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Complete guide to UK driving licence categories

The Government is making changes to create 50,000 more HGV driving tests to help recruit more lorry drivers.

When most people think about driving licences, their main focus is on passing their driving test. After all, that’s the one thing separating you from getting behind the wheel.

But just because you have passed, doesn’t mean you actually understand the information contained on your driving licence. The different codes and categories featured on a driving licence can be confusing. Working out what they mean can feel almost bewildering.

This guide will take the mystery out of the DVLA photocard licence. In it we will explain what the different codes mean, which categories relate to driving an HGV, and how to apply for different categories of driving licence. We’ll also try to answer that ever-present question: What is category A on driving licence?

Driving licence categories: What do they mean?

Whether you’re a newly-qualified driver or have years of driving experience under your belt, it’s important to know what your licence entitles you to drive.

Standard vehicle categories

Once you have passed a standard driving test, you are automatically entitled to drive certain vehicles. Each of these vehicles relates to a code:

CategoryVehicle typeDetails
BCarMax 8 passenger seats
B autoAutomatic car 
B + ECategory B + trailerMax weight 3,500kg
B1Light vehicleMax weight 550kg (with goods)
FTractor 
KPedestrian vehicleSelf-propelled, eg mowing machine
Q2-wheeled vehicleMax speed 15.5mph, max engine size 50cc

 

Non-standard vehicle categories

You’ll notice that standard vehicle categories skip straight to B. Which might leave you wondering what about category A on my driving licence?
The answer is that category A on a driving licence relates to motorbikes with a power output of more than 35kW (so significantly faster than the 50cc two-wheeled motors in category Q).

In order to drive a motorbike or other ‘non-standard’ vehicles, you will need to take an additional driving test. Here are all the codes relating to non-standard vehicles:

CategoryVehicle typeDetails
AMotorbike 
AM2- or 3-wheeled motorMax speed 15.5-28mph
CLarge lorry3,500kg+, max trailer 750kg
C + ECategory C + trailer 
C1Lorry3,500-7,500kg, max trailer 750kg
C1 + ECategory C1 + trailerMax combined weight 12,000kg
DBus8+ passengers, max trailer weight 750kg 
D + ECategory D + trailer 
D1MinibusMax 16 passenger seats, max length 8m, max trailer 750kg
D1 + ECategory D1 + trailerMax combined weight 12,000kg
GRoad roller 
HTracked vehicleFor Eg former military vehicles
LElectrically propelled vehicle 
NVehicle exempt from duty 
PMopedUp to 50cc, max speed 50km/h

 

Different jobs require different driving licence categories

In terms of which categories match which jobs, you can start by looking at the groupings of categories. For example, the category B licence group includes delivery drivers carrying small packages – such as Amazon delivery drivers. The next level up – the category C licence group – is designed for anyone wishing to become an HGV driver, travelling longer distances, carrying huge loads, and perhaps moving goods into Europe.

Category D licences are suited for people driving large passenger vehicles, such as bus drivers, minibus drivers, or any other jobs transporting people by road. Other categories entitle you to drive agricultural vehicles (F) or those used in road maintenance (G and N).
HGV driving licence categories

We’ve identified what is category A is on driving licence, but what about the multitude of categories that allow you to get behind the wheel of an LGV and HGV? This opens a whole new can of worms and might leave you wondering: What’s the difference between HGV and LGV Class 1 and 2?

The answer is simple. An HGV Class 1 licence lets you drive a category C+E vehicle (eg an artic lorry) and an HGV Class 2 licence lets you drive a category C vehicle (eg a rigid lorry).

Here are the HGV driver licence categories in more detail:

Category C1

This is your basic level of HGV driver training. The C1 licence is one level up from a standard UK driving licence allowing you to drive vehicles weighing 3.5 tons to 7.5 tons.

C1+E

With this licence, you can drive a 7.5-ton vehicle with an attached trailer. Drivers often get their Category C1 licence first and then take their C1+E test.

Category C

Once you have got your category C licence, you can drive any vehicle weighing between 3.5 and 32 tons.

C+E

This is the most comprehensive HGV driving licence you can get. It allows you to drive and handle all drawbar trailer and artic lorry combinations, as well as double trailer vehicles.
So there you have it. Wondering what category A on your driving licence means doesn’t really matter after all. To work as an HGV driver, your main focus needs to be on category C.

How to add categories to a driving licence

Once you have passed a standard category B driving test, you can add higher categories to your licence. This process of gaining provisional entitlement to drive larger or higher category vehicles is known as staging.

Once you have passed your test for a larger vehicle, any corresponding lower categories will be upgraded from provisional to full entitlement.
To apply for your provisional HGV drivers licence you need to complete two forms – D2 and D4 – and return both to the DVLA.

Applying for a full HGV drivers licence requires you to complete a theory test, a case studies test, a driving ability test and a practical demonstration.

For more useful information about training and working as an HGV driver, check out our guide on how to become an HGV driver and our list of handy HGV driver interview tips.

We also have a number of other useful guides including how to calculate fuel cost consumption for a truck and how to check if your HGV is taxed.

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