UK Driving Licence Codes Explained: Full Guide

Wondering what the codes on your driving licence mean? Learn everything in our guide, column by column.

Your Driving Licence Explained

UK Driving Licence Codes Explained: Full Guide​

Slothmove DVLA

Since 2015, drivers from a majority of the UK nations were introduced to a new driving licence format. The two components of a licence in Northern Ireland, the plastic photocard and the printed equivalent, remain unchanged. However, old paper licences are no longer issued to drivers in England, Scotland and Wales, and plastic, credit card-sized photocards have become the norm.

A great many Britons rely on their driving licence as their primary identification, so it might be more likely than not that you’re extremely familiar with the front side of your licence. We all know that it’ll have our full name, date of birth, the licence expiry date, some seemingly random combination of numbers and letters and our home address. But glance all the way to the bottom of your licence, and you’ll find another set of number and letter combinations separated by forward-slashes (/). Do you know what those mean?

As you might have guessed, the seemingly random combination of characters on Section 9 of your driving licence actually relates to driving licence codes in the UK. But what do they mean, really? We’ve got you covered with our comprehensive guide to UK driving licence codes, so you know exactly what your licence says!

What Are UK Driving Licence Codes?

In essence, the driving codes you’ll find on your licence relate to the type of vehicle you’re legally allowed to drive. At the same time, it also reflects any medical condition that you’ve declared to DVLA.

But how does the DVLA do this? Well, if you remember, when you first applied for a provisional licence, you were required to complete a medical questionnaire and list any conditions that could prevent you from safely operating a motor vehicle. The DVLA uses this data, along with category-specific requirements, to generate the codes that appear on the back of your driver’s licence.

For example, the 02 number appears on a driver’s licence if the holder has indicated a need for a communication or hearing aid. If you’re an organ donor and have notified the DVLA, you’ll get a different special code on your licence. These digits will appear on the farthest right column, where the left would be letters signifying what type of vehicle you can drive.

How Do I Read My Driving Licence?

It is easy to miss the fine print on our driver’s licences, let alone the alphabet soup of numbers and letters that fills the table on the back of our photo cards. But don’t worry! Cracking the encryption on the back of a UK driver’s licence is a lot less difficult than it seems. 

Here’s a quick overview of what the different sections at the back of your licence mean:

Column 9 lists the type of vehicles that you are allowed to drive
Column 10 shows the earliest date from which a driving category is valid
Column 11 shows the date at which your driving category is no longer valid
Column 12 show what restrictions are in place on you as a driver

While all these columns are important, we’ll be focusing mainly on sections 9 and 12 of the licence in this article. Read on to learn more about what the letters mean within Section 9!

All the UK Driving Licence Categories

You can only drive certain types of automobiles with certain licences. It’s possible to get a licence that lets you drive multiple types of vehicles since some of them do overlap. Also, the minimum age for obtaining certain licences is higher than for others. For instance, you can get a licence for certain types of vehicles as early as 16, while others have stricter age requirements.

Like we said before, it’s not hard to decipher what the different categories on the back of your licence mean, especially because Section 9 also features a small icon of the vehicle that relates to the character combination. Here’s a quick run-down of the four main categories that you’ll come across behind your driving licence:

Category A — Relates to motorcycles, including mopeds and tricycles
Category B — Showcases the ability to drive 4-wheeled light vehicles (like cars!)
Category C — Means medium– to large–sized vehicles such as lorries or trucks
Category D — Only relates to buses (minibuses included!)
Any Category + E — Allows drivers to drive with a trailer attached to the vehicle

Easy, right? Now, let’s take a look at what each of these categories means on an individual level in the next section.

Every UK Driving Licence Code

Back of a UK Driving Licence
Image credit: gov.uk

In total, there are 15 rows that you need to be familiar with when it comes to the back of your licence. We know, we know: but what about that sixteenth row? If we’re honest, they’re not as important to remember as much as the previous 15 categories. 

However, it’s good to at least know what they mean. Here is a quick look:

  • f – Agricultural tractor
  • k – Mowing machine or pedestrian-controlled vehicle
  • l – Electrically-propelled vehicle
  • n – Vehicles exempt from duty (like unused tractors or forklifts)
  • p – Mopeds up to 50cc
  • q – Mopeds with top speeds not exceeding 25 km/h (16 mph)


With that said, here is the complete rundown of all the 15 different categories that you see at the back of your UK licence:

AM

This authorises moped use. The DVLA defines mopeds as those with two or three wheels with a top speed of between 25 and 45 kilometres per hour.

You can also ride a lightweight quadricycle with a maximum unloaded weight of 350kg if you have an AM code. For electric vehicles, whose top speed is planned to be over 25 km/h (16 mph) but less than 45 km/h (28 mph), the maximum weight doesn’t account for the weight of the batteries.

A1

This relates to motorbikes with a cylinder capacity of no more than 125cc, a power output of no more than 11 kW, and a power-to-weight ratio of no more than 0.1 kW per kg of weight.

Also, the A1 allows drivers to use motor tricycles with a maximum output of 15 kW.

A2

A motorbike whose output is less than 35 kW, whose power-to-weight ratio is less than 0.2 kW per kilogramme, and which is not a derivative of a vehicle producing more than twice as much power.

A

This is a catch-all category that means you can drive:

  • A motorcycle of a power exceeding 35kW or with a power-to-weight ratio exceeding 0.2kW per kg
  • A motorcycle of a power not exceeding 35kW with a power-to-weight ratio not exceeding 0.2kW per kg and derived from a vehicle of more than double its power.
  • A motor tricycle with a power exceeding 15kW.


