If you’ve spent any time in the HGV industry, you might have noticed some people referring to HGV and LGV licenses. Almost interchangeably! Which leads to the question, what’s the difference between the licenses? Or are they, in fact, the same thing, and it’s just some ruse to make new drivers feel silly? We answer all of those questions for you today.
What’s an LGV?
LGV is the original term – the phrase that was used to describe everything. Specifically, there are 2 types of vehicles that fall under the LGV acronym category, making things very confusing for all of us. The first is ‘Light Goods vehicles’, and refers to any commercial carrier vehicles that weigh under 3.5 tonnes. This covers things like vans, pick-up trucks and even three-wheeled commercial vehicles. The nice thing is that your standard driving license will cover usage of these vehicles in Category B (on the back of the license), so you don’t need to take a special test in order to drive them.
The second is ‘Large Goods vehicles’, which covers what we would more traditionally consider an HGV. LGV, here, refers to any vehicle with a gross weight of over 3.5 tonnes and includes things like flatbed lorry’s buttons, refrigerated trucks, curtain side lorries, box vans, drop sides, tippers, ADR, HiAb & Moffett. Because of the nature of these vehicles, you do need to have a specific license to drive them. That means going through training taking a series of tests geared around your specific choice of vehicle.
Wait… So What’s A HGV?
So wait, that last one sounds like an HGV to me, so why is there a difference? It’s a good question, and the answer is simply that the term HGV was created for a different purpose. When road tax was first introduced, the government split vehicles into different categories to make them easier to tax. They put all of the ‘light commercial goods’ vehicles into one bracket and awarded a small ‘LGV’ badge on their tax disc to show what bracket they were paying in. but this left them with a problem. Where would the heavier commercial vehicles go? They needed a separate bracket since brackets were determined by the vehicles construction, engine, weight, type of fuel and emissions and the purpose the vehicle was used for. But they couldn’t use the term ‘LGV’ for these vehicles as well. So they took the main classification difference (weight) and called this category ‘Heavy Goods Vehicles’ instead. So the term HGV actually came from vehicle tax rules but has since spread like wildfire because it means people could tell the difference between LGVs and LGVs.
Why Are There So Many Different Licenses?
Category C1 is the very first, basic level of HGV license. Most HGV drivers on the road will have a C1 license. A C1 allows you to drive a vehicle of 3,500 kilograms, as long as that vehicle is under 7.5 tonnes in gross weight. There are very few limits to what the form of that vehicle can be – a lorry, truck or a tractor-trailer setup in which you tow a small trailer. Anyone who passed their drivers test before 1997 automatically has a C1 license, so it’s worth checking to see if this applies to you.
C1 + E –
This license is also commonly known as a 7.5 tonne + trailer license, and pretty much does what it says on that tin. It allows the driver to operate a vehicle with a gross weight of up to 7,500kg, with an attached trailers of over 750kg authorised mass. This is provided that the maximum authorised mass of the trailer is not more than the unladen weight of the vehicle being driven and that the combined maximum authorised mass of both the vehicle and the trailer doesn’t exceed 12,000kg. It’s basically an upgrade on the standard C1 license, which means it can only be taken once the driver has already completed their C1 test and got the license.
A category C license allows drivers to drive vehicles over 3.5 tonnes, but must not exceed 32 tonnes. Category C license typically covers a vehicle with a cab and trailer fixed permanently together. In other words, what we would consider a ‘standard lorry’ configuration. While you have this license your vehicle weight must not exceed 750kg, and you must be over 18.
C + E –
A C + E license is the most comprehensive license you can hold. With this license, drivers can drive and handle a drawbar or articulated vehicle, as well as all of the other, smaller vehicles covered by the C and C1. The E part of the license stands for entitlement and means that the bearer can go up to or over 750kg in weight, allowing the driver to drive any large goods style vehicle needed, including a double trailer.