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This note explains the law related to driver licensing, including the changes introduced in the UK by virtue of European Directives. There is a separate section on the new licensing regime for HGV drivers, introduced in 2009.

It is illegal to drive a motor vehicle in the UK without holding a valid driving licence. Licence entitlements vary depending on when they were obtained and the type of vehicle you wish to drive. There are separate qualifications for those wishing to become HGV and bus drivers. General information on driver licensing, including application procedures, can be found on the Direct.Gov website.

Legislation in this area derives from EU law. The collected European Driving Licence Directives require Member States to adopt a common format licence, to harmonise categories and to provide common standards of competence and fitness to drive. The current law applies the Third Directive, agreed in December 2006, which came into force on 19 January 2013.

Changes to the driving requirements for HGV drivers were introduced in 2009, also as a consequence of EU legislation. These require new drivers to undertake further tests and training and for those with existing licences to undergo a package of retraining by 2014.

This note does not cover licensing for motorcyclists (see: SN3259), or bus drivers (see: SN1523), or changes to medical requirements for fitness to drive (see: SN387).

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