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A Detailed Guide to Driver Licence Categories & Training Requirements

When working in the transport sector, making sure that HGV drivers are properly licensed is not only a legal requirement but also a key part of keeping the UK’s roads safe. As such, it’s important for transport managers involved in the recruitment and training of drivers to understand the various licensing categories that exist.

Each of the licensing groups refers to specific vehicle types, and they encompass the training that’s needed to make sure that people that drive the vehicles contained within them, have the necessary skills and knowledge to do so safely.

Whether talking about driving small vans, large goods vehicles (LGVs) or passenger carrying vehicles (PCVs), licensing regulations exist to maintain safety and standards. In this article, we examine the various categories, as well as the training requirements for each one.

Category C1 Licence (Class 3)

This category is for drivers of vehicles weighing in at between 3.5-7.5 tonnes, with or without a trailer of no more than 750kg. It’s a licence that allows you to drive vans or smaller lorries on a commercial basis.
What training is required? Well, candidates looking to obtain their Cat C1 licence need to pass the following:

  • A Driver Medical
  • Their theory Test

Practical Training that lasts up to 4 days and is designed to teach safe driving techniques and vehicle handling competency.

A Driver CPC (Certificate of Professional Competence) test, which comprises a theory and a practical test. You must be complete your CPC to attain your C1 licence and carry out refresher training every 5 years. In fact, it’s something that applies to every licence in this guide.

See information shown at the bottom of this article for a more detailed understanding of what Driver PC entails.

Category C Licence (Class 2)

If you want to drive vehicles over 3.5 tonnes, but not those that exceed 32 tonnes, you’ll need a Category C licence or Class 2 as it’s otherwise known. When you get to this level in your HGV career, you’ll broaden your professional horizons and be able to drive a wider range of larger vehicles.

What training is required? Candidates wanting to get their Cat C licence will again need to get through a driver medical, CPC training, their theory test and 4 days of practical training (covering vehicle safety, driving practices and manoeuvres).

Category C+E Licence

Anyone wanting to drive vehicles over 3.5 tonnes in weight, with a trailer of more than 750kg, needs a Cat C+E licence. As an extension of the Cat C licence, it allows you to tow larger trailers.

What training is required for a Cat C+E licence? That depends on when the driver in question takes the training. Here’s what we mean…

  • For Back-to-Back Training: When candidates are doing back-to-back training, i.e. doing their C+E directly after their Cat C licence training, they need a medical exam, and theory test, which is followed by a 7-day practical training course.
  • For Existing Category C Licence Holders: Should the driver already hold a Cat C licence, they can proceed to a 4-day practical training course and complete their Driver CPC renewal (if needed).
  • Driver CPC: As before, candidates must complete their Driver CPC to drive the vehicle commercially.

Cat D Licence (Bus/Coach Licence)

For those intending to drive coaches or buses professionally, a Cat D licence is required – something that covers you for vehicles with more than eight passenger seats (in addition to the driver’s seat).

What training is required? The path to a Cat D licence is very similar to those already described, but with a few minor differences. Again, a driver medical and theory test are needed, but practical training is tailored to the world of bus and coach drivers.

As such, practical training is geared towards not just safe driving techniques and vehicle handling but also passenger safety. A CPC test also needs to be completed to demonstrate the required competency and knowledge.

Category D1 Licence (Minibus Licence)

Staying in the sphere of passenger vehicles, we have the Cat D1 licence, which is necessary for a professional driving minibuses with no more than 16 passenger seats (not including the drivers’ seat).

This licence covers you for minibuses with a max length of 8 metres, and trailers of up to 750kg.
The requirements are exactly the same as for the Cat D licence in that practical training includes passenger safety, as well as a medical, theory, and CPC elements.

ADR Licence

When transporting dangerous goods (e.g. flammable liquids, corrosives, and gases), an ADR (Accord Dangereux Routier) licence is needed. It ensures that the driver has the skills and knowledge to handle these hazardous materials safely.

The training for an ADR licence usually lasts between 3-5 days, depending on the type of vehicle concerned and the materials being transported. It covers both the regulations and responsibilities involved in moving dangerous goods from one location to another, including theory and practical elements.

HIAB Licence

A licence with a difference this time, as it relates to part of the driver’s job that doesn’t occur while the vehicle is in motion. A HIAB is a lorry-mounted loader crane, and a HIAB licence ensures that the operator is trained to handle and transport goods with one installed on their truck.

A HIAB licence is required for operators of lorry-mounted cranes. It ensures that operators are trained to handle and transport goods safely using the mounted crane.

Training for this specialised licence typically lasts 1-2 days, teaching the safe operation of lorry-mounted cranes and including theory and practical elements. Safe and competent loading, unloading and transporting goods are all covered.

Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC)

Throughout this article, we’ve mentioned the need for all HGV drivers to complete CPC (Certificate of Professional Competence) training. However, we’ve yet to talk about what it entails – something we put right now.

Whether you’re an HGV or PCV (Passenger Carrying Vehicle) driver, you need to take both initial and ongoing Driver CPC training. Passing it certifies an individual as possessing professional competence and being able to adhere to safety standards.

If you’re a new driver, initial CPC driver training involves a case study as part of the theory test, which is followed by a “Show Me Tell Me” test. However, when talking about periodic CPC – which must be taken every 5 years for the certificate to remain valid – it requires 35 hours of study (either in the classroom or online) that’s spread over 5 days.

Understanding Licence Categories Places You Better

When you have a clear understanding of the various licence categories and the training that’s involved as a transport manager, you’re better equipped to ensure that your teams stay compliant and safe. The next step after gaining this knowledge would be to look at record-keeping and monitoring of driver licences, a topic we will explore in the next article.

About the author

Jonathan Gilder

Jonathan Gilder

Head of Training and Transport
Jonathan is a distinguished NRI HGV Instructor accredited by RTITB, with certifications in IOSH Managing Safely, RTITB Lift Truck Instruction, and ROSPA Assured PAT Testing. His expertise extends to EdI Level 3 NVQ Assessing, Btec Level 2 in Transportation of Goods by Road, and he is a skilled Trainer in Driver CPC and Incident Investigation from GH Safety.

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