Understanding driving licence categories and how to add the right ones to your licence

If you want to expand your driving capability, either as a career change or development within your current career, you have to understand categories. To some extent, you should have carefully considered which classification of vehicle you want to drive. However, at the same time it’s worth keeping some flexibility. The great thing is that within driving licence categories, there is automatically a good deal of flexibility. This is because some categories automatically include others. So how do you decide which category is for you?

Driver Career

You may want to consider your future career change or development before you decide which licence categories to add to your licence. Is driving an HGV or LGV going to be part of a new role, or will it be your full time work? Are you planning to drive in the long term, or do you want this skill to cover gaps in an alternative career? Having a plan can help you to decide which category is for you. We’d recommend that learners consider the largest scope that they feel comfortable with. This way, you will have the most flexibility in the future and be able to have more choice of driving role.

What do driving licence categories mean?

Firstly, what do they all stand for? Category B is the standard UK driving licence. This is the licence that you need to have before you can begin your HGV training course. It’s the only prior qualification that you will need to start. Since 2021, the standard category B licence also automatically entitles you to drive a trailer up to 3,500kg, without needing to take an additional test. This is the BE category. For larger sized vehicles, the licence categories are:

  • C1 – Entitled to drive a rigid bodied vehicle between 3,500kg – 7,500kg MAM (maximum authorised capacity). This includes a trailer up to 750kg.
  • C – Entitled to drive any rigid body vehicle over 3,500 kg plus a trailer up to 750kg.
  • D1 – Entitled to drive a minibus carrying up to 16 passengers and a maximum length of 8 metres.
  • D – Entitled to drive any bus with more than 8 passenger seats.
  • C1E – This category extends the trailing allowance of C1 to loads over 750kg. However, the combined MAM must not exceed 12000kg
  • CE – This extends the towing capacity of the licence entitlement beyond 750kg. 
  • D1E – This adds a towing capacity beyond 750kg to a minibus licence. THe combined MAM must not exceed 12000kg.
  • DE – This allows any bus carrying a trailer of over 750kg.

Provisional Licence

To begin your HGV training you’ll need to already have a standard UK driving licence. The next step is to apply for a provisional licence in your chosen HGV or LGV category. If you’re not quite sure about what course you want to aim for, it can be worth discussing with those who know the process and the industry. An experienced HGV training school will have this expertise and will happily discuss the options even at the very start of the process. A school can even help you to manage the process, with some courses including support with the medical and licence application forms.


There are two forms that must be completed and returned to the DVLA. These are forms D2 and D4. Form D2 is for the licence application and you must select the provisional category that you want to add to your driving licence. D4 is a medical form and should be completed by a doctor and possibly an optician if required. Alternatively, this whole process can be managed through an HGV training institution as part of the course service.  

Licence category

When you apply for a provisional C1 licence, this is exactly what is covered. However, when you apply for a provisional C licence, you’ll automatically be entitled to learn to drive C1, C1+E, C, C+E vehicles. If you’re undecided at the point of applying for a provisional licence, then it can make sense to apply for C category rather than limit yourself to C1 at this early stage. 

Provisional Entitlements

The provisional licence entitlements that you can apply for are C, C1, C1+E, D and D1. It’s worthwhile here to have a think about the scale of driving that you want to undertake in the future. For example, if you are looking to quickly progress your HGV driving career it’s worthwhile applying for the full CE provisional licence from the outset. This will cover you for the widest range of vehicles on the road.

Driver CPC

Once you have your provisional licence and have completed your HGV driving course, you’ll be ready to take your driver CPC. This is the process of HGV testing that new drivers must complete, and it is split into 5 parts. Don’t forget that you’ll need to complete 35 hours of periodic training every 5 years to maintain your CPC.

Theory and case studies

You can book your theory and case study tests as soon as you receive your provisional licence. It can be helpful to get this done ASAP, as you can begin your theoretical learning as soon as you decide that you want to learn to drive an HGV. The theory test consists of two sections; multiple choice and hazard perception. The case study test is multiple choice based on 7 different case studies. Once you’ve passed these, you have 2 years to complete the practical tests.

Practical tests

There are three sections within the practical CPC tests. These are off road exercises, on road driving and a practical demonstration. Once you’ve had plenty of practical learning experience, you should feel comfortable and confident at the wheel. Discover more tips to pass your HGV practical tests here.

Your future driving career is full of potential. Understanding the various categories of driving is not just important in the learning process. It’s important in planning the development of your ongoing career. We believe that HGV driving is a fulfilling and rewarding career, which offers many learning opportunities. While much of this is done through testing, you’ll continue to learn through the experiences that you have on the road. Even if you change your mind after qualifying in one category, you can take courses to extend your driving categories further again. Contact us for the best advice and learning opportunities near you!