and grant exemptions in exceptional circumstances for operations carried out entirely in the territory.

States must lay down penalties to ensure compliance. They may impose financial sanctions on transport undertakings which have committed infringements. They may immobilise a vehicle if the infringement is such as to endanger road safety. They may compel drivers to take a daily rest period. They may withdraw, suspend, or restrict a licence or the driver’s driving licence.

There is a directive on the organisation of working time for persons performing mobile road transport activities. It supplements the principal regulation. It applies the provisions of the regulations regarding breaks, rest periods, and driving periods to self-employed drivers and mobile workers. It applies to all mobile workers performing road transport services employed by businesses established in the EU as well as self-employed drivers.

The employer must post a copy of the directive and the corresponding domestic laws. The employer is required to record working time of all their workers and keep the records for at least one year.


There is an EU regulation in relation to the compilation of statistics on the carriage of goods by road. The regulation does not apply to the carriage of goods by road by means of motor vehicles whose weight and dimensions exceed the normal permitted limit in the state concerned. There are exemptions for agricultural and government vehicles. States may exclude vehicles whose load capacity is less than 3.5 tons or whose maximum laden weight is less than 6 tons.

States must collect data in relation to vehicles, journeys, and goods.

The legislation prescribes the statistics which must be collected. They must be sent to Eurostat within 5 months of the end of the quarterly period of observation.

Hiring of vehicles for the carriage of goods

A Directive allows the use of vehicles hired by undertakings established on the territory of another Member State. Among other requirements, such vehicles must comply with the laws of the Member State of origin and be driven by the personnel of the undertaking using them. The Directive does not affect the Member States’ obligations concerning the time-limits for transposition into national law.

Each Member State must allow the use within its territory of vehicles  hired by undertakings established on the territory of another Member State, provided that:

the vehicle has been registered or put into circulation in compliance with the laws in the latter Member State;
the contract relates solely to the hiring of a vehicle without a driver and is not accompanied by a service contract concluded with the same undertaking covering driving or accompanying personnel;
the hired vehicle is at the sole disposal of the undertaking using it during the period of the hire contract;
the hired vehicle is driven by personnel of the undertaking using it.

The following documents providing proof of the vehicle’s compliance with the requirements must be carried on board:

the contract of hire, or a certified extract from that contract giving in particular the name of the lessor, the name of the lessee, the date and duration of the contract and the identification of the vehicle;
where the driver is not the person hiring the vehicle, the driver’s employment contract or a certified extract from that contract giving in particular the name of the employer, the name of the employee and the date and duration of the employment contract or a recent pay slip.

The Directive does not affect the application of the rules concerning:

the organisation of the market for the carriage of goods by road for hire or reward and own account or access to the market and to quota restrictions on road capacities;
prices and conditions for the carriage of goods by road;
the formation of hire prices;
the import of vehicles;
the conditions governing access to the activity or occupation of road-vehicle lessor.

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