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HGV or LGV? What’s the Difference?

There once was a time when we wouldn’t have to ask this question. That the difference would have been obvious. But nowadays, the terms are used by many interchangeably and this has thrown a lot of confusion into the mix. Brand new drivers looking at starting their careers are left scratching their heads, trying to figure out what each one means and if there is a difference. Today, we’re here to explain what the difference really is between the two, and how to choose the right license for your future career.

The Difference Between LGV’s and HGV’s

If you want the short version – there isn’t much of one anymore. If you want the long version – it used to get very confusing talking about LGV driving. This is because LGV’s used to mean 2 different things in very similar circles. When you said ‘I drive an LGV’, you could either be saying:

  • You drive a ‘light goods vehicle’ – one that weighs less than 3.5 tonnes, such as a van or a pick-up truck, and you don’t need a special license to drive.


  • You drive a ‘large goods vehicle’ – a more traditional ‘lorry’ that weighs over 3.5 tonnes and the driving of which is heavily regulated. You hold a special license that allows you to drive that vehicle, which could be anything from a flatbed lorry, a refrigerated truck or a curtain side lorry to a box van, drop side or tipper.


The term HGV didn’t come along until the road tax laws changes. The authorities created brackets that separated vehicles out, with each one paying a different rate of road tax. The vehicles construction, engine, weight, type of fuel and emissions and the purpose it was used for would govern what bracket it belonged in. So ‘light goods vehicles’ ended up in one tax band, with the logo ‘LGV’ on their tax discs to showcase it. That means that the second class of vehicle had to be renamed to avoid confusion. Since the main differences were weight and size, they opted to call them ‘heavy goods vehicles’ instead. The terms caught on quickly, mainly because it helped distinguish 2 very different types of vehicle driving.

So there you have it. Most people who say ‘LGV’ now are still using it to refer to HGV’s, but this is starting to die out now. Soon, LGV will only mean light goods vehicle, and we can all stop being so confused.

HGV (Not LGV) Licenses


C1 –

Category C1 is the very first, basic level of HGV training and licensing that you can achieve. This license is essentially a step up from a regular UK driver’s license and allows you to drive a vehicle of 3,500 kilograms, as long as that vehicle is under 7.5 tonnes in gross weight. There are very few limits to what the form of that vehicle can be – it can be set up as a lorry, truck or a tractor-trailer set up in which you tow a trailer. Anyone who passed their drivers test before 1997 automatically has a C1 license as well, so it’s worth checking to see if this applies to you.


C1 + E –

This license is also commonly known as a 7.5 tonne + trailer license, and pretty much does what it says on that tin. It allows the driver to operate a vehicle with a gross weight of up to 7,500kg, with an attached trailers of over 750kg authorised mass. This is provided that the maximum authorised mass of the trailer is not more than the unladen weight of the vehicle being driven and that the combined maximum authorised mass of both the vehicle and the trailer doesn’t exceed 12,000kg. not complicated at all, right? It’s basically an upgrade to the standard C1 license, which means it can only be taken once the driver has already completed their C1 test and got the license.


C –

A category C license allows drivers to drive vehicles over 3.5 tonnes, but must not exceed 32 tonnes. Category C ( or Class 2 as they are otherwise known) licenses typically cover a vehicle with a cab and trailer fixed permanently together. In other words, what we would consider a ‘standard lorry’. While you have this license your vehicle weight must not exceed 750 kilograms. This license is a stepping stone within HGV training – a way to move on to the category C and E license. You must be over 18 to have this license. 


C + E –

A category C + E license is the most comprehensive HGV license you can hold. With this license, drivers can drive and handle a drawbar or articulated vehicle. The E part of the category C and E license stands for entitlement and means that the bearer can go up to or over 750 kilograms in weight. This particular license is also known as Class 1, allowing the driver to drive any large goods style vehicle needed, including a double trailer.

At CPC Training, we specialise in helping new and seasoned drivers get to know everything about HGV driving in a professional capacity. Our experts are on hand to talk you through each type of license and help you decide what is right for you, so you take the right path from the first step. To find out more, just get in touch with us today.

Call on 0808 168 7922 or request a quote

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