UK driving licence codes and categories like AM and 01 explained

Do you know what the codes and other details on the front and back of your driving licence mean? Finding out could help avoid big fines and even get you driving vehicles you thought you weren't allowed to such as camper vans.

Here motoring journalist and expert Pete Barden looks at what some of the important and popular codes mean to help you read and understand your licence.

Front of a UK driving licenceHere are the sections on the front of a UK driving licence. (Credit Pete Barden)

What the front of your licence means

Here’s what the sections say about you and your driving.

Your Details

Section 1: Your surname

Section 2: Your first and middle name

Section 3: Your date of birth and where you were born

Details and expiry date of your licence

Section 4a: This is the date your licence became valid

Section 4b: This section labelled 4b is the date when your photocard ceases to be valid – and will need to be renewed with the DVLA. You will typically have a date showing you must renew your driving licence at 70 years old

Section 4c: Where the driving licence was issued

Section 5: Your individual driving number

Section 7: Your signature

Section 8: Your address – if this is wrong, you could be fined £1,000

Section 9: These are the categories of vehicles you can drive all listed in one place. The reverse of the driving licence explains these in greater detail – as have we, below.

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What the back of your licence means

There are four columns on the rear of your licence, here is what each means.

Front of a UK driving licenceHere are the categories and columns for dates they are active (we have blurred the dates to protect the licence holder's privacy. (Credit Pete Barden)

Column 9: The types of vehicle you are allowed to drive

Columns 10: and 11: From and to dates that you can drive the vehicles listed in column 9 – if applicable. No date means you can’t drive or ride that category.

Column 12: lists limitations you may have specific to that category

Licence categories for motorbikes

AM: This category applies to mopeds, meaning you can drive two-wheeled or three-wheeled vehicles at a maximum speed of 28mph - including quad bikes. You must be at least 16 years old to hold an AM licence and have passed your motorbike theory and practical test.

A1: Allows holder to ride motorbikes with an engine of up to 125cc with a power input up to 11kW, and tricycles with a power input up to 15kW. To hold this, you need to be at least 17 and have passed your motorbike theory and practical test.

A2: Motorbikes up to 35kW and you must be at least 19 years old and have taken your theory and practical test.

A: Holders can drive any bike of any size or engine. You must be 24 years old to get this licence or 21 years old if you’ve held your A2 licence for more than 2 years and have passed both a motorbike theory and practice test.

Licence categories for cars

B1: You can drive a vehicle with 4 wheels up to 400kg unladen or 550kg if designed for carrying goods.

B: This on your licence allows you to drive a manual or automatic car, or both if you passed using a manual car.

Licence categories for lorries and buses

C1: You can drive vehicles between 3,500 and 7,500kg maximum authorised mass (MAM) - with a trailer up to 750kg

C: You can drive any vehicle over 3,500 kg - with a trailer up to 750kg MAM

D1: You can drive minibuses with no more than 16 passenger seats, a maximum length of 8 metres and a trailer up to 750kg.

D: You can drive any bus with more than 8 passenger seats and a trailer up to 750kg.

Licence categories for trailers

BE: Allows drivers who passed their driving test after 1st January 1997 to tow trailers up to 3,500 kg MAM with a standard driving licence without of passing any additional tests or qualifications.

C1E: Lets drivers drive C1 vehicles with a trailer of over 750 kg. The combined weight can’t exceed 12,000kg MAM.

CE: Same as Category C apart from it allows you to tow a trailer over 750kg.

D1E: Means you can drive D1 minibuses and tow a trailer over 750kg with a weight not exceeding 12,000kg MAM.

DE: Allows you to drive buses seating more than 8 passengers together with towing a trailer over 750kg

Common driving restrictions on your licence

Look out for these in column 12 on the rear of your licence. You must comply with them or risk fines.

01 – Eyesight correction (i.e. the use of glasses whilst driving)

02 – Hearing Aid

40 – Modified Steering

78 – Restricted to automatic transmission vehicles

105 – Vehicle no more than 5.5m long

115 – Organ donor

Where can I check for penalty points?

If you have the old green or pink paper driving licence, you will see them written on it. The new photocard licences don’t, so you will need to use the online tool to check your licence for penalty points.

Find out more about licence codes and categories here at the Gov.UK DVLA website.

What does the traffic light sign on the back mean?

Rumour has it that this symbol relates to having points on your licence, but this is not the case.
The symbol - which looks like a set of traffic lights with the amber light illuminated - can be found on photocard licences issued after February 2014. Older licences may have a steering wheel symbol.
In both cases, they have nothing to do with points on the licence or pending penalties, and merely act as a security feature that does not reflect your driving record at all. This was confirmed by the DVLA.
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Author: Pete Barden:

Twitter: @pete_barden

Pete Barden is a qualified journalist who has written and produced for publications including The Sun (, New Statesman Media Group, Whatcar? ( Stuff Magazine (, Fastcar Magazine (, Maxim Magazine and UK broadcast stations within the Heart network (Formerly GCAP). Pete specialises in motoring and travel content, along with news and production roles. You can find out more about Pete Barden on LinkedIn.

Read all articles by Pete Barden

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