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FEMA calls for a more realistic motorcycle licence

We would like to see an easily accessible motorcycle licence that focusses on higher skills that lead to better risk awareness and preparation to handle unexpected situations.

FEMA was disappointed when the European Commission published a proposal for a new Driving License Directive as part of its Road Safety Package earlier this year.

Some of our points:

  • We have still not seen proof that staged access to the A-licence had a positive effect on road safety.
  • Motorcyclists pulling a (small) trailer are moving in a grey legal area and must consider a patchwork of national regulations when riding cross-border.
  • Some countries allow holders of a car licence (B) to ride a small motorcycle (<125cc or electric equivalent). This is not part of the European directive, making cross-border traffic impossible for this category.

However, this is just a proposal. It will go through a long legislation process in which the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union are also involved. This means that this is not the end of the road for us. FEMA will fight to get a better directive, which will include our needs and demands. We started this process by sending the following letter to the European Commission:

FEMA welcomes the proposal for a revision of the third driving licence directive 2006/126/EC (3DLD) and supports the intention of the European Commission to improve road safety, further reduce administrative burdens, and facilitate the freedom of movement.

The digital driving licence can be an improvement in facilitating the freedom of movement. We also welcome the proposed standard administrative validation of 15 years for driving licences A and B.

We are disappointed about some other elements. Inclusion of simulation to test road hazard awareness gives the opportunity to test certain possible situations, but especially for riders of a motorcycle this is not enough. Some elements, like recognising slippery road surfaces, reacting to unclear road situations, reacting to bad weather, etcetera can only properly be trained and tested in real-live situations. Our fear is that driving instructors will train only to deal with the simulated situations, just as already often happens with the current tests. Also, the addition of a hazard perception test by simulation in the theoretical part of the driving licence tests means that for the practical test the focus will remain on low-speed technical skills instead of more cognitive skills.

Progressive access to the A-licence has been mentioned by us many times. There still is no proof that this has a positive effect on road safety. The EC refers to a French pilot but doesn’t give a link to it and such a pilot is not known by us or our French colleagues. Therefor we cannot consider this to be a valid argument to maintain a system that has little or no additional value to road safety and only provides an extra threshold for novice riders to gain a full A-licence. We have also already explained to the Commission, that the current system does not work as it is supposed to do and in certain countries only very few novice riders go through all the steps. On national statistics of issued driving licences we see a sharp decline of A-licences issued to riders under 25 years old after 2013 when the 3DLD was implemented. Nevertheless, statistics show that this does not lead to less crashes with serious injuries or fatalities.

A B-licence allows drivers to pull a small (<750 kgs total weight) trailer behind an M1 or N1-category vehicle. Passing the test for the A-licence does not mean that a motorcyclist is allowed to pull a trailer behind a motorcycle. Nevertheless, trailers that are attached to a motorcycle do exist and are used. This means that a motorcyclist pulling a (small) trailer is moving in a grey area and must consider a patchwork of national regulations when riding cross-border, as the Commission points out with reference to data that is accumulated by FEMA. This situation was first addressed in the Driving Licence Committee on 30 June 2015 and a discrepancy between Directive 2006/126/EC and the type-approval legislation that is mentioned by the Commission was already noticed then. Despite this and several times that we have reminded the Commission of this issue, nothing has changed, and the Commission is just referring to the type-approval regulation as an argument for not solving this problem.

Several member states provide the opportunity to add a national code (usually 196) on the driving licence which allows the holder to ride a small motorcycle (<125cc or electric equivalent) with a B-licence and some additional requirements (age, experience, training) in the own country. In our view harmonisation and the opportunity to ride small motorcycles with a B licence and additional requirements cross-border is required to provide alternative transport where other modes like public transport or active mobility are not suitable or available.

As usual we are willing to provide more detailed information or answer questions from the Commission.

Written by Dolf Willigers

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