Learner permits

Introduction

A learner permit is a document issued by the National Driver Licensing Service (NDLS). It allows you to learn to drive on public roads in Ireland and you must always have it with you when you are driving.

You cannot take driving lessons without a valid learner permit and, in most cases, you cannot take a driving test until you have had your first learner permit for at least 6 months. Read more about how to arrange and prepare for a driving test in Ireland.

This document aims to provide practical guidance and advice on learner driving permits in Ireland. It includes information on learner permits for:

  • Cars
  • Motorcycles
  • Buses and trucks
  • Trailers

You can read more about the steps you need to take to learn to drive in Ireland.

COVID-19 and NDLS services

If you have a driving licence that is due to expire between 1 March and 30 June 2020, your licence is automatically renewed for a further 4 months. This applies to all categories of licence.

Learner permits that are due to expire between 1 March 2020 and 31 October 2020 are automatically renewed for 4 months.

You will not receive a new licence during this time, but your driver record will be updated to show that you licence or learner permit is still valid.

National Driver Licence Service (NDLS) offices reopened on a phased basis from 8 June 2020. You can find details of which NDLS offices are open on the Road Safety Authority website. NDLS offices will not operate a drop-in service. You can book an appointment to attend an office in person.

If you are over 70, you will not have to supply a medical report from your doctor, unless you have a specified medical condition. This applies up until 31 July 2020.

If your licence or learner permit expired before 1 March 2020, you can renew your licence online. You will need a Public Services Card and a verified MyGovID account to apply online. You cannot renew your licence or learner permit online if:

  • You hold a bus or truck category on your licence
  • You are over 70
  • You are applying for your third or subsequent leaner permit
  • You have a medical condition that requires a medical report (see the driving licence form (pdf) for a list of applicable medical conditions)

You can read our document Driving and transport during COVID-19.

What about penalty points?

The licence extension period is treated the same as any other period where you hold a valid licence or learner permit. This means that penalty points or disqualifications that you might have on your licence record will continue to count down to their expiry date during this period.

The Road Safety Authority has a list of frequently asked questions (pdf) about the extension of licences and learner permits.

How do I apply for a learner permit?

Before applying for a learner permit, you need to make sure you are eligible to learn to drive in Ireland and have the documentation you require.

Rules

To apply for a learner permit for any vehicle, you must:

  • Be normally resident in Ireland. You are considered to be normally resident in Ireland if you usually live here for at least 185 days in each calendar year.
  • Meet the age requirement. Before you can apply for a licence to drive a vehicle in Ireland, you must be a certain age. If you are under 16 years of age, you must not use any vehicle in a public place. For more information, see our document on categories of motor vehicles and minimum age of drivers.
  • Pass a driver theory test. Before applying for a learner permit, candidates must pass a test of motoring theory appropriate to the category of vehicle (pdf) they wish to be licenced to drive. This rule applies to anyone applying for a first learner permit in any vehicle category. If your learner permit expired five or more years ago, you must pass the theory test again before a new learner permit will be issued. You can read more about the driver theory test.

How to apply

To apply for your first learner permit, you must visit an NDLS centre. If you bring your Public Services Card (PSC), it will simplify your application process. All NDLS centres offer a walk in service and you can also book an appointment online.

To apply for a first time learner permit, you need:

Detailed guidance for the completion (pdf) of your learner permit application form, as well as a full list of acceptable documents, can be accessed on the NDLS website.

Renewing your permit

In most cases, you can renew your learner permit online if you have a PSC and a verified MyGovID account.

A first and second learner permit usually lasts for two years each time while a third and subsequent permit lasts for one year. If you are applying for a third or subsequent learner permit you must provide confirmation that you have applied for a driving test in that category or that you have failed a driving test in that category in the last two years (statement of driving test outcome).

If you have taken a driving test you will be given a two year permit while if you provide confirmation that you have applied for a driving test you will be given a one year permit.

Updating and replacing your permit

You can access detailed information on how to update or replace your learner permit:

Learner permits for cars

A Category B learner permit entitles you to learn to drive a car on public roads in Ireland. However, it is not a full driving licence and you must adhere to certain restrictions.

