The categories on your driving licence can be confusing, especially as the rules vary depending on when you passed your driving test.
But regardless of when you got your licence, you should be able to drive a number of the most popular vans without having to get a dedicated van licence.
What vans can I drive with a standard licence?
What vans you can drive on a car licence depends on when you passed your driving test. The rules tend to be more generous if you passed your test before 1997.
Your licence should list the categories of vehicle you’re allowed to drive. Category B means you’ve passed your car driving test.
Do different types of van need different licences?
The heavier the vehicle you want to drive, the more likely it is you have to upgrade your licence. You also have to take into account the date you passed your test.
If you passed your car driving test before 1997, you generally have a C1 entitlement on your licence.
This means you’re already entitled to drive 7.5 tonne vans without taking another test. But only if you’re not doing it for a living.
Passed your test in 1997 or later? Then you need to take another test to get a van licence if you want to drive anything over 3.5 tonnes.
Category B1 licence
A category B1 licence allows you to drive four-wheeled vehicles weighing up to 400kg (or 550kg if it’s a vehicle designed for carrying goods).
If you passed your driving test before 1 January 1997 you’re likely to be entitled to drive a van and trailer combination up to 8,250 kg maximum authorised mass (MAM).
This means you could drive a 7.5 tonne van with a 750 kg trailer.
MAM is how much the vehicle would weigh on a weighbridge. So it includes:
The vehicle weight
Your luggage or cargo
Petrol and oil
You’re also allowed to drive a minibus with a trailer over 750 kg.
If you passed your test on or after 1 January 1997, you could drive vehicles up to 3,500 kg MAM. The vehicle can seat up to eight passenger seats. It can also have a trailer with a maximum weight of 750 kg.
So long as the MAM of the vehicle and trailer is not more than 3,500 kg you could also tow heavier trailers.
Cat B licence holders in general can also drive electric vans of up to 4,250 kg.
Electric vans are generally heavier than diesels because of the weight of the battery.
How to get a B1 licence
You get a category B1 licence automatically when you pass your driving test.
Category C1 licence
The C1 licence enables you to drive medium and larger sized vehicles.
Before 2013, drivers who were qualified to drive heavier vehicles had a separate licence displaying this information.
They’re now included on the licence with the following codes. Don’t forget to take your CPC with you if you’re driving for work though.
Vehicles between 3,500kg and 7,500 kg MAM with a trailer up to 750 kg
C1 vehicles with a trailer over 750 kg. The combined MAM cant’ exceed 12,000 kg
Vehicles over 3,500 kg with a trailer up to 750 kg"
Category C vehicles with a trailer over 750 kg
How to get a C1 licence
To get a C1 licence you need to have a B licence and be 18 or over.
You also need to complete a medical assessment to ensure you don’t have any medical conditions or vision problems that could affect your driving. At this stage you can then apply for a provisional C1 licence.
To get your full C1 licence you then need to pass three theory tests and a practical test.
What is a 3.5 tonne van?
A 3.5 tonne van is one that’s allowed to weigh up to 3.5 tonnes when fully laden. The gross vehicle weight (GVW) should be on the vehicle identification number (VIN) plate.
The GVW should include the weight of the van plus the weight of the driver, any passengers and the payload.
The payload is how much you can put in the van without it being overloaded. As well as being dangerous, overloading a van could lead to a fine.
You can work out the payload by taking the GVW minus the kerb weight. The kerb weight is how much the vehicle alone weighs.
So a 3.5 tonne van with a kerb weight of 1.8 tonnes would have a payload of 1.7 tonnes. But then you need to subtract the weight of the driver, passengers and so on.
To give you an idea what vans you could drive on a car licence, typical 3.5 tonne vans include:
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