What is the difference between HGV and LGV licences?

If you’re considering training to become a lorry driver or are job hunting, then you’ll come across two types of licence in your online search – HGV and LGV. But what do these terms mean, and what – if any – are the differences between them?

The straightforward answer is that within the UK and Europe, there’s actually no difference between these two licences. LGV stands for Large Goods Vehicle and HGV stands for Heavy Goods Vehicle. Both licences allow you to drive a vehicle that weighs over 3500kg, with different categories governing the specific size and type of lorry you can drive. But how did this happen? It’s confusing, but there is a reason that the same terms are used. Read on to find out more…

Related Article: Top Tips for Passing Your HGV Driver Training Practical Test

How the licences have converged

While these two licences stand for the same type of vehicle now, this hasn’t always been the case. Until 1992, in the UK they were used to describe two very different types of vehicles. The term LGV was originally used to describe Light Goods Vehicles. These were vehicles with a gross weight below 3,500 kg, such as vans and pick-up trucks. The term HGV was used to describe trucks with a gross weight of over 3,500 kg. The reason for the different licence names was all to do with tax. In the UK, vehicles are taxed according to a number of parameters, including: weight, fuel type, engine size, construction, emissions and purpose. The term HGV was created to categorise vehicles that would be charged a higher rate of tax.

However, this was not the terminology used in Europe. European member states used the term LGV to describe vehicles weighing over 3,500 kg. In order to become aligned with European licensing requirements, in 1992, the term LGV changed it’s meaning, to refer to Large Goods Vehicles. This meant that LGV and HGV actually became one and the same type of vehicle, and licence. This is why you’ll see both used in the haulage trade and on recruitment sites today.

Changes to the licensing categories

The changes to the licensing system didn’t end there. It was vital for EU member states to work as a whole, to ease communication, recruitment, and transport across the member states. Therefore, along with the term LGV, the old numbered classes of licences in the UK would also need to change to a lettered licence system. Previously, HGV driving licences were divided into two types of licences: Class 1 and Class 2. The licence categories were re-classified as follows:

HGV Class 1 to Category C+E

You’ll now see the HGV Class 1 licence referred to as a Category C+E licence. This licence allows you to drive a vehicle that weighs over 3,500 kg, with a detachable trailer that weighs over 750 kg. The maximum weight that Category C+E drivers can haul is 44 tonnes. These are the ‘kings of the road’ and include two types of vehicle:

  • Fully articulated – known as artics, this tractor and trailer combination is hugely popular among hauliers, making the Cat C+E licence a hugely popular option for aspiring lorry drivers.
  • Drawbar – a rigid truck with a trailer, this is also known as ‘wagon and drag’.

HGV Class 2 to Category C

The HGV Class 2 licence has now become the Category C licence. With this licence, you can drive vehicles weighing over 3,500 kg, with a trailer weighing up to 750 kg MAM (maximum authorised mass). Category C vehicles are rigid trucks, and within this category vehicles can weigh up to 32 tonnes.

HGV Class 3 to Category C1

The reclassification even impacted the medium-sized vehicle licence known as HGV Class 3. The closest replacement to the HGV Class 3 licence is the Category C1 licence. This allows holders to drive vehicles that weigh 3,500-7,500 kg with a trailer of up to 750 kg. Examples of this type of vehicle are horseboxes and ambulances, as well as smaller delivery vans. Drivers wanting to increase the weight of vehicle they can drive, and hence increase their job options, can increase their licence to the C1+E entitlement. This allows C1 drivers to operate a vehicle with a trailer of over 750 kg, up to a combined MAM of 12,000 kg.

So you can see why there’s so much confusion within the haulage industry. You’ll see HGV Class 1 alongside Category C+E, and HGV Class 2 alongside Category C when looking for training options and searching for a new job. You won’t tend to see HGV Class 3 any more. But just in case you do, you now know the vehicle type and licence it refers to. Most importantly, you’ll know that C1 doesn’t refer to Class 1!

How to obtain your licence

In order to qualify as a professional lorry driver, you’ll need to take the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (Driver CPC). This was again brought in by a European directive, to standardise driving standards across EU member states. Only drivers with existing Grandfather rights were exempt from the new test requirements, which were introduced in 2009. However, all drivers must undertake periodic training of 35 hours every 5 years.

For further information on training requirements for each specific licence, consult our licensing pages. We have a wealth of information on our website to help you navigate your way to the best HGV training courses, and ultimately guide you to the best driving job for you. If you’re keen to fast-track your training to the Category C+E licence, we’d recommend doing the combined Category C and C+E licences. On this training course, you’ll take both licences back-to-back. This will not only save you money, but it will also allow you to qualify in the shortest time possible. Recruiters will definitely look to recruit the best qualified drivers, and even if you start on a Category C vehicle, employers will know that you’re versatile and can rapidly move on to the largest vehicles in their fleet.

We hope this article has helped you understand the various terminologies you’ll see when looking for a job, or if you’re thinking of training to become an HGV driver. It’s not actually all that complicated. The range of terms is simply a result of streamlining the licensing language across Europe. Given the economic and transport links that will continue post-Brexit, we don’t see this nomenclature changing in the years to come. Good luck with your career move – whether you’re new to lorry driving or are looking to expand your HGV training. For the best local providers, we have a handy contact form that you can use to find three tried-and-tested training providers in your area.