What is a C1 licence and how do I get one?

There are multiple categories of driving licence in the UK, including the C1 licence. Since you may require a specific type of licence for a certain job or personal task, it’s important to understand the …

c1 licence

There are multiple categories of driving licence in the UK, including the C1 licence. Since you may require a specific type of licence for a certain job or personal task, it’s important to understand the differences and make sure you take the appropriate driving test. Here we’ll examine the various categories and see where the C1 licence fits into the picture, including how to get one.

Driving licence categories cover not just common vehicles such as cars and motorbikes, but also more specialised forms of transportation like buses and tractors. On the back side of a UK driving licence, you’ll see a table of codes alongside little vehicle icons. If you’ve passed a test for a vehicle category, the date that licence is valid from and to will appear in the relevant row.

For most people who drive only for personal transport, you’ll see dates next to category B and B1 (cars and light vans) or perhaps one of the A subcategories if they’ve learned to ride a motorbike of some kind. Other codes are usually reserved for those who need to drive larger vehicles as part of their job, and that includes the C1 licence.

What is a C1 licence for?

Category C covers various medium and large-sized commercial vehicles such as vans and small lorries. You may have heard the terms MGV, LGV, or HGV before — they stand for medium goods vehicle and large/heavy goods vehicle. The C1 licence relates to the first of those, medium-sized goods vehicles. If a profession requires you to transport goods in one of these vehicles, you’ll need the correct category C licence to do it.

Further subcategories are based on maximum vehicle weight (including any cargo), otherwise known as maximum authorised mass (MAM). Let’s take a look at how the government differentiates category C driving licences.

Category C vehicle codes

  • C1 — Between 3,500 and 7,500kg, with a trailer up to 750kg
  • C1E — The same as C1, but with a trailer over 750kg (combined MAM can’t be more than 12,000kg)
  • C — Anything over 3,500kg (no maximum limit), with a trailer up to 750kg MAM
  • CE — The same as C but with a trailer over 750kg

This means that the driving licence code C1 allows you to drive a loaded vehicle that weighs between 3,500 and 7,500kg, including a trailer up to 750kg. This is more restrictive than category C, which permits you to drive anything over 3,500kg with no maximum weight limit. If you have a category CE licence, you can drive any commercial vehicle with no upper weight limit to the main compartment or trailer.

It’s worth noting that some people in the UK may still use metric tonnes (one tonne is equal to 1,000kg) when talking about medium and heavy goods vehicles, so you may hear people refer to 3.5 and 7.5-tonne vehicles when discussing this topic. With a C1 licence, you can drive a van or a truck that weighs between 3.5 and 7.5 tonnes, with a trailer up to 0.75 tonnes.

As well as commercial delivery or transport vehicles, the C1 code also applies to ambulances, so a trainee paramedic or ambulance driver would be required to pass a C1 driving test. Other types of vehicles covered by the C1 licence include some motorhomes and, depending on the loaded weight, some caravans and horseboxes.

How to get a C1 licence

Now that we’re clear on what a C1 driving licence is and what it’s for, we need to figure out how to get hold of one.

We’ve got some welcome news for people of a certain age. If you passed your car driving test (category B) before the 1st of January 1997, you will likely already be allowed to drive category C1 vehicles without jumping through any additional hoops. Even though the laws changed after that point, the rights attached to earlier driving licences are still applicable today. Check out gov.uk guidance to see what other vehicle types you’re permitted to drive if you have an older licence.

Unfortunately, anyone who passed their initial driving test in January 1997 or afterwards will have a bit more work to do before being able to drive a category C1 vehicle.

First of all, there are some basic requirements that you’ll need to meet before you can apply for a C1 licence:

  1. You must already be able to drive a car — You are required to have a valid category B driving licence before you can add other codes to it, so if you’re not qualified to drive a car yet, this would be your first step towards a C1 licence.
  2. You must be over 18 — Even though you can legally drive a car from the age of 17, you need to be over 18 to drive a category C1 vehicle.
  3. You must have spent enough time in the UK — To take the theory or driving test you must have lived in England, Wales or Scotland for at least 185 days in the last 12 months.

Assuming you meet the basic requirements, these are the steps you’ll need to follow to obtain a C1 driving licence:

  1. Get forms for provisional entitlement — As with any driving test, you must first apply for a provisional licence. You’ll need to order forms D2 and D4 from the DVLA (you can do so here).
  2. Complete the forms — Form D2 is to be filled in by you, including information about which category code you’re applying for. Form D4 needs to be filled in by a doctor and possibly also an optician if you have any form of visual impairment. You could use your existing GP and optician, or you could speed up the process with an assessment from a private firm that specialises in medical examinations for driving licence applications.
  3. Send back the forms — Once you have everything filled in you need to send the forms back to the DVLA for assessment. You may have to wait up to three weeks for your licence once they’ve received everything, possibly longer if any additional information is required.
  4. Practical training — While not a requirement, it’s highly recommended that you take a C1-specific course before attempting to pass your C1 licence tests.
  5. Theory test (Driver CPC) — Once you receive your provisional licence, it’s time for your tests. As with any other driving licence, you need to pass a specialised set of theory tests before the practical examination. The C1 licence requires that you pass at least parts 1 and 2 of the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC): part 1a includes multiple choice questions (£26), part 1b is a hazard perception test (£11), and part 2 will have you look at case studies (£23). If you intend to use your C1 licence to drive a commercial vehicle, you’ll also need to pass 3a: off-road exercises (£30) and part 3b: on-road driving (£115). You can book your theory tests here and you can find practice tests here.
  6. Practical test — The final hurdle in the Driver CPC is part 4, the practical demonstration. This costs £55 and can be booked here. You may have to wait a little while for your test during busy periods, and you can book your test up to 24 weeks into the future. Once you’ve booked your test you can check for an earlier appointment in case of cancellations.

Please note that the test fees mentioned above are for weekdays — rates are higher for certain tests taken on evenings and weekends.

Once you’ve passed your test and started driving C1 vehicles, be sure to carry both your driving licence and Driver CPC card (if you’re driving commercially) with you at all times.

How long does a C1 licence last?

Once you’ve passed your test and obtained your C1 licence, do you never have to think about it again? Sadly that’s not the case. If you’re below 65 years of age, you’ll need to renew your C1 driving licence every 5 years. Once you reach 65, you’ll need to renew it every year thereafter. To maintain your Driver CPC, you must do at least 35 hours of training every five years.

Whether you’re driving a C1 category vehicle as part of your job or for personal tasks, you’ll need motor insurance. Check out Howen’s insurance options for vans, truck and haulage, bus and coach, motorhomes and caravans, and horseboxes.

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