Automotive

All About Driving Licenses: What Can I Legally Drive?

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What do all those letters and numbers on the back of your driving licence actually mean? In order to be able to drive a certain type of vehicle legally in the UK, it’s necessary to have an “entitlement” on your driving licence within a particular category. These categories and entitlements can be confusing, and have even been known to change, so here we’ll take a look at them and try to demystify the situation.

Mopeds
Category AM, P and Q

For youngsters learning to ride, moped and other bike categories have always been an issue that needs to be understood. Motorcycle categories generally tend to change fairly frequently, but the current situation is as follows:

Two or three-wheeled vehicles with the maximum design speed of more than 25 kilometres per hour, but not in excess of more than 45 kilometres per hour, fit into this category, including light quad bikes with an unladen mass of no more than three hundred and fifty kilograms (excluding the batteries of an electric vehicle).

Two-wheeled vehicles with the maximum design speed of more than 45 kilometres per hour, but not in excess of 50 kilometres per hour, can be driven with a category P licence, provided the engine size is not over 50cc when powered with an internal combustion engine.

Two-wheeled vehicles can be driven under the category Q licence, as long as the engine size does not exceed 50cc under the same conditions, and the maximum design speed does not go beyond 25 kilometres per hour.

Motorcycles
Category A1, A2 and A

Light motorbikes with an engine size of no more than 125cc, a power to weight ratio not in excess of 0.1 kilowatts per kilogram, and a power output of no more than 11 kilowatts can be driven in category A1.

In category A2, motorbikes with a power output not in excess of 35 kilowatts and a power to weight ratio of no more than 0.2 kilowatts per kilogram can be driven, providing it has not been derived from a vehicle with more than twice its power.

Category A includes motorcycles with over 35 kilowatts and a power to weight ratio in excess of 0.2 kilowatts per kilogram, in addition to motor tricycles with over fifteen kilowatts of power output.

Cars
Category B and B+E

Car categories include some, but not all vans, so if you’re hiring or buying a van, you’ll need to check whether you’re actually allowed to drive it first!

Vehicles up to as much as 3500 kilograms of Maximum Authorised Mass, with as many as eight passenger seats, can be driven in the B category. It is also permissible to tow a trailer of up to 750 kilograms, more if the combined total is under 3500 kilograms.

The B+E category allows for the driving of a vehicle with a Maximum Authorised Mass of 3500 kilograms including trailer.

Medium sized and large vehicles
Category C1 and C1+E

The C1 category permits the driving of vehicles such as vans that weigh between 3500 and 7500 kilograms, plus a trailer of no more than 750 kilograms. The C1+E category means the trailer can weigh more than that, but it must not weigh in excess of the vehicle when fully loaded – and the pair combined cannot exceed 12000 kilograms.

Large vehicles
Category C and C+E

Category C allows the driving of vehicles over 3500 kilograms (with a trailer of no more than seven hundred and fifty kilograms), with Category C+E enabling the trailer to be over that limit.

Yes, it’s complicated, but it’s worth checking your licence categories if you intend to use a vehicle of a type that’s new to you. A mistake could invalidate your insurance – and cost you a lot of money.

About the author

Scott J Vargas

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