Rules:

  • You must always have someone with a full driving licence in the car with you when you are driving on a learner permit. This person must have had their driving licence for at least 2 years. If the Gardaí stop you, and you are not accompanied by a qualified driver, they can detain the car.
  • You must display L-plates to the front and rear of the vehicle at all times while driving. The plate should be a red ‘L’ on a white background and should not be less than 15cm high with a border of at least 2cm.
  • You must adhere to a reduced drink driving limit and penalty point disqualification threshold.
  • You must not drive on a motorway.
  • You must not to draw a trailer.
  • You must not act as an accompanying driver.
  • You must not carry other people for reward.

If you own a car, you will be guilty of an offence if you let someone drive it in a public place when they:

  • Don’t have a driving licence or learner permit; or
  • Have a learner permit but drive your car without being accompanied by a qualified driver

For further information, consult the learner permit section of the Road Safety Authority’s ‘Rules of the Road’ (pdf) handbook.

Essential Driver Training

All holders of their first learner permit issued from 4 April 2011 must undertake Essential Driver Training (EDT) with an RSA Approved Driving Instructor (ADI). You can access details of ADIs located across the country.

EDT is a training course that teaches fundamental driving skills to learner car drivers. The RSA has published detailed guidance (pdf) on EDT. The course is made up of 12 individual 1 hour sessions.

At each EDT session, your ADI will check your learner permit and record the session with a stamp and signature in your official EDT logbook. You will be required to produce your completed EDT logbook on the day of the driving test.

You can also nominate a sponsor to accompany you during your EDT sessions. Typically a family member or close friend, your sponsor should be an experienced licence-holder who can support you in preparing for your test.

If you have a full driving licence from a country that does not have a licence exchange agreement with Ireland, you will only be required to complete 6 EDT sessions before taking the Irish driving test. The RSA have published a detailed handbook on Reduced EDT (pdf).

Learner permits for motorcycles

To drive a motorcycle on a public road, you must hold at least a learner driving permit for the appropriate category of motorcycle. The following table shows the categories of motorcycles, with the driver’s minimum age:

Category Vehicle type Minimum age of driver
AM Mopeds and tricycles with a maximum speed of 45kph and light quadricycles 16 years
A1 Motorcycles (with or without a sidecar) of 11kW or less and 125cc or less, with a maximum power/weight ratio of 0.1 kW/kg, and motor tricycles of 15 kW or less 16 years
A2 Motorcycles (with or without a sidecar) of 35kW or less, with a maximum power/weight ratio of 0.2 kW/kg, and not derived from a vehicle of more than double its power 18 years
A Motorcycles (with or without a sidecar) and motor tricycles 24 years (20 years via progressive access)

Initial Basic Training

Once you have passed your theory test and obtained a motorcycle learner permit, you are not permitted drive on a public road until you have completed your Initial Basic Training (IBT).

IBT is a 16-hour mandatory training course, broken into 4 separate modules, that teaches basic riding skills to learner motorcyclists. IBT courses are only available at RSA approved IBT training centres and may only be delivered by RSA approved IBT instructors.

You can read detailed information (pdf) about what IBT involves, including the full syllabus (pdf), and how to enrol on a course near you on the RSA’s dedicated webpage.

Rules

Once you have obtained your IBT Certificate of Satisfactory Completion, you are permitted to drive unaccompanied on public roads.

However, a learner permit is not a full motorcycle driving licence and there are specific rules you must adhere to until you pass your driving test:

  • You must display L plates. The L plates for a motorcyclist are displayed on a yellow fluorescent hi-viz tabard (a bib or sleeveless top with open side-seams). The letter L must be in red, measure at least 15cm in height on a white background, and be visible on the front and back of your body.
  • You cannot drive on a motorway
  • You cannot carry pillion passengers (passengers on the back of your motorcycle)
  • You must adhere to a reduced drink driving limit and penalty point disqualification threshold .

You can read more about how to arrange and prepare for a motorcycle driving test.

Learner permits for buses and trucks

Your first learner permit

To get your first learner permit to drive a bus or truck, you must have a full driving licence for a car (Category B) and a valid driver theory test certificate for:

  • Category C if you want to drive a truck
  • Category D if you want to drive a bus

Bus and truck categories

Before driving on a public road, you must hold a learner permit appropriate to the category of bus or truck you wish to drive.

The following table shows the categories for buses and trucks, with the driver’s minimum age:

Category Vehicle type Minimum age of driver
C1 Goods vehicles between 3,500kg and 7,500kg 18 years
C Goods vehicles over 3,500kg 21 years (18 years with a Driver Certificate of Professional Competence)
D1 Passenger vehicles with accommodation for more than 8 and a maximum of 16 people 21 years
D Passenger vehicles with accommodation for more than 8 people 24 years (21 years with a Driver Certificate of Professional Competence)

Further information is available in a bus and truck FAQ (pdf) on the RSA website.

