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If you intend to professionally drive a bus or coach within the UK, you will need a PCV driving licence to do so legally. You may also need a special licence for operating a minibus under certain conditions. The purpose of this guide is to explain the PCV driving licence in the simplest terms possible so that you understand whether or not you need driver training and licencing to do what you want to do.

There is a lot of confusion in this area for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, people often confuse the PCV licence with the PSV licence. They are two separate licences for two distinct groups of persons. The former is for drivers while the latter is for operators. In cases where the driver and operator are one and the same, both licences are required.


The other area of confusion is that of operating a minibus. There are certain conditions that will enable you to drive a minibus without having to get a PCV licence. We will explain them in the section below. If you do need a special licence, we provide the training necessary to obtain one. Our training includes everything you need to learn in order to pass your theory, CPC, and practical demonstration tests.

Licence Categories for Volunteer PCV Drivers

The easiest way to tackle licence categories is to start with the previously mentioned minibus. If you obtained your car licence prior to 1 January 1997, you can legally drive a minibus for any non-commercial purpose without obtaining a commercial driving licence or PCV Training. For the record, a minibus is a passenger vehicle carrying between nine and 16 passengers and not exceeding 8 metres in length.

Anyone obtaining his or her car licence after 1 January 1997 can drive a minibus on an existing car licence only if all of the following conditions are met:

Minibus drivers over the age of 70 can still legally drive on a car licence, but additional medical requirements may apply. Older drivers will need to submit a specific medical application and be approved on an annual basis.

Those who wish to operate a minibus professionally, even if doing so consists of just a few journeys per year, will need a Category D1 at a minimum. This same licence is required to operate a minibus abroad for drivers to obtain their car licence after 1 January 1997.

Licence Categories for Professional PCV Drivers

Assuming you want to drive a minibus, bus or coach professionally, you will need one of the higher category licences. The HGV Training Centre offers training for all four of them. The four categories are as follows:

  1. Category D1 – This licence allows you to drive a minibus with a seating capacity no greater than 16 and a length not exceeding 8 metres; trailers up to 750 kg are allowed.
  2. Category D1+E – This licence is the same as the D1 except that it allows for trailers heavier than 750 kg. The trailer cannot exceed the weight of the tow vehicle and the combined weight of both cannot be more than 12 tonnes.
  3. Category D – This licence is intended for bus and coach drivers operating vehicles with more than 16 passengers and trailers of up to 750 kg in tow.
  4. Category D+E – This licence is the most advanced of all Category D licences. It enables you to drive the largest coaches and buses with trailers heavier than 750 kg.

We encourage our students to decide what kind of PCV vehicle they want to drive before commencing training. This way, they do not waste time working on a licence category that is irrelevant to their future plans. As a side note, if you decided to earn the Category D+E licence you would also receive acquired rights for the lower licences in the D category.

What Our Training Is Like

The HGV Training Centre has a reputation for providing fast-paced and intense training. This is true across all of our courses. We have adopted our fast-paced and intense approach because we believe it is the optimum way to achieve learning, information retention, and information recall. Furthermore, our training approach is proven to work. More than 90% of our students pass their tests on the first attempt.

We understand that each driver who comes to us for PCV training is different. Some learn more quickly in the classroom and struggle during the driving portion. Others are just the opposite. Still others do very well in every phase of training if given enough time to absorb the material. We incorporate different learning abilities into our training by implementing multiple training techniques at different points. It is all intended to ensure drivers complete their training within a matter of weeks rather than months.

In order to obtain your licence for a coach or bus, you will need to undergo four different tests that are all part of the CPC regimen introduced in 2008. Those tests are as follows:

  1. Theory Test – New bus and coach drivers need to pass the theory test before they can begin practical training. This test is divided into two sections: a 100-question multiple-choice section and a hazard perception section involving 19 videos and some associated questions. Students must score at least 85 on the first section and 67 on the second.
  2. Case Studies – The second test is necessary to meet initial CPC requirements. This test involves several different case studies that the student works through on the computer. Each case study is accompanied by between six and eight multiple-choice questions. A passing mark is 40 out of 50.
  3. Driving Skills – Upon completion of your practical training you will then take a physical skills test that requires you to demonstrate you have the ability to safely manoeuvre a bus on public roads. This test also includes two parts: one that takes place on the road and another that takes place at the testing facility.
  4. Practical Demonstration – Finally, the fourth test is a practical demonstration test in which the examiner requires the candidate to demonstrate a working knowledge of at least five topics taken from the Driver CPC syllabus. It is a ‘show me, tell me’ exercise requiring both verbal explanation and physical demonstration.

At every stage of the testing regimen, the candidate knows upon completion of each test whether or not he or she has passed or failed. There are certain requirements associated with rebooking tests after failure, dependent on the particular test you are talking about. For example, if you fail one or both parts of the theory test you can immediately book a new testing session. However, you must wait at least three full days before taking the test again.

Mandatory CPC Requirements

The last thing you need to know about the PCV driving licence are the mandatory CPC requirements. New drivers fulfil the initial requirements during preliminary PCV training. Upon completion of training and testing, the new driver is issued a CPC card that is good for five years. At any point during those five years, the driver must undergo an additional 35 hours of CPC training. Completing the training allows a driver to renew his or her card for another five years.

The HGV Training Centre is an approved provider of CPC training for both HGV and PCV drivers. We conduct off-the-shelf CPC courses for both individual and company drivers; we can create and implement customised CPC training for our corporate clients.

We have told you everything you need to know about the PCV driving licence and what it takes to obtain one. If you are looking to be a professional bus or coach driver, contact us to get started training right away. Also, consider training through us if you need a lower category licence to drive a minibus for commercial purposes. We can have you licenced and ready to go in a matter of weeks.

Additional Information on getting a PCV Licence

Please find below a list of our other articles covering many aspects of PCV driving, licence training and job opportunities in the UK.


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