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Professional drivers

ESDS drivers’ frequently asked questions

Answers to your questions about the Emergency Services Driving Standard (ESDS). 

ESDS stands for Emergency Services Driving Standard - A driving standard for Emergency Services Drivers.

Creating a culture of safe and responsible driving is essential for reducing deaths and casualties on Irish roads. Emergency services drivers should understand that their presence on the roads has an impact on other road users so they need to act responsibly at all times. The Emergency Services Driving Standard aims to develop and sustain a spirit of cooperation, caution and courtesy in emergency service drivers. Emergency service drivers should aim to achieve an excellent standard of driving that acts as an example to other road users. This was also identified as a key action point for delivery  under the Government Road Safety Strategy 2013-2020.The main aim of this driving standard is to benefit emergency services drivers and other road users by:

  • reducing the particular risks associated with the driving of emergency service vehicles
  • making sure that patients and passengers are safe and comfortable
  • cultivating the attitude that responding to an emergency should never involve actions which could lead to the death or injury of any person.

ESDS came into effect in February 2015. 

There are many societal, personal and safety benefits. ESDS improves your: 

  • awareness of the need to share the road safely while showing due care to yourself and other road users 
  • attitude to risk on the roads 
  • willingness to accept responsibility for your driving actions 
  • ability to take precautions while driving 
  • ability to choose ways of driving that reduce the risk of collisions or incidents 
  • awareness of the need for responsible behaviour as an emergency services driver 
  • knowledge of legal requirements and regulations for emergency services vehicles and how they impact on your individual organisation 
  • awareness of driving regulations and the reasoning behind them.

The RSA is responsible for the certification of ESDS drivers,  ESDS trainers and ESDS assessors in order to ensure that they meet the required standard.

To become an ESDS driver: 

  • you must be nominated for ESDS training and assessment by the emergency services organisation you work or volunteer for 
  • your emergency services organisation may arrange in-house ESDS training for you, if available 
  • your organisation will apply to the ESDS unit in the RSA for an ESDS theory test and assessment 
  • You must pass the theory test and assessment to receive certification as an ESDS driver in the appropriate level and vehicle category. 

The working group representing the RSA and main emergency services organisations proposed a modular approach with different levels to suit the needs of individual organisations.  

The Emergency Services Driving Standards are incrementally at a high level, and focus on the following areas of driver competence:

  • Knowledge – driving laws, rules and vehicle operation
  • Control of the vehicle
  • Control in traffic situations
  • Recognising, managing and avoiding risks
  • Driving professionally
  • Emergency Response Driving (Level 3 only).

Yes. The Emergency Services Driving Standard is a very high-level standard that focuses on particular areas of your driving competence. 

  • ESDS level 1 is the entry level of training, learning and assessment that aims to make you a competent and responsible emergency services driver. 
  • ESDS level 2 includes the skill-sets of roadcraft. This is a systematic approach to driving in complex situations.   
  • ESDS level 3 this level refers only to services who by law can drive using blue lights and sirens in emergency response situations, when this does not endanger the safety of other road users. 
No. The Emergency Services Driving Standard is the RSA-recognised standard developed for emergency services drivers in Ireland. 
No. Each organisation must apply on behalf of individual drivers for both theory and practical assessments. 

ESDS assessments are offered to drivers who are put forward by an emergency service provider that they work or volunteer for.

The organisation must have a current signed Memorandum of Understanding, signed with the RSA.

Having previous emergency driving experience will help. However, to attain ESDS certification, you must: 

  • be nominated for certification by your emergency services organisation 
  • successfully complete practical and theory assessments for level 1, 2, or 3 in the relevant category of vehicle 

No but if you avail of the training, you will be more likely to obtain ESDS certification. 

Syllabus publications outline how ESDS trainers may deliver effective and appropriate training at each level. It is underpinned by the ESDS Guidance Manual and ESDS Competence Framework documents published by the RSA. 

ESDS applies to the following vehicle categories in all emergency services organisations: 


Vehicle Category 

Car and Light Van - BCar and Light Van with Trailer - BE
Truck - CMinibus - D1
Bus - DD1

Small Truck_Large Van with Trailer - C1E

Bus with Trailer - DEMinibus with Trailer - D1E
Work Vehicles and Tractors - W 




Yes. As ESDS is a driving standard, you must hold a full driving licence in the relevant vehicle category. 

The RSA’s ESDS syllabus publications detail the steps you will need to take at each level of your training. We recommend you familiarise yourself with the relevant publications to become an ESDS driver.  


Your assessment consists of theoretical and practical training carried out by registered ESDS trainers. Your practical driving assessment will be carried out by a registered ESDS assessor.  

Your assessment aims to ensure that the knowledge, skills and understanding at the level in question has been achieved. Throughout the ESDS driver training process, you will be encouraged to reflect on and assess all aspects of your own driving. This will make you more aware of how you drive, and involves: 

  • assessing your driving performance 
  • examining how you act (or fail to act) in certain driving situations 
  • determining what you need to do to become a safe and responsible emergency services driver


Yes. If you successfully pass the theory and practical assessment tests, you are certified as an ESDS driver for the relevant ESDS level and vehicle category by the RSA. Your organisation will record your certification with the RSA. 
No. There is no recognition of your prior qualifications in emergency services driving from another jurisdiction. You will need to sit the relevant ESDS theory test and practical assessment in Ireland to be certified as an emergency services driver in this country.
ESDS is applicable only to emergency services organisations that have signed the memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Road Safety Authority.  You must be nominated by your emergency services organisation in order to be trained, assessed and certified as an ESDS driver. You will be assessed via a theory test and practical driving assessment. 
The ESDS Theory Test Information Booklet will show you what to expect when you are studying to sit an ESDS theory test and includes answers to sample questions.

An ESDS assessor will carry out practical driving assessments of emergency services drivers, based on the application of the uniform standard as laid down in the ESDS Standard Operating Procedures and Marking Guidelines Booklet

Assessments will be conducted by ESDS assessors for all levels and categories. 

The RSA will train ESDS Assessors and also manage a register of ESDS Assessors.