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Wed, March 13, 2024

UK Commercial Driver Licenses (CDLs): Everything You Need to Know in 2024

UK Commercial Driver Licenses (CDLs): Everything You Need to Know in 2024

Within the United Kingdom, HGV commercial driver licences are classified into three distinct categories. In this post, we will explore these categories, detailing their meanings, eligibility criteria, associated costs, and reasons why aspiring drivers should consider pursuing a career as professional commercial drivers of lorries and trucks. 


Understanding CDL Classes and Requirements


Overview of CDLs and their importance in the transportation industry


The importance of the commercial transport industry cannot be underestimated. Nearly every aspect of our daily lives involves a commercial driver supplying essential goods and services. Whether it's restocking supermarket shelves, delivering fuel at service stations, or fulfilling online orders from platforms like Amazon, commercial drivers are the backbone of the UK's economy.

Without commercial vehicles and the drivers behind them, the country would come to a standstill overnight. However, despite their vital role, commercial drivers are often taken for granted. It's essential to recognize and appreciate their contribution to keeping our society functioning smoothly.


Explanation of the different CDL classes and their distinctions


If you've ever considered obtaining a commercial driving licence, you may have wondered about the categories and what they entail. In the UK, commercial vehicles are categorized primarily based on weight.

C1 category

Starting at the entry level, we have the C1 category. A C1 vehicle is defined as a commercial goods vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) exceeding 3.5 tonnes but not exceeding 7.5 tonnes. While you can tow a trailer with a C1 vehicle, the trailer's weight must not exceed 750 kilograms. If you intend to tow a trailer exceeding this weight limit, you'll need to obtain a C1E licence, which requires a separate driving test. Notably, since November 2021, the DVSA has allowed individuals seeking a C1E licence to bypass the C1 driving test initially.

Cat C category

Cat C refers to the most common commercial goods vehicle on UK roads, with a Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) exceeding 3.5 tonnes but not exceeding 32 tonnes as per the Construction and Use Regulations (C&U Regs.). Similar to the C1 entitlement, a trailer can be towed with a Cat C vehicle as long as it remains within the 750 kg weight limit. In the haulage industry, Cat C vehicles are often referred to as rigids or class 2 trucks, denoting their fixed, non-articulated structure.

Rigids, or class 2 trucks, are highly prevalent on UK highways and byways. For newly qualified HGV drivers holding a Cat C or CE licence, starting their career behind the wheel of a rigid truck is common. Employers typically require drivers to gain experience on rigids before entrusting them with the keys to more expensive articulated trucks. This initial experience on rigids is valuable for building skills and confidence before advancing to larger vehicles.

CE category

The CE licence stands at the top of the hierarchy among commercial licence categories. With this licence, drivers gain the entitlement to operate any goods vehicle over 3.5 tonnes, encompassing C1, C1E, and C vehicles, essentially covering a wide spectrum of goods vehicles.

Notably, significant changes were implemented in commercial vehicle testing regulations in November 2021. The DVSA now permits individuals aspiring to attain the CE licence to bypass the requirement of passing a rigid (Cat C) driving test first. This regulatory adjustment was not prompted by enhanced safety measures or a reduction in road incidents involving commercial vehicles. Rather, it was a political response aimed at addressing the pressing issue of a severe shortage of HGV drivers, particularly noticeable within the Cat C category, rather than the CE category.


A CE vehicle, commonly known as an artic or class 1, is essentially a goods vehicle (Cat C) paired with a trailer. Specifically, the prime mover of the vehicle has a Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) exceeding 3.5 tonnes and is authorized to tow a trailer weighing over 750 kilograms. This category of commercial vehicle represents the aspiration of the vast majority of aspiring HGV drivers. The allure stems from the expectation of higher wages and increased job opportunities compared to operating a class 2 rigid vehicle.


Overview of CDL Class  and the qualifications needed


Acquiring an artic licence is indeed a formidable challenge, with no guarantee of success. The standards set for passing the Cat CE test are exceptionally high, reflected in a modest first-time pass rate of 45% for those transitioning from a car licence to a class 1.

Regardless of whether you pursue the C1, C1E, C, or CE licence, there's a series of hurdles to clear before obtaining your HGV licence. While holding a standard car licence is a prerequisite, provisional HGV entitlement isn't automatically granted. You must apply for this provisional entitlement through the DVSA, the governmental body responsible for issuing driving licences.

As part of your application, you'll need to submit a medical report (Form D4) to the DVLA to ensure your health meets the required standards. This includes assessments of your eyesight and blood pressure. If you successfully navigate the medical stage and receive provisional entitlement on your driving licence, you can proceed to book your theory tests.


Similar to the process for obtaining a car licence, individuals seeking commercial licence entitlement must pass the HGV multiple-choice and hazard perception theory tests. These two theory tests closely resemble their counterparts in the car theory test, with the hazard perception test being identical. The multiple-choice test, designated as 1A, consists of 100 questions, with a passing threshold of at least 85 correct answers. While some questions may be technical, the majority are based on common sense.

It's crucial to note that in the UK, if you're driving a goods vehicle over 3.5 tonnes for commercial purposes, you'll likely need a Driver CPC Card (DQC). Without a DQC, securing employment as a commercial driver is highly unlikely. New entrants to the field must undergo Driver CPC training, which involves a relatively simple theory test (Module 2, 50 questions with a minimum of 40 correct answers) and a practical demonstration test (Module 4).

