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08 Jul 2019
Jamie Gibbs Alice Campion

UK van driving licences explained


The categories on your licence tell you what vans or heavy goods vehicles you’re entitled to drive, but it’s not always clear what they mean.

A row of second-hand vans waiting to be bought. Like the droid line up from Star Wars, but with vans.

The categories on your driving licence will detail which vans and vehicles you're qualified to drive. If you plan on driving one, you'll need van insurance to protect you and other drivers.

To be eligible to drive most heavy vehicles you’ll have to take a separate test, but there are some that can be driven on a standard licence.

It's always worth double checking what you can drive though, as driving without the proper licence could lead to points and even a fine. The categories can be found on the back of your driving licence.

With this confusing situation in mind, here’s a rundown of van driving licence categories so you can see clearly what you can and can’t drive.

What vans can I drive with a standard licence (category B)?

A category B licence lets you drive a car as standard. Anything more than that will depend on when you passed your test:

B if you passed your test before the 1st of January 1997 

Usually you’re allowed to drive a trailer combination of up to 8,250kg maximised authorised mass (MAM) 

This refers to the total weight of the vehicle, including yourself, your passengers, cargo, trailers and petrol.

Standard driving licence holders can also drive a minibus and trailer over 750 kg. 

B if you passed your test after the 1st of January 1997

You’re qualified to drive vehicles up to 3,500 kg MAM. This vehicle can have up to eight passenger seats and a trailer up to 750 kg. 

You can also tow heavier trailers with your van, but the MAM mustn’t be more than 3,500 kg. 

Read more: Driving licence categories and codes explained

Heavy goods vehicles

If you want to drive vehicles that are heavier than those mentioned in the standard licence categories, then you’ll have to take a specific test. This is known as a Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC).

First, you’ll need to apply for the provisional licence that corresponds with the vehicle you want to drive. For example, if you want to drive a vehicle over 3,500 kg, you’ll have to apply for a provisional category C vehicle licence. 

If you’re thinking of driving an HGV for a living you’ll need the full CPC. To get this you’ll have to have a full car licence and be over 18 years old. In some cases, there are exceptions to the age limit - you can check this on the government website.

If you’re not driving the vehicle for your main occupation you won’t need the full CPC. You’ll need to pass the theory test and the driving ability section of the qualification though.

Once you’ve passed this you’ll receive a Driver CPC card. You must always carry this while driving a lorry, bus or coach professionally. If you don’t you’ll be charged a £50 fixed penalty. 

Read more: Truck insurance

Van driving on dual carriageway

Medium-sized and large vehicle categories

Before 2013, drivers that were qualified to drive heavier vehicles had a separate licence displaying this information.

They’re now included on the licence with the following codes. Remember to carry your CPC if you’re driving for work though:

Category Entitlement
C1 Vehicles between 3,500kg and 7,500kg MAM with a trailer up to 750kg
C1E C1 vehicles with a trailer over 750kg. The combined MAM must not exceed 12,000 kg
C Vehicles over 3,500kg with a trailer up to 750kg MAM
CE Category C vehicles with a trailer over 750kg

Minibus, bus and coach categories

If you want to drive a minibus, bus or coach for a living, you’ll need to take a specific test. Once passed you’ll get one of the following codes on your licence:

Category Entitlement
D1 No more than 16 passenger seats. Maximum length is 8 metres with a trailer up to 750 kg
D1E Any D1 vehicle with a trailer over 750kg MAM Combined MAM of both cannot exceed 12,000kg
D Any bus with more than 8 passenger seats, with a trailer up to 750kg MAM
DE You can drive D category vehicle with a trailer over 750kg

Tool insurance

Are there any restrictions when driving a minibus? 

If you want to drive a minibus commercially, for example as a taxi or shuttle service, you’ll need to apply for a minibus provisional entitlement or PCV licence.

You’ll also have to apply for a public service vehicle (PSV) operator licence.

You can drive a minibus on a standard  licence, but the bus must not have over 16 passenger seats and there must be no payment from the passengers. 

You may be able to drive the minibus abroad, but you’ll need to check with the licensing authority of the country you’re visiting. 

Charging running costs

If you’re using a minibus for an event that benefits the community, for example a charity event or for educational purposes, you can apply for a minibus permit to cover running costs.

The minibus must also only be available to members of the organisation, not the public, and carry between 9 and 16 passengers. 

You can apply for a minibus permit through the Drivers and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). 


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