A practical guide to obtaining a truck license

The truck driver profession is one of those that, on many occasions, is passed down from father to son. It is pretty common that there are several generations of truck drivers in the same family, making it a very vocational profession. However, a series of conditions must be met.

The first of these, and certainly the most important, is to obtain a "ruck driving license. Like the car driving license, each European Union country has its own requirements to obtain this document.

Therefore, in this article, we will give an overview of the rules that are accepted by most EU countries without going into the particularities of each nation.

The different types of truck licenses and minimum age

First of all, to obtain the C license, which entitles one to drive a truck, it is necessary first to get the B license. But what can you drive with the C license, you might ask?

With the C license, you can drive vehicles such as trucks and vans with a total laden mass of more than 3.5 tons, even if they carry a light trailer. However, if the driver is under 21 years of age, the total laden mass may not exceed 7.5t. In the case of higher masses, the CQC (Carriage of Goods) must also be obtained for professional transport. We will develop that point later in this article.

Within the C license, there are several modalities:

  • C: allows you to drive any vehicle with an MMA greater than 3,500 kilos without tonnage limit and be able to transport up to 9 passengers, including the driver.
  • C1: With it, you will be able to drive those vehicles whose MMA is between 3,500 and 7,500 kilos. With it, you will also be able to transport a maximum of 9 passengers, including the driver.
  • C1+E: allows the inclusion of a non-light trailer whose MMA is 750 kilos.
  • C+E: allows the coupling of a non-light trailer.

As mentioned previously, one aspect to consider is the driver's age. In November 2021, a modification of the General Drivers Regulation, imposed by the European Directive, reduced the minimum age required to drive trucks (over 7,500 kg of MMA) to 18 years old, provided that the prerequisite of having obtained the Certificate of Professional Aptitude, which we will see below, was met.

This means that all the licenses mentioned above have an expiration date and a maximum age limit: it is renewed every five years, but only until the age of 65 when it must be renewed every two years. The CE license for heavy vehicles (over 20 tons) can only be renewed three more times every year, up to the age of 68. After 68 years old, the CE license is "converted" into a standard C license.

How to obtain the CE license

But first, you have to obtain the CE license, and for that, you have to pass a theoretical exam and two practical exams. If you already have a C1 license, you do not need to take the theory test. The first part of the exams is controlling aptitudes and behaviors in a closed circuit (exam C tracks). Once you have passed it, you move on to the second one, which is an open-circuit driving test.

What else do I need to consider if I want to become a professional in transportation?

The European Council has also approved a regulation at the Community level for the different Certificates of Professional Competence, which are required documents in many countries to drive these vehicles professionally.

Since September 2008, the regulation stipulates that professional drivers starting in the transport sector must pass two types of CAP courses. Firstly, an Initial Qualification of 280 hours of duration is carried out after obtaining the type B driving license. Then, a second Accelerated Qualification of 140 hours is required every 5 years. If you fail the second qualification, your license is revoked.

The European Parliament intends to focus on specific issues such as preventive protection of vulnerable users (cyclists, pedestrians, etc.); efficient driving in terms of reducing fuel consumption and pollutant emissions; optimization and updating of driving techniques in extreme weather conditions; and the knowledge and possibilities offered by intelligent transport systems.

How much time do I need and how much will it cost?

Obtaining a C permit can take some time... and money. According to the Academia del Transportista, in a country such as Spain, an 18-year-old person who would like to obtain all the permits and authorizations to transport goods in any truck would take an average of 345 days, including all the relevant tests and considering that the driver passes all the test on the first try. The average time to obtain the Initial CAP of 280 hours is between 4 and 6 months, while the average time to obtain the C permit is between 60 and 70 days.

And then there is the financial aspect. The final price of obtaining the license will depend on each driving school, the practices carried out, and the number of times necessary to obtain each of the tests. In general, and as indicated by the Spanish insurance company Mapfre, and taking Spain as an example, the amount usually ranges between 800 and 1,000 euros, which includes the price of the driving school, the fees to take the exam and 90 euros for the fees of each of the practical exams that you will have to take. Keep in mind that you still have to add the cost of the medical certificate and other specific costs, which can also be requested.