Official Journal of the European Union

C 108/29

Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the ‘proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the approval of motor vehicles and their trailers, and of systems, components and separate technical units intended for such vehicles (recast version)’

(COM(2003) 418 final – 2003/0153 (COD))

(2004/C 108/03)

On 28 July 2003 the Council decided to consult the European Economic and Social Committee, under Article 95 of the Treaty establishing the European Community on the above-mentioned proposal.

The Section for the Single Market, Production and Consumption, which was responsible for preparing the Committee's work on the subject, adopted its opinion on 16 December 2003. The rapporteur was Mr Levaux).

At its 405th plenary session of 28 and 29 January 2004 (meeting of 28 January), the European Economic and Social Committee adopted the following opinion unanimously:

1.   Introduction

1.1   Aim of the proposal


The draft directive is a recasting of Council Directive 70/156/EEC on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the approval of motor vehicles and their trailers.


Directive 70/156/EEC is the main legal instrument for implementing the single market in the automotive sector. Agricultural tractors will also be included in this process following the adoption of a new directive amending the framework Directive 74/150/EEC of 4 March 19974. The Committee issued an opinion on this subject on 16 April 1969 (1).


The Commission believes that the time has come to extend to commercial vehicles the principles already established for other categories of vehicles.


The technical annexes of Directive 70/156/EEC were consolidated into a single document in the first stage of the recasting. The current proposal is the second stage in this process, involving the recasting of the legislative provisions of the directive. This means that an approval procedure covering all categories of commercial vehicles could come into force as early as 2007. It should be noted that Community type-approval has been compulsory for passenger cars since 1 January 1998 and for motorcycles and mopeds since 17 June 1999.


The Commission believes that the adoption of the draft directive repealing Directive 70/156/EEC, which has been 18 amended times, will result in a more consistent, better-structured text, to the benefit of manufacturers, Member States and candidate countries.

1.2   Involvement of interested parties in drafting the proposal


The Commission notes that Member States were informed about the proposal's content by the Commission's Consultative Group and the Motor Vehicle Working Group (MVWG). In addition, the Commission took account of the work done by the OTA (Operationality of Type-Approval) working party and, to large extent, also the work of the TAAM (Type-Approval Authorities Meeting) working party. The majority of government experts support the proposal, although some have expressed reservations as to whether the type-approval of commercial vehicles should be optional or compulsory.


The Commission stresses that the draft directive will have an enormous impact. In the table in point 5.2 of the explanatory memorandum (Appendix 1 of the present opinion) the Commission compares the annual production of passenger cars, light trucks and heavy commercial vehicles in the USA, Japan and the EU-15. Production in the EU-15 is stagnant. It is therefore regrettable that the Commission did not include an extra column, in advance, for the 12 candidate countries, where national production has been boosted as a result of heavy investment by Western manufacturers (2). The Commission also notes that the number of commercial vehicles in the EU-15 will increase from 24,829,000 in 2000 to 32,867,000 in 2014. While the Committee appreciates that the draft directive will cover many millions of vehicles, it would like the Commission to clarify its figures, given that the EU-15 will become the EU-27 by 2014 and that the 12 new Member States are making very rapid progress in this area.


The Commission points out that the automotive industry was involved from the outset in the preparation of the proposal and made an important contribution to developing the concept of multi-stage type-approval procedures. The Commission further notes that the industry is generally supportive of the proposal, provided a sufficiently long lead-time is built in to allow all manufacturers, including body-builders, to comply with the requirements on type-approval.

1.3   Content of the draft directive


The following are some of the key concepts:

the draft directive is based on total harmonisation, which means that Community type-approval procedures will be compulsory and will replace the national procedures;

the procedures will allow type-approval of a complete vehicle by combining the separate type-approvals issued for its constituent systems, components and technical units, even when partial type-approvals have been carried out in various Member States;

a new method of type-approval – multi-stage type-approval of the integral parts of a vehicle – is introduced in order to bring the situation into line with the manufacture of commercial vehicles. For this category of vehicles, the manufacturer of the base vehicle normally carries out type-approval of the chassis, including the cab and power unit, while the second manufacturer assembles the bodywork according to the goods to be transported. The completed vehicle is then presented for final type-approval;

passenger cars built in small series will henceforth be included in the harmonised Community type-approval system;

the possibility of individual approval of passenger vehicles.


The draft directive forms a coherent whole, which will significantly simplify type-approval operations for manufacturers:

once a vehicle has been type-approved by one Member State it will be possible to register all vehicles of this type throughout the Community on the basis of their certificate of conformity;

‘safeguard clauses are included to enable Member States, either at the time of type-approval or on registration, to refuse vehicles which, although they comply with all of the directives applicable, might prove dangerous for road safety. This principle has also been extended to cover environmental issues’. The Committee would point out that this wording (point 6.1 of the explanatory memorandum – ‘General’) suggests that some of the applicable directives could be dangerous from the point of view of road safety or the environment. This is not the case, however, and the Committee therefore suggests that the Commission add the qualifier ‘in exceptional cases’ after the word ‘refuse’ in the above paragraph.