Rules

Bus and truck drivers with a learner permit must:

  • Always be accompanied and under the supervision of someone with a current driving licence, for the same category of vehicle (and they must have had it for at least 2 years).
  • Always display L plates to the front and rear of the vehicle they are driving. The plate should show a red L on a white background and should not be less than 15cm high with a border of at least 2cm.

Bus and truck drivers with a learner permit must not:

  • Drive while pulling a trailer
  • Drive on a motorway
  • Act as an accompanying driver
  • Carry other people for reward or payment

The drink driving limit for drivers of buses and trucks with learner permits or full driving licences is 20mg per 100ml of blood. Further information on drink driving limits is available from the RSA.

Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC)

To work as a professional truck or bus driver, you need a Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC).

To get a Driver CPC, you must:

  • Have a full Category B driving licence
  • Pass the ‘Bus and Truck’ theory test
  • Get a Category C or D learner permit

You then must complete the following additional steps:

Once you have qualified for Driver CPC, you have to maintain it over 5 years to continue to be Driver CPC certified.

The RSA have published a detailed information booklet (pdf) on the Driver CPC.

Learner permits for trailers

To drive on a public road while pulling a trailer weighing more than 750kg when fully loaded, you must hold at least a learner driving permit for the appropriate category of vehicle and trailer. You can read more about learner permits for trailers on the RSA website.

The following table shows the categories of vehicles and trailers, with the driver’s minimum age:

Category Vehicle type Minimum age of driver
BE Vehicles in category B with a trailer of 3,500kg maximum weight 17 years
C1E

Goods vehicles in category C1 where the combined weight of vehicle and trailer when fully loaded is not more than 12,000kg

Vehicles in category B with a trailer of over 3,500kg and where the combined weight of vehicle and trailer when fully loaded is not more than 12,000kg

18 years
CE Goods vehicles in category C with a trailer (includes articulated trucks) 21 years (18 years with a Driver Certificate of Professional Competence)
D1E Passenger vehicles in category D1 with a trailer 21 years
DE Passenger vehicles in category D with a trailer 24 years (21 years with a Driver Certificate of Professional Competence)

You must hold a full driving licence for the category of vehicle with which you wish to tow a trailer before you can apply for a trailer learner permit.

The RSA have published a suite of videos on trailer licencing and safety, including a video of a trailer test. You can read more about how to book and prepare for a driving test.

You can also access a comprehensive handbook (pdf) on driver licensing rules for drawing light trailers and a detailed information sheet (pdf) on load security.

Rules

While driving with a learner permit, you must:

  • Always be accompanied by someone with a current driving licence for the same category of drawing vehicle plus trailer (and they must have had their driving licence for at least 2 years).
  • Always display L plates to the front and rear of the vehicle you are driving. The plate should show a red L on a white background and should be at least 15cm high with a border of at least 2cm.

While driving with a learner permit, you must not:

  • Drive on a motorway
  • Act as an accompanying driver for that category
  • Carry other people for reward or payment

The drink driving limit for drivers with trailers with learner permits or full driving licences is 20mg per 100ml of blood. Further information on drink driving limits is available from the RSA.

Finally, remember that the maximum speed limit for a vehicle towing a trailer is 80km/h, and this also applies on roads where the posted road sign speed limit is higher. As always drivers are subject to the lowest posted speed sign so it will not always be possible to travel at 80km/h

The rules of the road are available at rulesoftheroad.ie.

Further information

You have to apply for your first learner driver permit in person to one of the NDLS centres - see 'How do I apply for a learner permit?' above. You can book an appointment online.

You may be able to renew your driving licence online if you are eligible and have a PSC and MyGovID verified account. Alternatively you can apply in person.

National Driver Licence Service

Road Safety Authority

Po Box 858
Southside Delivery Office
Cork
Ireland

Tel: 0761 08 7880

Road Safety Authority (RSA)

Moy Business Park
Primrose Hill
Ballina
Co Mayo
Ireland

Opening Hours: - Lines open Monday - Friday 8.30am - 5pm
Tel: 096 25800
Locall: 1890 406 040 (Note: rates charged for using lo-call numbers may vary
Fax: 096 25252
Page edited: 29 June 2020