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Driving an HGV in Europe: 6 Rules You Need to Know

24 January 2023

If you regularly transport goods to Europe, or you’re considering HGV driver jobs in Europe, driving an HGV there will be a little different than in the UK. In terms of qualifications, it’s still the same as if you were to become an HGV driver in the UK, but there are additional considerations and rules to keep in mind. There are many benefits that come with a career as an HGV driver, and of course, one of the biggest benefits for those working in Europe is getting to see and experiencing other parts of the world.

On top of the regular rules and considerations, drivers also need to keep in mind that in recent years, the UK has developed a new relationship with the rest of the EU due to Brexit. Since then, several new laws have come in, and existing legislation has been amended – especially for businesses based in the UK who have operations in Europe. Some of these changes have also had an impact on HGV drivers driving in Europe after Brexit.

In this article, we’ll discuss six key rules to keep in mind when driving an HGV in Europe, as well as a series of other important considerations for your travels.

The Rules for Driving an HGV in Europe

1. Speed limits

Drivers will need to be well-versed on the different speed limits in each country. Here are examples of the speed limit for goods vehicles on the motorways in some European countries:

  • France – 90km/h (56mph)
  • Germany – 80km/h (50mph)
  • Belgium 90km/h (56mph)
  • Italy – 100km/h (62mph)
  • Poland – 80km/h (50mph)
  • Austria – 80km/h (50mph)
  • Finland – 80km/h (50mph)
  • Switzerland – 80km/h (50mph)

Speed limits are subject to change. For example, in France, the speed limit for goods vehicles on motorways when the weather is dry is 90km/h, but if it rains, it becomes 80km/h. So, make sure to check before setting off on your journey – you can check speed limits for any EU country on the official European Union website.

2. Vehicle stickers

 Previously, all British vehicles driving in Europe were required to have a GB sticker on the back of the vehicle. However, in September 2021 this changed, and now all drivers have to have a UK sticker in order to be allowed to drive on European roads. You can get these stickers online or in post offices and they cost around £1.50.

3. Breakdown kits

In a lot of European countries, it’s a legal requirement to have the appropriate breakdown equipment in your vehicle, should an emergency occur. For instance, in countries like Spain, Belgium and Italy, it’s a legal requirement to have (at least one) reflective jacket and warning triangle in your vehicle.

RAC have laid out some of the required equipment for driving in Europe. You can purchase accessories and kits that meet European regulations from the AA shop and RAC shop – you may be able to find cheaper elsewhere online, but make sure it conforms to the required standards of the country you’re visiting.

4. Restricted driving zones

In some countries, there are certain rules concerning where you can and cannot drive in Europe. For example, many Italian cities such as Rome, Florence and Milan, will not allow you to drive in certain areas, since they’re aiming to reduce traffic in tourist spots, or reduce pollution.

Sometimes, GPS systems will not show these restricted driving zones. But the Urban Access Regulations in Europe allows you to check country by country for low emission zones, congestion charges and urban traffic restrictions.

5. Sundays and public holidays

There are a lot of countries in Europe that won’t allow HGVs to drive on Sundays or public holidays. Whilst every nation varies, some of the countries that have these restrictions in place include

  • France – from 10pm on Saturdays (or the eve of public holidays) to 10pm on Sundays, all commercial vehicles weighing more than 7.5 tonnes will not be allowed to operate. The same goes for public holidays.
  • Germany – any vehicle weighing more than 7.5 tonnes, or any vehicle carrying a trailer (regardless of weight) is banned from travelling on Sundays and on public holidays from midnight to 10pm.

  • Italy – on Sundays between October and May, vehicles weighing more than 7.5 tonnes are banned from 8am to 10pm. From June to September, the restrictions are in place from 7am to midnight The same goes for public holidays and when local authorities decide there’s too much ‘heavy traffic.’
  • Spain – aside from vehicles transporting livestock and fresh milk, Spain has a wide variety of restrictions on vehicles heavier than 7.5 tonnes, since every region has its own rules. Fines in Spain can be particularly severe so make sure to check before travelling there.