2.   General comments


In a recent opinion on the draft Directive relating to the protection of pedestrians and amending Directive 70/156/EEC (CESE 919/2003) (3), the Committee made a number of suggestions, some of which must be restated in the present opinion.


The Committee endorses the Commission's initiative to recast a directive which has been amended 18 times and to harmonise the applicable rules, thus simplifying procedures and at the same time promoting the development of the single market.


On the other hand, this recast version of Directive 70/156/EEC contains another, broader objective concerning the improvement of road safety and environmental protection which the Committee feels has not been elaborated sufficiently.


Therefore the Committee would reiterate that the main objective of introducing compulsory Community type-approval is ‘to increase the safety of vehicles in use and to protect vehicle occupants in collisions, while at the same time respecting the environment’. This objective must be part of an overall approach which goes beyond the simple application of measures aimed at minimising the consequences of an accidental collision or a failure of a component, system or constituent unit of a vehicle.


In its opinion on the protection of pedestrians, the Committee singles out three aspects of pedestrian protection, which should also be mentioned in the explanatory memorandum:

increasing the sense of responsibility of those involved: carelessness by pedestrians, cyclists and vehicle drivers very often causes collisions. It should therefore be stressed that accidents can be caused by all three groups and that there is a need to encourage responsible behaviour by all road users;

education and information: the automotive industry, together with other interested parties, should provide an input to education and training and respond to training needs from primary school onwards and engage in regular information campaigns to encourage people to act correctly from an early age;

infrastructure: porous asphalt surfaces, as well as traffic signs and related detection systems should be the subject of a joint study by the European automotive sector and road construction industry.


Thus, although this is a technical directive, the Committee would once again ask the Commission to amend and supplement its explanatory memorandum in line with the above-mentioned suggestions so as to better develop ‘the content of an overall policy on accident prevention for road and street users’.

3.   Specific comments


As concerns the impact of the draft directive and its consequences for the European automotive industry, the Committee agrees with professionals from the sector that there must be sufficiently long time-limits for the application of the directive. It understands this request and considers it justified, particularly for body-builders. Although the Committee does not possess all the necessary information, it considers that the planned schedule for the enforcement of the directive, which extends from 1 January 2007 to 1 January 2012 (Article 40 and Annex XVI ), is reasonable.


On the other hand, the Committee does not understand the reservations expressed by some government experts. It would like to know the reasoning behind the assertion by some of them that ‘that only minimal benefit for road safety or the environment could be expected from compulsory enforcement but that there would be an increased cost to manufacturers’. The Committee does not share this view. On the contrary, the Committee is convinced that the directive will have a positive impact on safety and the environment, provided that the proposals concerning the development of an overall approach are implemented within an acceptable timeframe.


Clearly, the cost to manufactures will be considerable, but acceptable if spread over 10 or 20 years. Consequently, the Committee would like an alternative evaluation of the cost of the draft directive to be carried out with all the interested parties to check whether the automotive industry could bear the cost over these long time horizons. The Committee thinks that it would be better to extend the time limits for application of the directive, rather than set impossible dates with repercussions for employment, costs and even the very survival of companies, including equipment manufacturers. In the current context of enlargement and the economic difficulties faced by Europe, a provisional check of this kind is consistent with the application of the principles of precaution and expediency.


As regards end-of-series vehicles (Article 26(3)), the time-limit set for Member States to respond to requests from manufacturers should be shortened from 3 months to 1 month so as to reduce stock holding costs


In its opinion on the type-approval of agricultural tractors and related equipment (4), the Committee drew the Commission's attention to the growing market for motor quadricyles (Quads). These are not mentioned in the draft directive or in the directive on agricultural tractors and related equipment. The Committee would emphasise the urgency of harmonising EU type-approval procedures for Quads.

4.   Conclusions


The Committee welcomes the simplification and transparency that will result from recasting Directive 70/156/EEC.


Although this is a technical directive, the Committee suggests that the Commission emphasise in point 3 (‘Background’) of the explanatory memorandum that the main objective is to improve ‘safety’ in the use of vehicles with a view to not only protecting vehicle occupants but also to preventing collisions with other road users, pedestrians, cyclists and other vehicles.

Brussels, 28 January 2004.

The President

of the European Economic and Social Committee


(1)  OJ C 48 of 16.4.1969.

(2)  Following the Committee's comment, the Commission proposal now includes the missing figures.

(3)  OJ C 234 of 30.9.2003

(4)  OJ C 221 of 17.9.2002