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Breaking Down The HGV Licences For UK Independent Retailers

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For independent retailers in the UK, there is almost an endless list of things you need to think about, from stock ordering to marketing, insurance and so on. But one of the more fundamental things for you to figure out is how your stock is going to be transported from one place to the other and delivered efficiently. The options here are quite simple, either hire someone to do it for you or do it yourself. But if you’re shifting a lot of stock, a car or even a van won’t cut it – you need an HGV, which comes with its own set of challenges. So if you do decide to go down this route yourself, you will need to know a few things.



You might not believe it, but HGV driving was largely unregulated until the late 1960s. At this point, the government couldn’t help noticing the number of accidents caused by HGV drivers, or incidents involving non-roadworthy HGVs were mounting, and something needed to be done. So they brought in a series of regulations that stated you could only drive an HGV if you held the correct training and licence for it. New tests were devised, training courses created and 5 classes of HGV licence came to be. Each licence allows you to drive a different type of HGV, so you need to make sure you hold the right one for the vehicle you need. The categories are:


  • Category C1: A Category C1 vehicle is a rigid body vehicle that consists of 1 complete unit and is between 3.5 and 7.5 tonnes in weight.


  • Category C1 + E: A Category C1 + E is a small, rigid body vehicle towing a trailer that weighs more than 750 kgs. Category C1 + E vehicles will weigh somewhere between 3.5 and 7.5 tonnes, with a trailer of up to 750 kgs, and the total weight must not exceed 12 tonnes.


  • Category C: A Category C is the entry level licence for most HGV drivers. It covers vehicles over 3.5 tonnes, and typically take the form of the smaller, more compact lorries you see in smaller towns, where larger vehicles can’t always go.


  • Category C + E: This class of licence means that you can drive all of the biggest vehicles on the road, including articulated lorries. This can include vehicles with articulated trailers as well.


  • Horsebox: This one is fairly self-explanatory – it means you can legally drive a horsebox. This is a rigid body vehicle between 3.5 and 7.5 tonnes, or a small van towing a trailer. Anyone with a standard licence can take a course to hold this licence individually.


Even if you are looking at just hiring an HGV driver to do your deliveries for you, you still need to understand these HGV licensing rules, as it will help you ensure that you get the right person for the job.


Restricted or Standard Operator? 

Along with all the different types of licence, HGV operators are also split into 2 types – restricted or standard. A standard operator can carry goods for reward or profit, and any HGV driver you hire on should be a standard operator.


Restricted operators are only allowed to carry their own goods, and this encompasses many independent retailers who want to save money by handling deliveries themselves. But the problem with being a restricted operator is that you don’t have to have a professionally trained transport manager, so there are many things that they remain unaware of. Restricted operators are often found to be in breach of HGV regulations they simply didn’t realise existed – regulations like:



  • Keeping the vehicle taxed, insured and within MOT


  • To ensure anyone driving the vehicle possesses the correct licence


  • To keep the vehicle and any trailers roadworthy


  • To obey driver’s hours and tachograph rules


  • To do a daily walk-around check of the vehicle before driving, and record the check in writing


  • To keep vehicle maintenance and driver check records for 15 months


  • Not to operate more than the maximum number of vehicles on the licence


  • To operate only from the operating centre(s) on the licence


  • To tell the traffic commissioner within 28 days about:


  • Any convictions of the operator staff
  • A change in maintenance agreements
  • A planned change in entity (e.g. from sole trader to limited company)
  • A change in financial status (e.g. bankruptcy or administration)


At the HGV Training Centre, we work with a huge range of people who want to take the next step to becoming a professional HGV driver. But we also work with a huge number of independent retailers who want to understand their legal obligations and learn the safety and technique of driving HGVs to support their business. For more information on how we can help independent retailers, get in touch with us today.

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