Vans and trucks - differences, requirements and regulation


Whether you need a van, a truck or a special vehicle - at Buchbinder we offer you a wide range of options for your specific needs. In the following, we would like to give you an overview of the different vehicle and driving license classes for vans and trucks, as well as their requirements and regulations.

Van or truck? That is the big difference

If a vehicle has a permissible gross weight (abbreviation: zGG) of more than 3.5 tonnes, it is classified as a truck. On the other hand, vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes are considered as vans or delivery vans and are also called small trucks. To drive vehicles in this weight class, the regular class B driving licence is required - i.e. the very regular passenger car driving licence.

Those who want to drive a van with a trailer of up to 3.5 tonnes (including the car, the permissible weight is 7 tonnes) can do so with a class BE driving licence. The basic requirement here is the driving licence class B as well as an chargeable additional training course and the corresponding test.


The different truck driving licence classes


For trucks, the situation is much more extensive. In general, there are four different driving license classes for heavy goods vehicles - C, CE, C1 and C1E. These differ as follows:


  • The C1 driving license allows you to drive commercial vehicles with a permissible total weight of 3.5 tonnes with a maximum of eight seats (the driver's seat is not included). Pulling a trailer of up to 750 kilograms is also permitted with a C1 driving license. The basic requirement for this is a class B driving license and a minimum age of 21.


  • The driving license class C1E entitles the holder to drive a towing vehicle of classes C1 and B with a trailer of up to 12 tonnes gross vehicle weight. This requires a C1 driving license and a minimum age of 18 years.


  • The driving license class C entitles the holder to drive heavy trucks with a gross vehicle weight of more than 3.5 tonnes and a trailer weighing up to 750 kilograms. Basic requirement: Minimum age of 21 years, class B driving license.


  • The driving license class CE entitles the holder to drive towing vehicles with trailers and semi-trailers with a gross vehicle weight of up to 40 tonnes. The basic requirement here is a class C driving license and a minimum age of 21 years.

Health conditions and exemptions

Driving a truck is an extremely responsible and demanding job. Therefore, there are some requirements for the fitness of truck drivers to drive. Truck driving licenses must be renewed every five years with a medical certificate. For categories C1 and C1E, however, this regulation only applies from the age of 50. 

These time limits only apply to drivers who obtained their driving license on or after 28.12.2016. The speciality: This regulation only exists in Germany. As the ADAC explains on its website, this exemption could lead to complications in international HGV traffic during controls.

 A medical certificate is also required to obtain a truck driver's license. Of course, the driver's eyesight is particularly essential here - separate ophthalmological certificates are required.


Using a truck for business?

Those who want to use their truck driver's license commercially also need a professional driver qualification without exception. This also includes purely temporary driving. Professional drivers must complete continuing education every five years.