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Since 1980 the European Union set up a roadmap for the harmonization of driving licenses among the different countries of the EU, the final objective being to have a single driving license valid in all EU countries. At present there are a total of 110 different types of driving licenses in the EU. This not only give problems for EU citizen moving permanently to a different EU country, but it creates legal nightmares for law enforcement authorities.

Old driving licenses of certain countries (especially the paper ones) are particularly easy to counterfeit. Additionally the language barrier makes difficult for law enforcement authorities to understand what is written on foreign documents.

Directive 2006/126/EC of the European Parliament is addressing these concerns and paved the road for the implementation in January 2013 of the new European driving license.

As of the 19th of January 2013 member countries will start issuing the new licenses. These will be standardized credit card like documents equipped with a microchip containing the encrypted driver data as well as biometric information (few countries will initially opt out of the microchip but will catch up within few years). Additional security features will include micro-lettering, multicolour security inks, laser engraving, thermo-chromic inks and custom holograms to name just the most important. In practice it will be almost impossible to forge a new document or to tamper with the information printed.

The information will be written in specific numbered fields making easy for law enforcement agents without electronic access to read the document. Depending on the member state the license will be renewable every 10 or 15 years and every 5 years for C and D categories.

Holder of an earlier driving license will be able to use it according to the rules of the country of issue taking into account that all driving licenses issued before the 19th of January 2013 will become invalid as of the 1st of January 2033.

Harmonization

There will be at last a harmonization of the different motoring categories all over the European union. Special utility vehicles for example agricultural or forestry tractors, motorized shovels and earth moving vehicles are left outside of this classification and will still depend on national regulation. Rail borne vehicles will be excluded as well.

Motorbike licences in the EU and Spain

In Europe the rules related to motorbikes will be changed with a general hardening of the requirement for obtaining the license. Two new categories will be introduced the AM and the A2. Spain was in advance and introduced the new categories in 2010. Starting from January 2013 Spanish licenses AM and A2 will be valid Europe wide.

  • Category AM: mopeds. Two-wheel vehicles or three-wheel vehicles with a maximum design speed of not more than 50cc. Minimum age is fixed at 15 years alone and 18 year for carrying passengers. Theoretical and practical exam required.
  • Category A1: motorcycles with a cylinder capacity not exceeding 125 cubic centimeters, of a power not exceeding 11 kW and with a power/weight ratio not exceeding 0,1 kW/kg. Motor tricycles with a power not exceeding 15 kW. Minimum age is fixed at 16 years. 4 exams to pass: General theory, theory specific to the A1, practical in closed environment and practical in traffic. The A1 permit will give access to the AM permit as well.
  • Category A2: motorcycles of a power not exceeding 35 kW and with a power/weight ratio not exceeding 0,2 kW/kg and not derived from a vehicle of more than double its power. Minimum age is fixed at 18 years. 4 exams to pass: General theory (exemption if in possession of another permit for more than a year), theory specific to motorbikes (exemption if in possession of the A1 permit), practical in closed environment and practical in traffic.
  • Category A: any kind of motorbike or tricycle. Requires having an A2 licence for at least two years and a minimum age of 20 years. Tricycles of more than 15kw require a minimum age of 21 years. There will be a compulsory course to follow with a minimum of 3h of theory and 6 hours of practice. There will be just a psycho-technical test.