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Road safety: dimensions and maximum weights authorised for both national and international journeys

This Regulation aims to harmonise the maximum dimensions authorised for national traffic and the maximum weight authorised for international traffic of road vehicles intended to carry goods and passengers.


Council Directive 96/53/EC of 25 July 1996 laying down for certain vehicles circulating within the Community the maximum authorised dimensions in national and international traffic and the maximum authorised weights in international traffic [Official Journal L 235 of 17.09.1996] [See amending acts].


This Directive applies, in international and national traffic, to the dimensions of those road vehicles that are intended to carry goods (weighing more than 3.5 tonnes) or passengers (with more than 9 seats). In international traffic it also applies to the weights and certain other vehicle characteristics specified in Annex I.

Member States may not authorise the normal use on roads within the national frontiers of goods vehicles or vehicle combinations that do not display the characteristics set out in Annex I, apart from the standard relating to maximum height. Any vehicles or vehicle combinations exceeding the maximum dimensions may only be used on the roads if a special authorisation has been received.

In international traffic terms no Member State may refuse or ban the use, on its territory, of vehicles registered or placed in service in other Member States for reasons deriving from their weights and dimensions. In the case of national traffic that State may also not ban the use, on its territory, of goods vehicles registered or placed in service in other Member States for reasons relating to their dimensions. These two situations only apply if those vehicles comply with the values laid down in Annex I, which sets out the maximum weights and dimensions and the attendant characteristics.

Member States will take any action needed in order to ensure that vehicles are provided with one of the three proofs set out below:

  • a "manufacturer's" plate supplemented by a plate concerning dimensions; or
  • a single plate containing the data from the two plates referred to above; or
  • a single document issued by the competent authority in the Member State in which the vehicle is registered or was placed in service, and which contains the same data as those on the other plates.

Some exemptions from the Directive are intended for Ireland and the United Kingdom up to 31 December 1998.

That Directive replaces the following directives:

  • Directive 85/3/EEC (Official Journal L 2 of 3.1.1985)
  • Directive 86/360/EEC (Official Journal L 217 of 5.8.1986)
  • Directive 86/364/EEC (Official Journal L 221 of 7.8.1986)
  • Directive 88/218/EEC (Official Journal L 98 of 15.4.1988)
  • Directive 89/338/EEC (Official Journal L 142 of 25.5.1989)
  • Directive 89/460/EEC (Official Journal L 226 of 3.8.1989)
  • Directive 89/461/EEC (Official Journal L 226 of 3.8.1989)
  • Directive 91/60/EEC (Official Journal L 37 of 9.2.1991)
  • Directive 92/7/EEC (Official Journal L 57 of 2.3.1992).


Act Entry into force - Date of expiry Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Directive 96/53/EC 17.9.1996 7.9.1997 OJ L 235 of 17.9.1996

Amending act(s) Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Directive 2002/7/EC 9.3.2002 9.3.2004 OJ L 67 of 9.3.2002


Report - Not published in the Official Journal
On 27 May 1998 the Commission produced a report on the placing in service of buses and coaches having a maximum length of 15 m [COM(97) 499 final].
Directive 96/53/EC authorises a maximum length of 12 metres for rigid buses and coaches operating on international routes. However, since 15-metre buses and coaches are already in service in several Member States the report takes stock of the situation.
More particularly it lists the commercial benefits to be gained from large vehicles and notes that the inventiveness of certain operators in putting the extra space offered by 15-meter vehicles to good use encourages a modal shift towards public transport.
In addition the report examines the safety factors and concludes that there is nothing to support the assumption that a 15-metre vehicle is less safe than a similar 12-metre-long vehicle. Moreover the environmental impact of this type of motor bus may be positive where such vehicles are operated efficiently i.e. either by carrying more passengers than 12-m vehicles (their fuel consumption per passenger is lower and traffic flows decrease) or by attracting a body of passengers who would otherwise have travelled by car.
Conversely the use of 15-metre buses requires a certain adaptation of infrastructures (barriers for pedestrianised precincts, street lighting ...) Therefore a decision authorising wider use of this type of bus will have a financial impact on the local public authorities who are generally responsible for this type of infrastructure. The report ends by describing the conceivable options linking the legal and technical aspects of 15-metre bus and coach use. The Commission expressed a preference for setting a harmonised limit of 15 metres for international services while leaving room for national rules that may differ.

Last updated: 04.09.2007
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