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Getting in a spin over HGV rules

Friday, August 9th, 2013

According to the Sun, “Rule reverse” 8 August 2013″, a “barmy EU rule which forces mechanics to carry out specialist driving training is to be scrapped” and attributes comments from the UK Road Minister Stephen Hammond that “ditching this rule will save businesses £29 million a year”.

Reducing red tape and cutting costs for strapped-for-cash businesses is to be applauded.  But just slow down a minute, all is not what it seems.

Under the spotlight are EU rules which came into force in September 2006 (Directive 2003/59/EC).  These apply in principle to all drivers engaged in the professional transport of goods and passengers, but with exemptions in case driving is not the main activity.  For instance, Article 2c stipulates that the Directive shall not apply to drivers of vehicles undergoing road tests for technical development, repair or maintenance purposes, or of new or rebuilt vehicles which have not yet been put into service.

The driving force behind the media coverage is a a Department of Transport press release which also announces the UK Government “intends to look again at whether the scope of exemptions from driver CPC (Certificate of Professional Competence) can be extended in respect of farmers”.

The Commission has always made clear that it is up to EU member states’ to assess if an exemption could be applied to a specific activity and to ensure that this does not lead to abuses, but it is difficult to predict what the government has in mind for agricultural workers.

However it is worth pointing out that under the EU rules most agricultural vehicles are likely to fall under Article 2a which already exempts vehicles with a maximum authorised speed not exceeding 45 km/h. Furthermore, Article 2g of the Directive exempts vehicles carrying material or equipment to be used by the driver in the course of his or her work, provided that driving the vehicle is not the driver’s principal activity, which might also apply to farmers in some circumstances.

Coincidentally, the Commission is considering a review of Directive 2003/59/EC and in July published a public consultation as a first step.  Contributions are welcome by all interested parties until 25 October 2013.

HGV drivers cannot wear glasses

Thursday, January 18th, 1996

Bespectacled lorry drivers will lose their licence after July 1996, because Brussels says HGV drivers have to pass their eye tests without the aid of glasses and they will not be allowed to wear their glasses whilst driving in case they fall off during a journey or accident.

Birmingham Post, 18 January 1996

The Times, 19 January 1996, p1

The Times, 29 January 1996, p17

Daily Star, 7 February 1996, pp2 & 8

This is absolute nonsense. Some changes have been introduced, but they are minor and certainly do not forbid long or short-sighted drivers from driving with glasses or contact lenses.

The requirements are first and foremost a measure by the Member States’ governments to ensure road safety. With this in mind they agreed to amend the original directive (80/1263/EEC) in 1991, and to set the minimum standards of fitness for driving large goods vehicles and passenger carrying vehicles, as well as establishing mutual recognition of driving licences within the European Union. The second directive on driving licences (91/439/EEC) came into force on 1 July 1996.

Existing licence holders will have to undergo a medical check only when their driving licence is up for renewal. Drivers must re-apply at the age of 45, and then at 5 yearly intervals until the age of 65 and thereafter every year.
It is true that with the earlier directive the few one-eyed HGV drivers (less than 20 in the UK) can no longer drive large vehicles. The other small group of drivers affected is one possessing so-called ‘grandfather rights’. The directive does allow Member States to maintain these rights, but it is generally felt that those drivers whose eyesight fall well below the new standards in either eye, ie they cannot see at least the first line/letter of an optician’s eye chart from 3 metres without glasses or contact lenses, should no longer be driving. This was the view taken by the UK Government in implementing the directive.

To illustrate that this is a fairly low requirement, a person with perfect vision is able to read that line or letter at a distance of 60 metres.

The actual requirements are as follows:

Concerning Group 2 drivers, Annexe III Point 6.3 of the new directive stipulates that: applicants for a driving licence or for the renewal of such a licence must have a visual acuity, with corrective lenses if necessary, of at least 0.8 in the better eye and 0.5 in the worse eye (this corresponds to 6/9 and 6/12 on the Snellen scale). If corrective lenses are used to attain the values of 0.8 and 0.5, the uncorrected vision in each eye must reach 0.05 (ie 3/60 on the Snellen scale). In addition, drivers must have normal binocular field of vision in both eyes and must not suffer from double vision.

The value of 0.05 for the uncorrected sight in each eye was fixed by agreement of the competent national medical authorities of all Member States, to ensure that a driver can handle the vehicle and take preventive measures at all times. Although the standards set are stricter in asking that the minimal acuity in the best eye is raised from 0.75 to 0.8, it is now allows the uncorrected vision to be lowered from 0.1 to 0.05, and so many more drivers will be able to pass the eye test who would otherwise have failed it.

The 1996 Directive requires all drivers to meet the minimum standards and does not provide for transitional periods or derogations from these standards. However, member states may fix stricter standards if they wish.

EC in the UK

Check the EC Representation in the UK website

Please note that all statements in all entries were correct on the date of publication given. However, older archived posts are not systematically updated in the light of later developments, for example changes to EU law.

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