Most of us remember the experience, as a new driver, of investigating all the mysterious lower case letters at the bottom of that shiny new licence, and learning that they represented entitlement to drive a tracked vehicle, road roller, or agricultural tractor. But exactly which larger vehicles are covered by a car or lorry licence?
The standard entitlement for a car driver is category B, which covers new and used cars with as many as eight seats for passengers and a maximum authorised mass (MAM) of up to 3,500kg. MAM is the weight of the vehicle, combined with the maximum load of occupants and luggage that it can carry and still be safe on the road.
Lorry licences come in two types. The C1 licence is for medium sized goods vehicles between 3,500kg and 7,500kg, while Category C covers vehicles over 3,500kg, without an upper limit. However, some types of goods vehicle can be driven on a category B licence. These are known as exempted goods vehicles.
Many of these vehicles are not designed primarily for driving on public roads, like tractors and agricultural machinery, industrial tractors, digging and engineering equipment, and works trucks used for transport around a site or factory.
Pre 1960 goods vehicles can be driven when empty, handily for historical reenactors. Steam powered vehicles are also exempt, as are vehicles which are used, along with their contents, for education or play when they arrive at their destination.
Recovery vehicles, like breakdown Lorries, carry a weight restriction but can be driven on a B licence. Police officers are allowed to drive vehicles if they need to move them for safety reasons.
If you are not sure what category a vehicle comes under, you may have to ask the Department for Transport’s International Vehicle Standards Division for help.
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Bus licences also have their own category. Minibuses, eight metres long or under, and with a maximum of sixteen seats, come under the D1 licence, while D licence holders can drive any bus with more than eight seats.
Drivers who have held a B licence for more than two years can drive a minibus, or a bus if it is over thirty years old, for social and leisure purposes, but not commercially.
It is important to be aware of additional restrictions, including the minimum age for driving certain vehicle categories. Lorry and bus drivers will need a Driver Certificate of Professional Competence as well as the appropriate licence. If you work in the motor trade, you will need a motor trade licence to drive on trade plates. You should also check that your insurance policy covers you for the class of vehicle you’re planning to drive.