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07 Aug 2019
Jamie Gibbs Alice Campion

How to get your HGV licence

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If you’re thinking of driving a heavy goods vehicle for your career, you’ll need to get a new licence.

HGV licence

Heavy goods vehicles include lorries, buses and coaches. If driving one of these is a significant part of your job, you’ll need to take a four-part test known as the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC).

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What do I need to apply for the CPC?

Before you apply for the CPC, you need to get your provisional HGV licence. To apply for one of these you’ll need a full car licence and be over 18.

The category you apply for depends on what vehicle you want to drive. Once you know this, you’ll need to download and fill out the D2 and D4 order forms from the DVLA.

The D2 is the application form for the licence. The D4 is filled out by your GP, or a private firm that specialises in drivers’ medical exams. An optician might need to fill in the section about your eyesight.

You then send these to the DVLA free of charge. All being well, you should get your licence within three weeks of your application.

Read more: Driving licence categories and codes

What does the CPC test involve?

Once you have your provisional licence you can apply for the CPC test.

The test consists of four parts: a theory test, case studies, a driving ability assessment and the practical demonstration. You’ll need to pass all of these to get the full CPC.

This is unless you have ‘acquired rights’ which basically means your existing driving experience is enough to pass the CPC.

HGV licence

Do I need the full Driver CPC?

If the main part of your job is driving an HGV then you’ll need the full driver CPC.

If you’re not driving for a living, for example if you drive for a hobby, carry passengers or goods non-commercially then you don’t need the full driver CPC. You’ll need to pass the theory and driving ability sections of the test though.

The full list of driver CPC exemptions can be found on the government website.

What documents do I need to bring to the CPC tests?

You’ll have to bring some form of ID to each of these tests, this could be:

  • A Great Britain photocard driving licence

  • A Northern Ireland photocard licence and paper counterpart

  • An EU photocard driving licence (and paper counterpart, if you have one)

If you don’t have these, you can bring your paper licence and a passport.

Driver CPC part 1: The theory test

This consists of two parts, a multiple choice and hazard perception test.

The tests are booked separately, but you can complete them on the same day. Each test should be completed within two years of each other though.

Multiple choice

The multiple-choice exam lasts for one hour and 55 minutes and consists of 100 multiple choice questions. To pass you must score 85 marks out of 100.

Hazard perception

The hazard perception test has 19 videos, each have 20 developing hazards to spot. To pass this you need to score 67 out of 100.

When you’ve passed both parts you’ll receive a certificate. You’ll need this when you book your Driver CPC part 3 driving test.

The certificate is valid for two years from when you passed the first part of your test.

Driver CPC part 2: Case studies

If you’re not using your HGV for your living you won’t need to take this part of the test.

This assessment is made up of seven case studies based on situations you’re likely to come across while driving a large vehicle.

You’ll be asked six to eight multiple-choice questions on each case study. It lasts for an hour and 15 minutes and the pass mark is 40 out of 50.

Once passed you’ll receive a letter which is valid for two years. There’ll be a reference number on this which you’ll need to apply for part 4 of the CPC.

Read more: How to convert a van into a camper van

HGV licence

Driver CPC part 3 test: Driving ability

You’ll have to take this test whether you’re driving recreationally or for a living.

As well as the relevant documentation, you must bring a lorry, bus or coach that conforms to the standards set out by the DVLA.

The practical test lasts an hour and 30 minutes, it includes:

  • Vehicle safety questions

  • Practical road driving

  • Off-road exercises

Vehicle safety questions

Like a standard driving test, you’ll be asked ‘show me, tell me’ questions. Some examples are:

  • Show me how you would check that all the doors including cargo doors are secure

  • Tell me how you would check the condition of the suspension on this vehicle

The full list of questions can be found on the government website.

Practical road driving

In the practical road driving test, the examiner will assess how you:

  • Use the vehicle controls

  • Move away at an angle (uphill and downhill)

  • Execute a controlled stop

  • Use your mirrors

  • Use appropriate signalling

  • Are aware and anticipate the intentions of other road users

  • Manage your progress and control your speed

  • Deal with hazards

  • Stop in a safe place

You’ll also have to do 10 minutes of independent driving.

Off-road exercises

These include an ‘S’ shaped reverse into a bay. If you’re taking your test with a trailer, you’ll have to demonstrate the uncoupling and recoupling (attaching and detaching) procedure too.

Read more: The eight best pick-up trucks for 2019

Driver CPC test part 4: practical demonstration

You only need to take this part if you drive for a living. As well as the proper documentation, for this test you must bring along your lorry, bus or coach.

You’ll be tested on:

  • Loading the vehicle safely and keeping it secure.

  • Your ability to prevent trafficking in illegal immigrants.

  • Emergency situations, and how you deal with them.

  • Reducing physical risks to yourself or others.

  • Completing a walkaround vehicle safety check.

To pass you must score at least 15 out of 20 in each topic area and have an overall score of 80 out of 100.

HGV licence

What happens if I fail any of these tests?

With each of these tests, if you fail you can book another test straight away, but you can’t take it for another three working days.

What happens when I pass the CPC?

If you’ve passed all four of these tests you’ll be sent a Driver CPC card, sometimes known as a ‘driver qualification card’ or ‘DQC’.  

If you drive professionally and you’re not carrying this card you could end up with a fixed penalty of £50. You can drive professionally if you’ve passed all the tests and you’re waiting for your Driver CPC card though.

If you’ve passed the theory and driving ability tests, your licence will be returned with the code 101 - not for hire or reward (not for profit) on it.

You’ll need to renew your bus or lorry licence every five years after this, when you reach 65 you’ll have to renew it every year.

Read more: Truck insurance

How much does the CPC cost?

The application for the provisional HGV licence is free, but the cost of each test varies:

Fee type Weekday Evening, weekend and bank holidays
Driver CPC part 1 – theory (multiple choice) £26 £26
Driver CPC part 1 – theory (hazard perception) £11 £11
Driver CPC part 2 – case studies £23 £23
Driver CPC part 3 – driving ability £115 £141
Driver CPC part 4 – practical demonstration £55 £63

The card itself costs £25. This is the same price if it’s lost of stolen and you need to replace it. 

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