6. Give priority to the right

You’ll be used to giving way to traffic from the right on roundabouts in the UK, however in some parts of Europe, most traffic on the right has priority. This is especially true in France and Italy. There are some exceptions of course, for example, when giving way to traffic already on the roundabout, it will be coming from the left. If you’re in areas where this is necessary, you’ll know when you see yellow diamond road signs on the side of the road. These mark where these areas begin and end, and when driving in these zones, you’ll be required to give way to all traffic joining the road from your right.

The Requirements for Driving in Europe: Documents

Driver CPC for lorry drivers

All HGV drivers will need a Driver CPC qualification to drive a lorry professionally in the UK but also in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland – and your Driver Qualification Card (DQC) must be carried at all times.

UK Driving Licence

To be able to drive on European roads, you’ll of course need to make sure you have your UK driving licence on you at all times. In most instances, having your photocard driving licence is enough to be allowed into EU countries. However, if your driving licence was issued in Guernsey, Jersey, or the Isle of Man, you’ll need an International Driving Permit (IDP). In 2022, an IDP costs £5.50 and is available to all drivers who live in Great Britain or Northern Ireland and are 18 years old or older.


The rules surrounding passports have changed in some important ways since the UK has left the EU, which has meant that driving in Europe after Brexit has also altered for commercial drivers. With this in mind, HGV drivers should check the following on their passport before setting off on a job to Europe:

  • Less than 10 years old (even if it has 6 months or more left)
  • Has at least 6 months left

It normally takes around 3 weeks if you need to renew your passport, although there have been well-publicised delays in recent months. However, there’s also a premium service available if you do need it sooner.


You’ll need the appropriate vehicle insurance cover when driving abroad. In some countries, you’ll also need to carry a ‘green card’ as verification of the insurance cover.

The European countries where you’ll need a green card to drive in include:

  • Albania
  • Belarus
  • Moldova
  • Ukraine

HGV drivers won’t need a green card to drive in the EU (including Ireland) or the following countries:

  • Andorra
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Iceland
  • Liechtenstein
  • Norway
  • Serbia
  • Switzerland

More than one green card will be needed if:

  • You operate a fleet – a green card is required for each vehicle.
  • Your vehicle is towing a trailer – one will be needed for the towing vehicle and one for the trailer (you need separate trailer insurance in some countries).
  • You have two policies covering the duration of your trip – for instance if your policy renews mid-journey.

Rememberyou must carry a physical copy of your green card when driving abroad as electronic versions won’t be accepted.


You can drive your HGV in the EU for work purposes without a visa, providing you don’t spend more than 90 days there within any 180-day period. But it’s always a good idea to check the entry requirements for any country that you’re going to be travelling to for both work and leisure.

Drivers’ hours and tachographs

If you drive a goods vehicle that’s over 3.5 tonnes on journeys outside of the UK, you’ll be required to follow the regulations on drivers’ hours and tachograph use.

All HGV drivers must have:

  • Tachograph charts and all legally required manual records for the current day and the 28 calendar days prior to this
  • Digital tachograph card (you can apply for one on UK)

All HGV drivers must record annual leave or sick leave by doing either of the following:

  • Using a tachograph’s manual inputs
  • Making a manual record on an analogue record sheet/digital printout paper

 Refresher courses are available to help drivers make the best use of the digital tachograph and verify knowledge of the drivers’ hours regulations.

Healthcare cover

It’s important to get suitable travel insurance with healthcare cover before you travel abroad. A European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will give HGV drivers the right to access state-provided healthcare during a short-term stay in an EU country, as long as it is still in date. If you need to apply for a card now, you’ll get a new Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) instead. But remember that an EHIC or GHIC will only provide limited cover and is not a substitute for proper travel insurance.

Keep in mind that GHICs and most UK EHICs won’t cover HGV drivers who are making work trips to Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland.

Top tipleave photocopies of all medical, insurance and legal documents as back-up with family or friends, just in case you need copies outside of your employer’s standard business hours.

With all of the above considerations and rules in mind, you should be set to hit the road and explore Europe in your HGV. Remember to always drive safely, make sure to check all your documents are up to date, and look for updates on driving regulations and speed limits, before setting out on your journey.

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