Driving a medium sized lorry and towing a trailer – are you legal?

There is so much confusion regarding when a driver needs to upgrade or ‘stage up’ to a new category or sub-category of driving licence.  In this article I will clarify the licence category required for driving a medium sized goods vehicle (Category C1), explain the requirements of the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (Driver CPC) and discuss towing a trailer with a category C1 vehicle.

Category C1 on a driving licence is classed as a vehicle with a Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) of between 3500kg and 7500kg.  If you were lucky enough, or old enough, to have pass your car test before 3rd January 1997 and on reaching the grand age of 18 years old, you automatically were issued category C1 entitlement through acquired rights, which was previously known as ‘Grandfather Rights’.  If you missed the deadline to pass your car driving test before 3rd January 1997, then unfortunately you need to take the C1 driving test to be able to drive a lorry weighing between 3500kg and 7500kg.  

The minimum age for driving a category C1 lorry is 18 years old unless in the armed forces and a few other exemptions.

Driver CPC

To complicate matters a little bit more, anyone who drives a category C1 lorry for commercial use now also has to take training to gain a Driver CPC.  If you passed your category C1 driving test before 10th September 2009 you ‘acquired rights’ that allow you to continue to drive a lorry, you then had five years to complete the periodic Driver CPC training required.  All drivers with acquired rights must complete 35 hours of Driver CPC by 9th September 2014 if they need category C1 for commercial use, whether they passed their driving test before 3rd January 1997 or passed the C1 test since 3rd January 1997 but before 9th September 2009.  To be able to continue driving category C1 for commercial use, 35 hours of Driver CPC must be completed every five years.

It is alleged that Driver CPC will:

  • improve your knowledge and skills before you start driving
  • develop your knowledge and skills throughout your working life
  • improve road safety through better qualified drivers

Thankfully periodic Driver CPC has no tests to pass, the training can be either practical or classroom based and can be tailored to be specific to industry requirements.

Periodic training is designed to:

  • complement your work
  • be relevant to your everyday job
  • keep you up to date with changes in regulations

Common course subjects may include:

The 35 hours training must be recorded, this will be logged on to the Driver CPC database by the approved training body.  On completion of the required training, the driver will then be issued a Drivers Qualification Card (DQC) if they have a photocard licence.  It will be sent to the address on the driving licence.

If the driver has an old style paper licence they will need to swap it for a photocard licence in order to get the DQC. This is because the DQC needs a photograph and signature, which are taken from the photocard record. 

Drivers must always carry the DQC while driving professionally as proof of their Driver CPC.  If driving professionally for commercial purposes and the driver does not have their DQC they will be liable for penalties.  If the driver has ‘acquired rights’ the proof of the Driver CPC is their driving licence.  However, it is not a legal requirement to carry a driving licence with in the UK.  If the driver is asked to show a DQC, they must produce their driving licence at a later date (normally within 7 days) as proof of ‘acquired rights’.  Driver CPC is enforced in all European Union (EU) member states. If driving professionally in another EU country, they must still have a valid Driver CPC, and carry their DQC.

Since 10th September 2009 drivers taking the category C1 test must pass the Driver CPC as well as the practical test before being issued the driving licence and DQC, until then the driver is not allowed to drive for commercial purposes.  They must then complete 35 hours of periodic Driver CPC every five years.

Towing a Trailer with a medium sized lorry

Category C1 allows the driver to tow a trailer up to 750kg only; if the driver needs to tow a larger trailer they must have category C1+E entitlement.  Again, if the driver passed their driving test before January 1997, C1+E entitlement will be issued under ‘acquired rights’.  However, if the driving licence is inspected, there will be a code next to the Category C1+E that will state ‘107’

Code 107 – Not more than 8250kg

If the driver passed their car driving test before 3rd of January 1997, the driver may only drive a combination of lorry and trailer up to a MAM of 8250kg.  The MAM is the gross capable weight including payload of the vehicle/trailer.  These weights will be found on the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) plate and the A-frame of the trailer.

Lorry MAM of 5000kg + Trailer MAM of 3250kg = 8250kg

Lorry MAM of 6000kg + Trailer MAM of 2250kg = 8250kg

If a driver with ‘acquired rights’ needs to tow a combination over 8250kg they must pass a C1+E driving test in order to tow a combination up to 12000kg.  For those drivers who have passed their C1+E test since 1997, they are allowed to tow a combination of vehicle and trailer up to a combined MAM of 12000kg as long as they are at least 21 years old.

            Lorry MAM 7000kg + Trailer MAM 5000kg = 12000kg

            Lorry MAM 6000kg + Trailer MAM 3500kg = 9000kg

The trailer MAM must never exceed the unladen weight of the towing vehicle for stability and handling purposes. 

Drivers under 21

If the driver with C1+E entitlement is over 18 years old but under 21 years old, under EC regulations, they are limited to drive a combination with a MAM that does not exceed 7500kg.  Once they reach 21 the limit is automatically increased to 12000kg.

Lorry MAM 4500kg + Trailer MAM 3000kg = 7500kg

Lorry MAM 6000kg + Trailer MAM 1500kg = 7500kg

To conclude

  • If you passed your test before 1997, you can only tow a combination up to 8250kg
  • If you passed your C1 test since 10th September 2009 or you have acquired rights since before 1997 you must complete 35 hour of Driver CPC before 9th September 2014. 
  • All drivers whilst driving for commercial purposes must carry a DQC at all times
  • If you have C1+E entitlement and are under 21, you are limited to 7500kg MAM

If you need further clarification, you can contact Patrick at the Trailer Towing Training Centre on                                           0203 326 1595                     or email info@trailertowingtrainingcentre.co.uk.

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