If you want to drive a heavy good vehicle (HGV) you need a HGV licence.
To get this, you need to take the 4-part Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) test.
With an ongoing high demand for HGV drivers, you might even be able to get your HGV licence for free.
Here's what you need to know.
Getting a HGV provisional licence
You need to get your HGV provisional licence before applying for the CPC test. To do this, you need to:
- Be over 18 years old
- Already have a full car licence.
There are different types of heavy vehicle licence, depending on the size and type of vehicle you want to drive.
Once you’ve decided on the type of licence you need, you can order the D2 and D4 forms from the DVLA:
- The D2 form is the application form for the licence.
- Your GP completes the D4 form. You can also use a private company that specialises in medical reports for drivers.
There are some medical considerations too:
- You might need to declare certain medical conditions to the DVLA
- If you’re an insulin-dependent diabetic, you need to prove you're managing the condition
- You need to have annual medical checks
Once you've completed the forms, send them to the DVLA. There’s no application fee for the provisional HGV licence, but your GP may charge you to complete form D4.
How long does it take to get a provisional HGV licence?
It should take around 3 weeks to get your provisional HGV licence. But there’ve been some well-publicised delays at the DVLA in recent years. So, it’s likely to take longer.
It may also take longer if any of your personal or health details need to be checked.
What does the CPC test involve?
The CPC test consists of 4 parts:
- Case studies
- Driving ability
- Practical exam
You need to pass all of these to get the full CPC unless you have ‘acquired rights’ because of your existing driving experience.
Driver CPC part 1: Theory test
There are 2 parts to the CPC part 1 theory test:
- Multiple choice
- Hazard perception
You book the tests separately but you can complete them on the same day. You need to pass both of them within 2 years to get your CPC part 1 theory certificate.
You get 1 hour and 55 minutes to answer 100 multiple choice questions. The pass mark is 85/100.
You have 19 videos to watch during the hazard perception test that contain 20 developing hazards. Out of these videos, 18 should include 1 hazard each. But 1 video will contain 2 hazards.
The pass mark is 67/100.
When you’ve passed both parts you get a certificate. You need this when you book your part 3 driving test.
The CPC part 1 theory certificate is valid for 2 years from when you passed the first part of your test.
Driver CPC part 2: Case studies
You only need to take this part of the test if you're going to be driving HGVs for a living. You can book the CPC part 2 case studies test as soon as you’ve got your HGV provisional licence.
This assessment contains 7 case studies based on situations you’re likely to come across while driving a large vehicle. You can find practice tests for this module free online.
You get 1 hour and 15 minutes to answer 6 to 8 multiple choice questions on each case study. The pass mark is 40/50.
Your pass letter should contain a reference number that you need to book part 4 of the CPC. The pass letter is valid for 2 years.
Driver CPC part 3: Driving ability test
The practical test lasts 1 hour and 30 minutes. It includes:
- Vehicle safety questions
- Practical road driving
- Off-road exercises
- Vehicle safety questions
Like a car driving test, expect to be asked some ‘show me, tell me’ questions such as:
- Show me what instrument checks you’d make before and after starting the engine on this vehicle
- Tell me how you’d check if the condition of the body is safe on this vehicle
GOV.UK has a full list of these questions.
Practical road driving
During your practical road driving test the examiner scores you on how you:
- Use the vehicle controls
- Move away at an angle, uphill and downhill
- Do a controlled stop
- Use the mirrors
- Give appropriate signals
- Show awareness and anticipation of other road users’ intentions
- Manage your progress and control your vehicle speed
- Deal with hazards
- Select a safe place to stop
There’s also a 10-minute section for independent driving.
The off-road exercises include an S-shaped reverse into a bay.
Passing the test
You pass your test if you have 15 or fewer driving faults and no dangerous faults.
Driver CPC part 4: Practical demonstration
Like part 2, you only need to take this part of the test if you plan to drive for a living.
Your examiner should test you on being able to:
- Load the vehicle safely and keep it secure
- Stop trafficking in illegal immigrants
- Assess emergency situations
- Reduce physical risks to yourself or others
- Do a walkaround vehicle safety check
Questions are based on the CPC syllabus. There should be 5 topics each with a maximum of 20 points. To pass, you must score at least 15/20 in each section and have an overall score of at least 80/100.
What type of HGV licence should I get?
The type of HGV licence you should get depends on the size of the vehicle you need to drive and what it carries. The different categories include:
- Class 1: This may also be referred to as C+E. This is for vehicles weighing more than 7.5 tonnes with a detachable trailer. These lorries are often used on longer routes.
- Class 2: Also called a category C licence, this is for vehicles weighing more than 7.5 tonnes with a rigid base. Fire engines and bin lorries fall into this category and are most commonly driven around towns and cities.
- Category C1: For smaller vehicles weighing between 3.5 and 7.5 tonnes. If you passed your driving test before 1997 you should automatically have one of these licences.
- Category D: You need this type of licence if you’re driving passengers in a HGV, for example a bus or a coach.
- Lorry Loader: This type of licence also permits you to use lorry loaders or hydraulic attachments to put items onto a long bed.
- Accord Dangereux Routier (ADR): You might need it if you have to transport dangerous goods, like fuel or other flammable liquids.
What happens if I fail any of the CPC tests?
With each of the 4 parts of the CPC test you can book another test straight away if you fail. But you can't take the new test for another 3 working days.
What happens when I pass the CPC?
When you pass the CPC test you should get a Driver CPC card, sometimes known as a driver qualification card or DQC.
You need to carry this with you if you drive professionally. You can drive without it if you’re waiting for it to arrive, but usually being caught without it is a £50 fine.
If you’ve chosen to do only parts 1 and 3 of the CPC then your licence should be marked with the code 101. This reflects the fact that you’re only allowed to drive recreationally.
How long is a HGV licence valid for?
Once you’ve got your HGV licence you have to renew it every 5 years. And to keep your licence you need to do 35 hours of training within each 5-year period.
When you reach 65 years of age you have to renew your HGV licence every year.
How much does it cost to get a HGV licence?
While it costs nothing for the provisional licence, there are costs for each stage of the Driver CPC.
|Stage of driver CPC||Cost|
Driver CPC part 1- theory- multiple choice
Driver CPC part 1 - theory - (hazard perception)
Driver CPC part 2 - case studies
Driver CPC part 3a - off road exercises
Driver CPC part 3b - on road driving
Driver CPC part 4 - practical demonstration
Add to this the cost of getting your driving up to the standard required for the test and any costs associated with medical tests.
How to get a HGV licence for free
Due to the ongoing shortage of lorry drivers some companies might take you on and pay for your HGV training. In return, you might be expected to stay with them for a minimum period, for example 2 years.
Another route is to do an apprenticeship in large goods vehicle driving. The course typically lasts 12/13 months and you work towards your HGV licence as part of the training.
There are also specific bus and coach driver courses that are designed to address the shortages in these areas too. The government website has more details on how and where to access these opportunities.
What can I drive without a HGV licence?
If you passed in 1996 or earlier you should be able to drive a van weighing up to 8,250 kg maximum authorised mass (MAM) without a HGV licence.
This is the weight of the vehicle with everything in it, including people. It's what it might weigh if you drove it onto a weighbridge.
But if you’re going to be driving a 7.5 tonne van for a living you need to take the CPC.
If you passed in 1997 or later you’re likely to be limited to vans weighing up to 3,500 kg MAM.