By avoiding obstacles at borders and ensuring that no hauliers are exposed to unfair competition, this directive aims to facilitate the internal market and to ensure free movement of goods in Europe. For national transport however, the Directive foresees a number of derogations and Member States can decide to apply standards that deviate from the Directive for transport within their own borders, for instance for the transport of large loads such as forestry goods or longer combination of vehicles in Nordic countries.
These rules complement the requirements for type-approval of commercial vehicles laid out in Directive 97/27/EC. This directive (under responsibility of DG Enterprise) sets the framework for putting vehicles such as light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles, buses and trailers on the market, and applies only to new vehicles, whereas Directive 96/53/EC sets out rules for the circulation of all commercial vehicles, the new ones like the others.
The current provisions on weight and dimensions date back in part to the 1980's. As announced in the White Paper on Transport, the Commission intends to review them to adapt the standards to technical progress. In particular, these rules need to be adapted to facilitate the introduction of improved aerodynamic of vehicles which limit CO2 emissions and energy use, and to better reflect new intermodal transport standards. The Commission is currently carrying out the necessary technical and economic analysis.