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Understanding PCV Licences: A Transport Manager’s Guide

As a transport manager with responsibility for passenger vehicles, it’s important to ensure that your drivers have the appropriate licences. This not only ensures that every driver has the right PCV training for the work they do from a legal standpoint but also serves to keep UK highways as safe as possible for all motorists.

In this guide, we offer a comprehensive run-down of the PCV licences that exist and the vehicles that they cover. So, whether you’re managing buses, coaches, minibuses or community transport vehicles, you’ll have the information you need to ensure that your fleet remains both compliant and safe.

PCV Driver CPC

An element that’s required in all PCV training is the initial Driver CPC (DCPC). In order to successfully pass DCPC, four modules must be completed.

  • Module 1: The PCV Theory Test – Candidates also need to pass their Theory test, which is divided into two parts: the multiple-choice question section and the Hazard perception test. This test covers topics relating to vehicle maintenance, passenger care and road safety.
    This PCV theory test differs from the HGV theory test as it relates to the specific requirements, responsibilities and challenges faced by passenger vehicle drivers.
  • Module 2: Case Studies – This involves studying various scenarios drivers might face and answering questions based on them. Designed to evaluate a driver’s ability to apply their knowledge in real-world situations, this computer-based test presents candidates with seven case studies based on realistic scenarios that drivers may face on the road.
    Each case study is then followed by 6-8 multiple-choice questions, testing the driver’s understanding of road safety, legal obligations, and operational best practices. The aim is to ensure drivers can make informed decisions in various driving and operational circumstances, enhancing their professional competence and safety awareness.
  • Module 3: The Practical Test – Taking around 90 minutes, the PCV practical driving test includes an eyesight check, ‘show me tell me’ vehicle safety questions, a driving ability assessment and an off-road element that involves reversing within a marked area. A thorough understanding of the Highway Code and passenger safety considerations must also be demonstrated.
  • Module 4: Practical Demonstration – This test focuses on the driver’s ability to ensure vehicle safety and security through a series of practical demonstrations. This test requires the driver to demonstrate their knowledge and ability in vehicle safety and security. Candidates must show they can secure the vehicle and its contents and ensure the safety of passengers boarding, onboard, and alighting.
    While HGV CPC and PCV CPC contain similar components, the latter is tailored to the specific needs of passenger transport professionals. CPC qualification also needs to be renewed every five years via 35 hours of training.

The Driver’s Medical Exam

Another essential part of any PCV training is the driver’s medical exam, and it applies to every licence category type. As such, the following elements will be checked.

  • Vision: Testing for visual acuity, peripheral vision, and eye health
  • Heart Health: Assessing for any heart conditions or issues
  • Neurological Health: Checking for neurological conditions that could affect driving ability
  • Diabetes: Screening for diabetes, particularly if insulin-dependent
  • Psychiatric Health: Evaluating mental health and any psychiatric conditions
  • Medications: Reviewing medications that might impair driving ability
  • Alcohol and Drug Use: Assessing for substance abuse issues.
  • Blood Pressure: Measuring blood pressure levels, looking for hypertension.
  • Musculoskeletal System: Checking for conditions affecting movement or control
  • Overall Physical Health: General assessment of fitness to drive a PCV

After successfully completing the driver’s medical, candidates need to apply for a provisional D1 licence, which means filling out DVLA forms D2 and D4. The latter is completed by the doctor carrying out the medical.

PCV Driving Licence Categories

Next, we look at the PCV licences that exist, what they allow the holder to drive, and the differences that

The Category D1 Licence

First, we have the D1 PCV licence, which is a category that’s for anyone in the United Kingdom who wishes to drive a minibus either voluntarily or on a professional basis. As such, the D1 licence allows the holder to drive passenger vehicles that carry between 9 and 16 passengers.

The relevant PCV training for the D1 licence equips you to drive minibuses for a variety of purposes, such as school transport, community transport and small-scale passenger services. Holders of this licence are also able to tow a small trailer up to 750kg.

The Category D1+E Licence

A Category D1+E PCV licence covers all the same vehicles as the D1 licence but also allows trailers over 750kg to be towed. That said, the combined MAM (Maximum Authorised Mass) of the vehicle and trailer should not exceed 12,000kg.

As such, the same elements are included as per the D1 licence, but the practical test will differ to ensure that sufficient PCV training has been provided in respect of assessing the following:

  • The driver’s ability to safely couple and uncouple a trailer from a minibus
  • Specific manoeuvres (reversing) and safety checks relating to the combination of a trailer and vehicle and adjust driving techniques in accordance with the additional weight and length
  • The candidate’s understanding of the safety and legal implications of trailer towing

The Category D Licence

Next, the Category D PCV licence allows you to drive any bus that has more than eight passenger seats, which means you can drive single-decker buses, double-decker buses, coaches and articulated buses, as well as a trailer up to 750kg.

After taking the relevant PCV training and obtaining a Category D licence, you can work on local bus services, private hire or as a long-distance coach driver. The theory test scenarios and Driver CPC case studies for this licence type will likely be based on those that involve larger PCVs and the situations they encounter.

The Category D+E Licence

PCV training and testing for a Category D+E license is essentially the same. However, it allows holders to drive buses and coaches with a trailer exceeding 750kg MAM. As is the case with the D1+E licence for minibuses, the D+E is the equivalent for larger coaches and buses, with the practical testing designed to assess the following:

  • The driver’s ability to safely couple and uncouple a trailer from a coach or bus
  • Specific manoeuvres and safety checks relating to the combination of a trailer and vehicle and adjust driving techniques in accordance with the additional weight and length
  • The candidate’s understanding of the safety and legal implications of trailer towing

Transport Managers Need to Fully Understand PCV Training Licence Categories

If you’re a transport manager who oversees either a small or large fleet of passenger-carrying vehicles, knowing the different types of PCV licenses that exist and what they cover is essential. In terms of following the many rules and regulations that exist in the UK that cover PCVs, it’s vital to ensure your drivers have the necessary PCV training and qualifications.

Being in possession of this kind of knowledge ensures that you’re able to effectively monitor and manage the licencing requirements of your drivers. A thorough grasp of the details of PCV licence categories also makes sure that you can match drivers to vehicles to suit the PCV training and qualifications they have.

It can also play an important role in the development of your drivers, as it allows you to quickly spot gaps in driver knowledge and skills while ensuring they’re fully aware of all the legal and regulatory aspects of their work.

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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