Motoring – Check Your Employees Driving Licences

Vehicle Category Descriptions 1

Standard Driving licences for Passenger Cars

To drive a passenger car on the public road, a driver must hold a valid and appropriate driving licence. This is a legal requirement. The licence confirms that a driver is physically able to operate a car and has demonstrated an adequate level of competence by passing a driving test.

There are currently two main types of licence: the old paper licence, and the new photocard licence (introduced in 1998) that has a paper counterpart. When checking a driver’s licence, you need to check the paper counterpart as well as the photocard, as it is here that any convictions and endorsements will be recorded. Appendix B gives details of the new licence.

Anyone wishing to learn to drive a car in the UK needs to apply for a provisional licence. To be granted a provisional licence, the person must:

  • be at least 17 years old (16 years old for a moped)
  • not already be disqualified from driving
  • meet all relevant medical requirements (see Appendix C), including passing an eyesight test which requires that they can read a vehicle number plate from 20.5 metres (or 20 metres if the number plate is set out in the narrower font)

People holding a provisional licence are not allowed to drive a car unaccompanied and must display ‘L’ plates on the vehicle.

The person who accompanies them must be over 21 and must have held a current full UK or European Community/European Economic Area (EC/EEA) licence valid for that category of vehicle for at least three years. This restriction of an accompanying driver tends to rule out the practical use of drivers with provisional licences in the fleet environment.

To advance to a full car licence that allows solo driving, learner drivers need to satisfy the residency requirements (see page 10) before applying for and successfully completing a theory test and a practical driving test. Tests are conducted by the Driving Standards Agency (DSA).

When a driver obtains a full driving licence, they will be eligible to drive a number of other vehicle categories, including a motor vehicle with a Maximum Authorised Mass not exceeding 3500kg, having not more than 8 passenger seats, with a trailer up to 750kg. However, if the driving test was taken in an automatic vehicle, the ‘B Automatic’ code will be indicated on the licence and the driver is only entitled to drive vehicles with an automatic gear box. Drivers with a ‘B’ code are entitled to drive vehicles with either manual or automatic gearboxes.

Under the Road Traffic (new drivers) Act 1995, drivers enter a two year probationary period after passing their first driving test. If they acquire six penalty points during this time, the driver must apply for a provisional licence until both a theory and a practical test have been retaken and passed. Appendix D lists the penalty points awarded for various offences.

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