Book a courseGet your licence

Understanding Your Driving Licence

16 July 2024

Although your driving licence may look like a small piece of plastic, it holds a lot more information than you may think. There are various types of vehicles you can drive on public roads in the UK, and these categories are featured on the back of your driving licence. Whether you want to drive a car or lorry – you are required to have an entitlement for that category on your driving licence. This article explains everything you need to know about what is on your driving licence and what it all means.  

The Different Sections of a Driving Licence 

All driving licences are still issued in a format that’s similar to the EU standard. This comes in the form of a plastic photocard.  

The front of your licence features the following: 

  • Fields 1 (surname), 2 (title, first name and middle names) and 3 (date and place of birth) display your personal details. 
  • Field 4a displays your driving licence issue date.  
  • Field 4b displays your driving licence expiry date. 
  • Field 4c displays the authority which issued the licence (in the UK this will be the DVLA).
  • Field displays your unique driver number which consists of:The first five letters of your surnameIf your surname is less than five characters, the remaining spaces will include the number 9.
    Then there will be a sequence of numbers and letters. The first and last numbers are your birth year, whilst the second and third numbers are your birth month. It’s worth noting that for female driving licence holders – the number 5 is added to the second digit.
    The fourth and fifth numbers are the date of the month you were born in. 
    – The next two letters will comprise of the first two initials of your forenames. If you only have one initial, then the second character will be replaced by the number 9.  
    The last three numbers/characters will be computer check digits. 
  • Field 6 displays your photograph (in black and white). 
  • Field displays your signature. 
  • Field displays your permanent address. When you move home – you are required to send your licence back to the DVLA so that they can update it.  
  • Field displays the vehicles you are entitled to drive. 

 The back of your driving licence features: 

  • Field 9 displays a pictogram version of the entitlement categories – these illustrations represent the different types of vehicles. 
  • Field 10 displays the earliest date from which an entitlement category is valid 
  • Field 11 displays the date on which a driving category is valid until 
  • Field 12 displays the information codes/limitations e.g. code 01 for example means you are required to wear glasses/contact lenses as a corrective eyesight measure whilst driving.  

Professional Drivers 

Driving Licence Categories 

After you have obtained a full driving licence, you may decide to upgrade your entitlement so you can drive other vehicles professionally for work. For example, if you will be driving a bus, coach or lorry commercially, you must complete your Initial Driver CPC to gain a Driver Qualification Card (DQC). The different categories include: 

  • Category C – vehicles more than 3,500kg, with a trailer up to 750kg. 
  • Category CE – can drive category C vehicles with a trailer over 750kg. 
  • Category D1 (minibuses) – can drive vehicles up to eight metres long, no more than 16 passenger seats, along with a trailer up to 750kg.  

How to Get an HGV Licence  

If you are wanting to upgrade your entitlement – you may be wondering how to get an HGV (or LGV) licence. Firstly, both are the same thing, the only difference is that HGV stands for Heavy Goods Vehicle whilst LGV stands for Large Goods Vehicle.  

The HGV licence permits people to drive trucks or lorries which are more than 3.5 tonnes. You will see that people refer to HGV Class 1 or Class 2 licences, as well as 7.5 tonnes.  An HGV class 1 licence allows you to drive a category C+E vehicle (artic lorry) whilst a HGV class 2 licence allows you to drive a category C vehicle (rigid lorry). Both are effective for 5 years and are issued by the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency).  

HGV licences are categorised under the following: 

  • C1 licence – this is the standard level for HGV driver training and is the next step up from a regular driving licence. It permits you to operate vehicles that weigh between 3.5 tonnes and 7.5 tonnes. 
  • C1+E – this licence allows you to drive a 7.5 ton vehicle with an attached trailer.  
  • – when you have obtained this licence, you can drive any rigid lorry or truck weighing between 3.5 and 32 tonnes.  
  • C+E licence – this is the most comprehensive HGV driving licence as you can operate all drawbar trailers and artic lorry combinations, as well as double trailer trucks. 

In order to qualify for an HGV licence, you must be above the age of 18 and pass the theory and practical test.  

If you are looking to drive commercially, we offer Driver CPC online courses – exceptional training at a great price. Or alternatively, if you’re considering a career in logistics management, you may also be interested in our Transport Manager CPC courses – which are also available online. 

How to Get a PCV Licence 

PCV stands for Passenger Carrying Vehicle, and the conditions for acquiring a PCV licence are largely similar to those for goods vehicles. If you are planning to drive for hire and reward (paid to drive minibus or bus as part of your job) you will require a PCV entitlement.  

There are two categories with a PCV licence: 

  • Category D1 – for minibuses with passenger seats for 9 to 16 people. 
  • Category D – for buses and coaches with more than 16 passenger seats.  

All PCV drivers are now required to have a Driver CPC card to be able to drive commercially. As with HGV licences, a PCV licence is also valid for 5 years.  

Post-Brexit: Driving Licence Rules 

In terms of Brexit, the majority of UK drivers will still be able to use their normal driving licence to drive in EU countries. However, there are some exceptions, and in some instances, an International Driving Permit (IDP) may be required. These exceptions include:  

  • People who only have a paper licence – not a photocard one. 
  • People with licences issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man. 

You can check if you require an IDP for the country you are planning to drive in. You can get an IDP in person from certain shops that have PayPoint. 

Even if your UK photocard driving licence features an EU flag on it, it will still be accepted in the UK until the expiration date imprinted on it. 

Professional bus and coach drivers and drivers of heavy goods vehicles are required to carry their Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) card when driving in Europe. 

Professional drivers who work for a UK firm and hold a CPC card can carry on using their card to drive to/through EU countries. However, UK CPC cards held by drivers employed by an EU company may no longer be accepted in EU countries. This matter should be checked with the companies themselves. 

Don’t put your Driver CPC off – if you’d like to talk to us about how we can help, call us on 0808 178 9977 or chat to one of our agents right now.