Road safety: Member States water down proposals for tougher vehicle testing rules to save lives

Brussels, 21-12-2012 — / — Key measures to strengthen road safety and save lives have been put at risk by an agreement by transport ministers meeting today in Brussels. Vehicle checks are fundamental to road safety. More than 5 people die on Europe’s roads every day in accidents linked to technical failure. EU transport ministers today agreed on a text which would water down key elements of Commission proposals for new rules to toughen up the current testing regime and widen its scope.

The agreement by ministers today would substantially weaken the proposed new rules, by (a) removing motorcycles and other two-wheelers, the most vulnerable group of road users from the scope of mandatory regular testing; (b) removing proposals for increased frequency of technical checks for older vehicles – the highest risk vehicles on the road; (c) weakening proposed measures to reduce mileage manipulation.

Ministers have backed measures with regard to two things: strengthened cross-border mutual recognition, and higher quality and harmonisation of testing, with minimum requirements on training, on equipment, on assessing deficiencies, on technical vehicle information and on supervision of testing.

Technical defects contribute heavily to accidents. They are responsible for 6% of all car accidents, translating into 2,000 fatalities and many more injuries yearly. 8% of all motorcycle accidents are linked to technical defects. Moreover, many technical defects with serious implications for safety (such as ABS and electronic stability control) are not even checked under current rules. Existing EU rules setting minimum standards for vehicle checks date back to 1977, with only minor updates. Cars, driver behaviour and technology have developed a lot since then.

Vice-President Siim Kallas, responsible for transport, said: “If you’re driving a car which is not fit to be on the road, you’re a danger to yourself and to everyone else in your car – your family, your friends, your business colleagues. What’s more, you’re a danger to all the other road users around you. It’s not complicated: we don’t want these potentially lethal cars on our roads. The agreement by Member States today is a step in the wrong direction for road safety. It removes some of the highest risk categories of users and vehicles on the road – motorbikes and older cars – from tougher mandatory vehicle checks. This is short-term thinking on the part of Member States. Safety is the first priority of EU transport policy. We cannot afford to compromise on safety and we look to the European Parliament to reinforce vehicle checks for the highest risk categories of vehicle on the road, and to save lives.”

What happens next?

The proposal will now be considered in first reading by the European Parliament. The European Parliament has the possibility when it considers the Commission’s proposals on roadworthiness testing to support the proposals leading to further negotiations with national Ministers at the second stage of the legislative procedure.


The roadworthiness test proposal is part of the “roadworthiness package”, adopted by the Commission on 13 July 2012. It aims to increase road safety by strengthening control standards, by harmonizing test items and methods including those for electronic safety components, minimum requirements for equipment and skills of personnel. The Commission has proposed increased test frequency for old vehicles and inclusion of additional types of vehicles, such as powered two-wheelers.

The key elements of the Commission’s roadworthiness proposals include

  1. Compulsory EU wide testing for scooters and motorbikes. Motorbike and scooter riders, particularly young riders, are the highest risk group of road users.
  2. Increasing the frequency of periodic roadworthiness tests for old vehicles. Between 5 and 6 years, the number of serious accidents related to technical failure increases dramatically (see graph in MEMO/12/555).
  3. Increasing the frequency of tests for cars and vans with exceptionally high mileage. This will bring their tests in line with other high mileage vehicles such as taxis, ambulances, etc.
  4. Improving the quality of vehicle tests by setting common minimum standards for deficiencies, equipment and inspectors.
  5. Making electronic safety components subject to mandatory testing.
  6. Clamping down on mileage fraud, with registered mileage readings.

In all cases, the proposals set common EU-wide minimum standards for vehicle checks, with Member States free to go further if appropriate.


Existing EU rules on vehicle checks date from 1977, they set minimum standards for vehicle checks and have only been marginally updated since. There are three main pieces of legislation:

  1. Directive 2009/40/EC fixes minimum standards for the periodic roadworthiness tests of motor vehicles – these are the regular vehicle checks required by law. The Directive applies to passenger cars, buses and coaches and heavy goods vehicles and their trailers, but not to scooters and motorbikes.
  2. Directive 2009/40/EC is complemented by Directive 2000/30/EC, which provides the requirement to control the technical state of commercial vehicles in between periodic inspections (with technical roadside inspections). These are additional on-the-spot roadside checks for commercial vehicles.
  3. Directive 1999/37/EC on registration documents for vehicles sets out the requirements for the issuing of registration certificates, their mutual recognition and the harmonised minimum content of vehicle registration certificates.

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