How to add a higher driving category to your licence and decide which category you need

Posted on 20th October 2023 By Becky Hinshelwood

close up of UK driving licence application form

The world of transport and delivery involves a huge variety of vehicles. From smaller rigid bodied delivery trucks to articulated lorries and beyond. This amount of diversity is something that you’ve probably never thought about too much until the moment you begin your HGV training journey. Then you need to decide which provisional licence you should apply for. So what are the different driving categories, and what should you consider when making your decision?

What are the driver categories?

Let’s start with category B, since this is the standard UK driving licence. Indeed it is the licence that you need to be in possession of before you can embark on the HGV training process. As of 2021, this licence also automatically entitles you to drive BE, which is a trailer up to 3,500kg, without needing to take an additional test. Beyond B category vehicles, there are:

  • C1 – Entitled to drive a rigid bodied vehicle between 3,500kg – 7,500kg MAM. This includes a trailer up to 750kg.
  • C – Entitled to drive any rigid body vehicle over 3,500 kg plus a trailer up to 750kg.
  • D1 – Entitled to drive a minibus carrying up to 16 passengers and a maximum length of 8 metres.
  • D – Entitled to drive any bus with more than 8 passenger seats.
  • C1E – This category extends the trailing allowance of C1 to loads over 750kg. However, the combined MAM must not exceed 12000kg
  • CE – This extends the towing capacity of the licence entitlement beyond 750kg. 
  • D1E – This adds a towing capacity beyond 750kg to a minibus licence. THe combined MAM must not exceed 12000kg.
  • DE – This allows any bus carrying a trailer of over 750kg.

What is MAM?

It’s important to understand MAM when you’re looking at the various different driving categories. MAM stands for maximum authorised mass. It basically means the combined weight of a vehicle and / or trailer including the maximum load that can be safely carried on the road. Consider that a standard car weighs 2,000kg and this gives you a sense of the scale of vehicles that each additional driving category is covering. 

What categories does each test cover?

When you pass your standard category B driving test, you’re automatically permitted to drive some lighter vehicles. Things like mopeds, light quad bikes, electrically propelled vehicles and sit-on mowers. Similar is true of adding higher driving categories to your licence. The E reference refers to towing capacity. So within each area of driving; mid scale, large scale or busses, an ‘E’ suffix will allow you more flexibility within the category.

The process

So, having already passed the standard UK driving test, what process must you go through to add a higher driving category to your licence? While it can be tempting to crack on and get your provisional licence ASAP, it can be worth having a chat first to an experienced HGV training school. They’ll be able to give you advice on what additional category and course structure will suit your circumstances. Within a fast track course, for example, you’ll even receive support with the medical and licence application forms.

Apply for a provisional licence

You will need to complete and return two forms to the DVLA. These are form D4 and D2. D4 is a medical form and must be completed by a doctor and possibly an optician in addition. Alternatively, this process can be managed privately through HGV training institutions. Form D2 is where you select the provisional category that you want to add to your driving licence. 

Which licence?

If you apply for a provisional C1 licence, this is exactly what you will get. However, if you apply for a provisional C licence, you’ll automatically be entitled to learn to drive C1, C1+E, C, C+E vehicles. If you’re undecided at the point of applying for a provisional licence, then it can make sense to apply for C category rather than limit yourself at this stage to C1. 

Provisional Entitlements

The provisional licence entitlements that you can apply for are C, C1, C1+E, D and D1. It’s worthwhile here to have a think about the scale of driving that you want to undertake in the future. For example, if you are looking to quickly progress your HGV driving career it’s worthwhile applying for the full CE provisional licence from the outset. This will cover you for the widest range of vehicles on the road. 


Once you have your provisional licence and completed your HGV driving course, you’ll be ready to qualify with the driver CPC. The testing process for HGV driving is similar to that of car driving, in that it is split into theory and practical tests. 

Theory and case studies

You can book your theory and case study tests as soon as you receive your provisional licence. Many learners find it helpful to get this done, as you can begin your theoretical learning while you wait for your provisional licence to arrive. There are multiple choice and hazard perception sections to complete in the theory test, and the case study test is multiple choice. Once passed, you have 2 years to complete the practical tests.

Practical tests

Practical testing is broken up into off road exercises, on road driving and a practical demonstration. You should enter these tests feeling confident and well prepared. This is why it’s worth choosing an established and experienced driving school to support you in the process. 

How about beyond C+E?

The C+E licence is often seen as enabling the top HGV driving potential. However, there are additional qualifications and specialisms that you can add to your belt.


This licence enables you to transport dangerous goods across Europe. There are 9 different classifications of hazard, which you would specify in order to qualify to carry. 


This stands for Hydraulic Integrated Arm and Boom. By qualifying in this category, you will be able to operate heavy duty machinery. It’s ideal for construction specialists.

Transporting Animals

To transport pigs, horses, cattle, goats, sheep or poultry either commercially or long distance, you’ll need a certificate of competence in addition to the full driver CPC.

On the surface there seems to be a multitude of additional driving categories you can add to your licence. We’re here to work with you to find the best solution for your future. Get in touch for more information.

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