Which HGV Licence should I apply for?

Posted on 28th February 2024 By Becky Hinshelwood

A driver in a high-vis vest leans against the bonnet of a red HGV.

If you are at the early stages of considering HGV driving as a career, you’re probably looking at all of the different licence categories. There are so many of them that it can feel daunting, as you want to make the right decision from the outset! To make that decision, it’s important to understand what each category means, what it actually entitles you to drive, and what kind of work you may be able to do with that licence. At Surrey and Hampshire HGV training, we support our drivers through the whole process from start to finish. Which includes deciding which licence you should apply for.

Licence Categories

Firstly, let’s look at what each licence category means. The category that you opt for here will define which vehicles you’re entitled to drive. Importantly, you don’t need to apply for every category since the higher level categories include entitlement to drive smaller vehicles. 

Category C1

This licence allows you to operate a rigid bodied vehicle between 3,500kg – 7,500kg maximum authorised mass (MAM). This includes a trailer up to 750kg.

Category C

With this licence you can drive any rigid bodied vehicle over 3,500 kg plus a trailer up to 750kg. With this licence, you would also be entitled to drive Category C1 vehicles. 

Category C1E

An extension of the trailing allowance of C1 to loads over 750kg. The combined MAM must not exceed 12000kg.

Category CE 

This is the highest level category for HGV drivers before you move into specialist qualifications. It is an extension of the towing capacity of a C category licence above 750kg. With this licence, you would be entitled to operate any smaller vehicle above. 

Old Category Names

The current definitions for vehicle licence categories may have been in place since 1997, but the old HGV classes 1, 2, and 3 are still talked about. So it makes sense to clarify and define what people may be referring to here. Of course, it’s not as straightforward as you may home since there’s a bit of overlap to bear in mind. 

HGV class 3 

This was related to rigid vehicles over 7.5 tonnes with 2 axles. This class allowed a drawbar trailer to be towed. Essentially this is category C. The category C1 was added to cover rigid vehicles up to 7.5 tonnes. Prior to 1997, a standard car licence would entitle drivers to operate rigid vehicles up to 7.5 tonnes.

HGV class 2 

This refers to rigid vehicles over 7.5 tonnes with more than 2 axles. This class also allowed a drawbar trailer to be towed. There’s an overlap here with category C, since vehicles in this class would also need to be rigid bodied. 

HGV class 1 

This covered articulated vehicles over 7.5 tonnes. This class is equivalent to Category C+E and is the highest class of HGV driver licence before you start specialising. 

What to bear in mind

So, what are the considerations that you should take into account when you decide which licence category is right for you to apply for? There are aspects of your work-life balance, budget, and aspiration to think about. Plus, it’s always worth remembering that the future is unknown, so keeping flexible can be a huge benefit.  

Current circumstances

The course that’s right for you can be influenced by what your current circumstances are. For example, do you have current employment which you need to work your training around? Or are you able to take a period of time out in order to embark on a fast track course? The great thing is that you can start to study driver theory before you even apply for your provisional HGV driving licence. At Surrey and Hampshire HGV Training we make sure that you have access to online learning resources that fit around your life. So while we’re sorting out your provisional licence, you can be getting on with the important stuff!

Future ambition

Do you want to continue to develop your driving skills into the future? HGV driving can be a rewarding career in which you can refine and develop your skills and abilities. You may plan to look for an initial role which involves operating C1 vehicles, but may develop to larger vehicles over the course of time. If this is the case, you may want to consider opting for the category C licence and test. This will give you more flexibility in your future career options. Our advisers can help to talk you through each different option so that you make sure that all the bases are covered.

Course Logistics

Do you have a set budget for the cost of your HGV driving course? Or perhaps you are limited in terms of the period of time that you need to be qualified within. Maybe geography is a logistical challenge, and you need to conduct your learning within a certain area. The important thing is not to feel put off by these things. At Surrey and Hampshire HGV Training we understand that many people have to consider a range of factors before they can commence their training. That’s why we work closely with our students to work out which course suits their needs the best. In addition, our network of over 90 quality assured training centres means that you can access excellent training wherever you are in the UK.

What next?

Deciding which HGV licence you should apply for is the first step in your journey. And it’s one that we can help you with through advice and by practically managing your application process. However, it’s understandable to be wondering, even at this early stage, what is next after you gain your HGV licence? Well, we’re here for that too. We manage a specialist recruitment service to put you in touch with relevant job vacancies. We can help you to develop any specialist skills you may want to learn. This could be transporting hazardous substances or operating a HIAB, for example. And most importantly, we can support you throughout your driving career with your CPC maintenance. This is the required 35 hours of study over each 5 year period. 

If a career in professional HGV driving is something that you are considering, Surrey and Hampshire HGV Training can help you to make the decisions and take the actions that you need to be successful. Just get in touch with our advisors to talk through your options.

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