February 12, 2023
If you are unsure what vehicles you’re qualified to drive, confused by the dates on the back of your licence or just want to learn a little more about this everyday ID then this is the article for you. Our experts break down what information your licence actually holds and how to understand it.
Understanding Your Driving Licence
Before we look at the different vehicle categories you get on your driving licence we think it’s important that you understand the other details your licence holds as well.
On modern photocard driving licences you will see that there are several numbers from one to 12 on your licence. They will be on the left-hand side of the information shown on your photo side and at the top of the columns on the other side of the card.
These numbers are used to create a uniform system and make it easy to identify where details will be located on your card. Each of these numbers is a different information field.
They currently are:
2. First name (s)
3. Date and place of birth
4a. Date of issue
4b. Date of expiry
4c. Issued by
5. Driving licence number
6. Photograph (The number is not shown on the licence)
8. Full address
9. Entitlement categories
10. Valid from date for a vehicle category
11. Valid to date for a vehicle category
12. Driving codes for that vehicle category
One thing to note about the date of issue (number 4a) is that this will be the date of issue for this specific licence and not when you were first issued with a driving licence. So if you have updated your address, picture or any other details and been issued with a new licence then it will be this date shown here.
Additionally, number 9 is shown on both the front and rear of your driving licence. The front is a simple list of the entitlements the driver holds, while the rear is the a detailed breakdown of all categories. Columns 10 and 11 will then show whether they hold an entitlement to drive that particular vehicle and the dates it is valid between.
What Do the Dates Mean on the Back of My Licence?
Each category of vehicle you have an entitlement to drive will have two dates shown for it. When it was valid from (the date that you qualified, or requalified for that entitlement) and when it is valid to (the expiry date for that entitlement). These are shown in sections 10 and 11 of your licence respectively.
Understanding the Different Driving Licence Categories
You will see the driving licence categories listed as either a letter or a combination of letters and numbers in section nine of your driving licence.
On your licence there will be a list of sixteen categories which are:
There are additional categories that you might have an entitlement to drive but the ones mentioned above are those that appear as standard.
Mopeds and Motorbikes
AM – this entitles you to drive two or three-wheeled vehicles that have a maximum design speed of over 15.5 mph but under 28 mph. This includes light quad bikes that are under 350 kg (not including the battery for electric ones).
A1 – this entitles you to drive light motorbikes that have an engine of up to 125 cc, power output up to 11kW and a power to weight ratio not more than 0.1 kW/kg. This also allows you to drive motor tricycles with a power output up to 15 kW.
A2 – this entitles you to driver a motorbike with a power output up to 35 kW and a power to weight ratio not more than 0.2 kW/kg. The vehicle cannot be derived from one of more than double its power. If you have an A2 entitlement you can also drive vehicles that would fit under an A1 entitlement.
A – this entitles you to drive a motorbike with a power output of over 35 kW or a power to weight ratio over 0.2 kW/kg and motor tricycles with a power output over 15 kW. If you have an A entitlement you can also drive motorbikes that would fit under categories A1 and A2.
P – this entitles you to drive two-wheeled vehicles with a maximum speed of over 28 mph but under 31 mph. If powered by an internal combustion engine (ICE), it cannot exceed 50 cc.
Q – this entitles you to drive two and three-wheeled vehicles without pedals that have a maximum design speed of under 15.5 mph and an engine smaller than 50 cc if an ICE.
Light Vehicles and Quadbikes
B1 – this entitles you to drive a motor vehicle with 4 wheels up to 400 kg if unladen or 550 kg for those which are designed to carry goods.
B – what a category B entitlement allows will depend on when you passed your driving licence. For drivers who passed before the first of January 1997 then it will typically allow you to drive a vehicle and trailer combination with a maximum authorised mass of 8,250 kg. It will also entitle them to drive a minibus with trailer with a maximum authorised mass of 750 kg.
If you passed your test on or after the first of January 1997 then a category B will entitle you to drive a vehicle that has up to eight passenger seats and a maximum authorised mass of up to 3,500 kg. You can also tow heavier trailers if the total maximum authorised mass does not exceed 3,500 kg.
Physically disabled drivers with a provisional category B entitlement will also have provisional entitlement to ride category A1 and A tricycles.
B auto – this entitles you to drive a category B vehicle but only if they have an automatic transmission.
BE – this entitles you to drive a vehicle with a maximum authorised mass of 3,500 kg with a trailer.
The size of the trailer you can transport will depend on when the entitlement is valid from. If it is prior to the 19th of January 2013 then you can tow any size trailer within the towing limits of the vehicle. If it is after that date then you can tow a trailer with a maximum authorised mass of 3,500 kg within the towing limits of the vehicle.
C1 – this entitles you to drive a vehicle with a maximum authorised mass of between 3,500 and 7,500 kg with a trailer of up to 750 kg.
C1E – this entitles you to drive a category C1 vehicle with a trailer of over 750 kg provided their total maximum authorised mass of 12,000 kg.
C – this entitles you to drive a vehicle of over 3,500 kg with a trailer up to 750 kg maximum authorised mass.
CE – this entitles you to drive category C vehicles with a trailer of over 750 kg.
Buses and Minibuses
D1 – this entitles you to drive a vehicle with no more than 16 passenger seats, a maximum length of 8 metres and with a trailer of up to 750 kg.
D1E – this entitles you to drive a D1 vehicle with a trailer of over 750 kg provided the maximum authorised mass doesn’t exceed 12,000 kg.
D – this entitles you to drive any bus with over eight seats with a trailer of up to 750 kg.
DE – this entitles you to drive a category D vehicle with a trailer of over 750 kg.
There are a few other vehicle categories which are less common and these are:
f – this entitles you to drive an agricultural tractor.
G – this entitles you to drive a road roller.
H – this entitles you to drive a tracked vehicle.
k – this entitles you to drive a mowing machine or a pedestrian-controlled vehicle.
l – this entitles you to drive an electrically-propelled vehicle.
M – this entitles you to drive trolley vehicles.
n – this entitlement allows you to drive vehicles that are exempt from duty.
One thing to be aware of is that you do not need a driving licence to operate electric bicycles, mobility scooters or powered wheelchairs. This is even if they are capable of travelling at speeds that requires them to be on the road rather than the pavement.
What Are Driving Licence Codes?
Driving licence codes are simply a number that is used to indicate a condition that a driver must meet in order to drive a vehicle. These will be listed in section 12 of your driving licence.
Some of the most common codes you’ll see are:
- 01 - eyesight correction, for example glasses or contact lenses
- 02 - hearing/communication aid
- 78 - restricted to vehicles with automatic transmission
- 101 - not for hire or reward (that is, not to make a profit)
- 103 - subject to certificate of competence
- 105 - vehicle not more than 5.5 metres long
- 106 - restricted to vehicles with automatic transmissions
- 122 - valid on successful completion: Basic Moped Training Course. This does not apply to trial e-scooters
You can find a full list of driving codes on the Government’s website if you want to check what a particular code means or what there are codes for.
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