Lorries at a truck stop in the UK.

European Parliament vote on teenage lorry drivers is a wrong-turn for road safety

  • February 28, 2024

The European Parliament’s position on revised rules for driver licences in the EU, agreed in Strasbourg today, will have severe negative consequences for road safety according to the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC).

ETSC is most concerned about the proposal to require all EU Member States to introduce an accompanied driving scheme for 17-year-old lorry drivers. The current recommended minimum age for this category of vehicle in the EU is 21, though several countries allow 18-year-olds to drive HGVs under certain conditions. Research by the German Insurance Association (GDV) shows that HGV drivers aged 18-20 caused a much higher proportion of collisions resulting in personal injury than older HGV driver age groups.

The Parliament also backed the concept of allowing 16-year-olds to drive speed-limited cars, including large SUVs, when fitted with a speed limiter. The European Commission’s impact assessment on the proposal said “the measure may pose an additional road safety risk, notably for vulnerable road users”.    

Antonio Avenoso, Executive Director of ETSC commented:
“Having thousands more teenagers driving lorries and cars is an affront to everything we know about road safety risk.  If we need more lorry drivers, then the answer is to vastly improve working conditions in the sector, not sign-up school children for the task.  If Europe believes in sustainable mobility, then allowing the richest parents to buy specially adapted cars for their children is unfair, unhealthy and unsafe.  We should be encouraging youngsters to travel by walking, cycling and using public transport, not putting the lives of their peers at risk in SUVs.  We hope that Member States will see sense and reject these ideas.”

ETSC supports several other aspects of the proposed legislation, including the requirement for a probationary period for young drivers with a zero-tolerance rule for alcohol when they first start to drive alone.  However ETSC says these measures will not offset the damage caused by lowering the minimum ages for driving.