Changes to EU Directive on Driving Licenses to address Driver Shortage proposed by the IRHA


In light of increasing unemployment figures across Europe due to the global pandemic, together with the ongoing concern regarding the driver shortage crisis in road transport, the Irish Road Haulage Association (IRHA) is seeking a change in the European Union (EU) Directive on driving licenses.

Led by IRHA Executive members Jerry Kiersey and Paul Jackman, through the International Road Transport Union (IRU) a lobbying campaign is underway for a ‘Driver License Category Change’.

The re-classification of Driver Licenses being proposed is an opportunity for the EU Commission to deal positively with the Social, Environmental and Commercial issues.

Across the European Union, within the 27 Member States (for 2019), there were 2.8 million unemployed people aged 15-24, which is double the EU norm at 15.1% of this age category. “From van drivers to truck drivers, all sectors of transport including bus and coach are affected by the shortage of new driver recruits and with a high average age for existing drivers a driver crisis looms large. The IRU report of 2019, reveals that the driver shortage is to increase from 23% in 2019 to 36% in 2020. In 2015, 3.5 million truck drivers alone employed in Europe with many vacancies,” explained Jerry.

There are a number of driver licence categorised common to EU Member States, with up to 20 countries making no reference to, or treatment of any electric vehicle type, according to Paul. Starting with categories AM & A1, relating to mopeds and motorcycles, the IRHA seeks to adjust/change the following to include electric Cargo-Bikes under AM, (which includes moped and tricycles (45 kp/h top speed). While under A1, the inclusion of electric urban delivery vans with limited power and speed is required alongside motorcycles of 11kW or less or 125cc or less. “This will provide employment opportunities for our youth, as both these license classes have a minimum age of 16 years. These changes will lay down a foundation for future HGV and bus drivers.

Amendments to the higher C1 & C grades “would accommodate a more rapid and reasonable entry into truck/bus driving without compromising the driving age of 18. Similar to the aviation industry, the request is that all training requirements be done beforehand, with their tests to be undertaken after their 18thbirthday. That goes for C1 & C categories, covering the driving of goods vehicles between 3,500 – 7,500kg,” explained Paul.

In summery these amendments would:

  • Help the European Union’s ‘Sustainable and Smart’ objectives to be realised. 
  • Give youth access to driving in a meaningful and structured manner, with initial access to 4 wheels being electric. i.e., 16 years old undertaking urban deliveries with an electric ‘Cargo Bike’ or urban electric van. 
  • Allow the youth, who for social or academic reasons leave school early, have the opportunity to pursue gainful employment giving them purpose, status and dignity. This can but have positive social consequences. 
  • Help alleviate the pending driver shortage as these young drivers may well decide to remain as drivers and can now have a rigid truck license and  possibly an artic driving license, on becoming 18 years of age.
  • Lay the foundation for the new retail and urban delivery model to be pursued, while giving an opportunity for our youth to contribute in a positive manner to this change.

Endorsing the IRHA proposals, the IRU produced a document entitled “Harmonising the Minimum age of Professional Drivers in Europe”.

In the opening paragraph, it stated: “With a rapidly ageing workforce, a lack of young drivers is one of the main challenges facing the European road transport industry in both the freight and passenger sectors, in part due to minimum age rules for professional drivers. The different regulations across Europe create restrictions and reduce opportunities for young people to enter the profession, at a time when the youth unemployment rate is over 16% in the EU and is set to increase due to COVID-19. The upcoming revision of the EU Directive on driving licences is an opportunity to resolve this issue.”

The proposal is future proofed also as it caters for the ongoing high age profile within the professional driver sectors: “The demand for workers in the road transport sector will continue to grow in the coming years, creating even more jobs. Harmonising the minimum age for professional drivers will enable young people to access these opportunities  and diversify the talent pool of professional drivers.”

Bearing in mind that some safety concerns may be raised, the document also covers this issue: “Safety has nothing to do with age. A comparison of the average accident rate of professional drivers shows that the age of entry into the profession does not influence safety performance. In fact, the accident rate is higher in countries where the minimum age is 21 than in those where the minimum age is 18. A succession planning programme would ensure continuity for an ageing profession. In 2019, the average age of European bus drivers was 52 and the average age of truck drivers was 46.  Currently, the profession is not on young people’s radar: only 2% of drivers are under 30 years of age.”