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!
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.
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!
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.
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:
With that said, here is the complete rundown of all the 15 different categories that you see at the back of your UK licence:
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.
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.
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.
This is a catch-all category that means you can drive:
Allows drivers to use trucks with four wheels and a maximum unloaded weight of 400 kilogrammes (or 550 kilogrammes for cargo vehicles).
This category is one we should all be familiar with. Having this on your licence means that you can drive:
Essentially, this category means that you can drive cars!
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).
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)
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)
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.
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.
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:
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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