B1

Allows drivers to use trucks with four wheels and a maximum unloaded weight of 400 kilogrammes (or 550 kilogrammes for cargo vehicles).

B

This category is one we should all be familiar with. Having this on your licence means that you can drive:

  • Motor vehicles with a maximum authorised mass (MAM) not exceeding 3,500kg, designed and constructed for the carriage of no more than eight passengers in addition to the driver with a trailer up to 750kg.

  • As category B but with a trailer weighing more than 750kg. The total weight of the vehicle and trailer can’t weigh more than 3,500kg.


Essentially, this category means that you can drive cars!

C1

Relates to “medium-sized vehicles”. Those are vehicles weighing between 3,500 and 7,500 kg, with a trailer weighing up to 750 kg and seating no more than eight people (not including the driver).

C

Any vehicle weighing more than 3,500 kilogrammes, including any trailer weighing up to 750 kilogrammes, and built to carry no more than eight people (including the driver)

D1

For drivers of minibuses! Legally, that means vehicles with no more than 16 seats (including the driver) and a maximum length of 8 metres (with a trailer weighing up to 750 kg)

D

Anyone driving a full-fledged bus should have this on their licence. Buses are motor vehicles and trailer combinations weighing up to 750 kg that is intended to transport more than eight people, including the driver.

Any category with “E” at the end (BE, C1E, CE, D1E, DE)

As we’ve mentioned before, if you have a category which includes a capital “E” at the back of it, that means that you’re allowed to drive that specific vehicle with a trailer.

Deciphering Section 12 of Your UK Driving Licence

In the column covering Section 12, you’ll find numbers indicating whether you’re subject to particular regulations based on the type of vehicle you operate or how you typically drive. Whether it’s a medical problem (like needing glasses) or vehicle-related (such as having a limited number of seats or a maximum weight), these codes cover it all!

Here’s the ultimate cheatsheet to all the codes covered in Section 12:

Health-related

  • 01 – Eyesight correction (e.g. glasses or contact lenses)
  • 02 – Hearing/ communication aid
  • 115 – Organ donor


Vehicle modifications

  • 10 – Modified transmission
  • 15 – Modified clutch
  • 20 – Modified braking systems
  • 25 – Modified accelerator systems
  • 35 – Modified control layouts
  • 40 – Modified steering
  • 42 – Modified rear-view mirror(s)
  • 43 – Modified driving seats
  • 44 – Motorbike modifications


Vehicle adjustments/adaptations

  • 31 – Pedal adaptations and pedal safeguards
  • 44 (1) – Single operated brake
  • 44 (2) – Adapted front wheel brake
  • 44 (3) – Adapted rear wheel brake
  • 44 (4) – Adapted accelerator
  • 44 (5) – Adjusted manual transmission, and manual clutch
  • 44 (6) – Adjusted rear-view mirror(s)
  • 44 (7) – Adjusted commands (direction indicators, braking light, etc.)
  • 44 (8) – Seat height allowing the driver, in a sitting position, to have two feet on the surface at the same time or balance the motorcycle during stopping and standing.
  • 44 (11) – Adapted footrest
  • 44 (12) – Adapted hand grip


Combined systems

  • 30 – Combined braking and accelerator systems (for licences issued before 28 November 2016).
  • 32 – Combined service brake and accelerator systems
  • 33 – Combined service brake, accelerator and steering systems


Vehicle restrictions

  • 45 – Motorbikes only with sidecar
  • 46 – Tricycles only (for licences issued before 29 June 2014)
  • 78 – Restricted to vehicles with automatic transmission
  • 79 – Restricted to vehicles in conformity with the specifications stated in brackets on your licence
  • 79 (2) – Restricted to category AM vehicles of the 3-wheel or light quadricycle type
  • 79 (3) – Restricted to tricycles
  • 96 – Can drive a vehicle and trailer where the trailer weighs at least 750kg, and the combined weight of the vehicle and trailer is between 3,500kg and 4,250kg.
  • 97 – Not allowed to drive category C1 vehicles which are required to have a tachograph fitted.
  • 102 – Drawbar trailers only
  • 105 – Vehicle cannot exceed 5.5 metres in length
  • 106 – Restricted to vehicles with automatic transmissions
  • 107 – Not more than 8,250 kilograms
  • 108 –  Subject to minimum age requirements
  • 110 – Limited to transporting persons with restricted mobility
  • 111 – Limited to 16 passenger seats
  • 113 – Limited to 16 passenger seats, except for automatics
  • 114 – With any special controls required for safe driving
  • 121 – Restricted to conditions specified in the Secretary of State’s notice


Other

  • 70 – Exchange of licence (normally accompanied by letters to state origin of the original licence, e.g. “AUS” for Australia, “E” for Spain or “GBZ” for Gibraltar.
  • 71 – Duplicate of licence
  • 101 – Not for hire or reward (not to make a profit)
  • 103 – Subject to certificate of competence
  • 118 – Start date is for earliest entitlement
  • 119 – Weight limit for the vehicle does not apply
  • 122 – Valid on successful completion: Basic Moped Training Course 125 – tricycles only (for licences issued before 29 June 2014).


Conclusion

It’s crucial to identify the specific driving licence codes that belong to you and follow the rules they entail. Violation of these terms may result in severe consequences.

Whether it’s an address change, a new medical diagnosis, or a marriage, it’s crucial that your driver’s licence reflects your current situation accurately. The DVLA has the authority to issue a £1,000 fine if you don’t comply, so be sure to update your info with the DVLA as soon as possible!



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