Additionally, candidates must pass both off-road and on-road driving tests (Modules 3a and 3b, respectively). Among these components, the driving test is often considered the most challenging. Achieving a first-time pass on the C1, C1E, C, or CE driving test requires diligent preparation and smart strategies.


Requirements for Obtaining a Class B CDL


Detailed explanation of the requirements for obtaining a Class B CDL


Documentation, training, and testing needed for Class B CDL application:

1. Documentation Required:

   - D2 Form: This form is necessary for applying for your provisional commercial goods driving licence through the DVLA.

   - D4 Form: The D4 form is a medical report completed by an occupational practitioner. It confirms your fitness to drive commercial vehicles.

   - Driving Licence: Your valid UK driving licence must accompany the D2 and D4 forms when submitting them to the DVLA at SA99 1BR.

2. Provisional Entitlement Process:

   - Once your licence is processed by the DVLA, you'll receive no physical provisional entitlement form. Since January 2014, HGV provisional entitlement is managed online via the .Gov website.

3. Theory Tests:

   - Theory tests can be booked online. Upon passing, you'll receive a certification letter confirming your success. It's advisable to retain these documents as you may need to present them later.

4. Driver Training:

   - For the driver training phase, you'll only need to bring your driving licence.

5. Off-Road Driving Test (Module 3A):

   - Upon passing the 3A off-road driving test, your examiner will provide you with an A5-size certificate confirming your success.

   - This certificate is crucial for the on-road driving test (Module 3B) and must be presented to your examiner.

6. On-Road Driving Test (Module 3B):

   - When taking the Module 3B on-road driving test, ensure you have your 3A certificate available. Failure to produce it may result in the inability to take the test.

7. Module 4 Training and Testing:

   - For Module 4 training and testing, bring your driving licence and the letter confirming your passing of the CPC Module 2 case study.

8. Important Note:

   - Throughout the application process, ensure you always have your driving licence with you. Losing or forgetting it could cause delays or complications.


Commercial Driver vs. Regular Driver: Understanding the Differences


Explanation of the distinctions between commercial drivers and regular drivers


Commercial drivers, when compared to regular drivers, are typically considered more proficient and capable due to the extensive training they receive in driving techniques. They are regarded as professional and skilled individuals in their field. Commercial drivers are subject to much stricter rules and regulations, such as drivers' hours, which do not apply to regular drivers. Finally, to obtain an HGV licence, holders must demonstrate a higher standard of driving ability than a regular car user. 


Responsibilities, regulations, and driving environments for commercial drivers


Commercial drivers, like regular car users, are subject to the same road transport laws that regulate the UK. However, commercial drivers, as employees of operators, have additional legal obligations. The main operator license obligations for HGV drivers include ensuring their vehicles are not overloaded, maintaining zero defects in their vehicles, and adhering to EU Drivers’ Hours regulations. The operator licensing system was implemented to enhance road safety and ensure fair competition. All commercial drivers (except those operating private goods vehicles) must comply with operator licensing rules and regulations. Failure to do so can result in significant penalties and consequences. It's important to remember that the commercial driver is legally responsible for their vehicles and loads while operating goods vehicles within the UK. 


How to Obtain a Commercial Driver License (CDL)


Overview of CDL training programs, schools, and resources


There are approximately 300 commercial driver training schools in the UK, offering a wide range of options. While most training companies provide excellent service and assistance in obtaining qualifications, it's essential to be cautious of potential pitfalls in the industry.

Opting for commercial driver training through intermediaries or brokers often results in overpaying for HGV tuition. Since there are no national HGV training providers, the industry largely comprises local providers. Beware of companies claiming to offer national training, as they are likely brokers. It's advisable to conduct thorough research and choose a reputable local company. With such a large number of options available, finding a reliable training provider in your area should not be difficult. For those in Surrey, EP Training is a highly recommended choice.

The process of obtaining a commercial driver's licence and Driver CPC typically takes between 7 to 10 weeks from the date of applying for provisional HGV entitlement from the DVLA. A reputable training company will usually handle the entire process, from provisional entitlement to Driver CPC Module 4.

However, success in obtaining the licence is not guaranteed, and the driving aspect, as mentioned earlier, can be particularly challenging. The on-road driving portion is often the most costly and time-consuming part of the process. Some companies may provide training and testing using outdated or poorly maintained vehicles, which can hinder progress. Therefore, thorough research is essential before committing to any training program.




As evident from the process outlined above, individuals seeking a commercial goods driving licence must successfully navigate through several theory and practical tests before being granted an HGV licence and CPC card.

Professional drivers are tasked with numerous responsibilities beyond simply driving, yet their efforts are not always fully appreciated by other road users. It can be a demanding and often thankless job.

This post aims to provide a clearer understanding of the classification of commercial vehicles operating within the UK, emphasizing that their categorization is primarily determined by weight. Driving a truck professionally is not suitable for everyone—it entails hard work, long hours, solitude, and a largely sedentary occupation. Prospective drivers should conduct thorough research to determine if a career in commercial driving is the right fit for them. Despite the challenges, the financial rewards can be substantial, and there is typically a high demand for qualified drivers.


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