Driving Licence system in South Africa

The driving licence system in South African went through an overhaul in 1998 from the old system to the new system. While there have been tweaks to the system over the years, for the majority it’s stayed the same. Here’s a quick summary of the current system, with equivalent codes from the old system.

When the new system was implemented, everyone who had an old licence of the form Code 8, Code 12 etc. was given an equivalent licence in the new letter format, eg. B, EC etc. To this day people still often refer to having a code 12 licence, although the system is not used in practice.

Learner’s Licence
There are three main categories of licences. Light Motor Vehicles, Heavy Motor Vehicles and Motor Cycles. Before you can get either one of these licences, you must first write a learner’s licence exam. This is a 1 hour theory exam, to test your knowledge of the rules of the road. There are three different learner’s licences available, each one applying to a different vehicle class. These licences are:

Code 1: Motorcycles
Code 2: Light Motor Vehicles
Code 3: Heavy Motor Vehicles

A Heavy motor vehicle is considered any vehicle with a GVM over 3,500kg (3.5 tons), and a light motor vehicle anything below. There was talk 2 years ago about combining learners licences so as not to require people who already have a licence to rewrite their learner’s licence, but this was never passed. Currently a Learner’s Licence is valid for 2 years. Once you have a learner’s licence for a vehicle, you are free to drive that vehicle as long as there is a driver licenced for that vehicle in the passenger seat with you. You may drive on freeways, and have additional passengers. If you want to get your Driver’s Licence, you must apply so that your test occurs before your learner’s licence expires. If you have a learner’s licence for a motorcycle, you may drive by yourself (I’ve also heard you’re not allowed passengers, unsure).

You may only apply for a Code 2 Learner’s Licence if you are over the age of 17. For a Code 1 licence you may apply when you are 16 (limited to 125cc). I have heard that you must be 18 before applying for a Code 3 learner’s licence.

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Driver’s Licence
For motorcycles there are two licences available. An A, and a A1 licence. An A1 licence you may hold from the age of 17, and is limited to motorcycles with an engine capacity of 125cc or less. You may only get an A licence once you turn 18, and permits you to drive any motorcycle.

Light motor vehicles have two classes. Either a B (old code 7) or an EB (old code 8). The B licence is the standard driver’s licence that most people get. It allows you to drive any Light Motor Vehicle and tow a trailer with a GVM less than 750kg. An EB licence is for the same class of vehicles, but allows you to tow trailers in excess of GVM 750kg. Most people who did their driver’s licence before 1998 were automatically upgraded to an EB licence, whereas most new drivers have only a B licence. This limits one from towing certain caravans and boats which can have GVMs higher than 750kg. You must be 18 years old before you take the test for an LMV licence.

Heavy Motor vehicles have four classes. A code C1 (former code 10) which is for vehicles with a GVM between 3.5 and 16 tons and a code C which is for vehicles with a GVM over 16 tons. Drivers with a code C1 licence are permitted to drive vehicles of class B. Drivers with a code C may drive vehicles covered by both the C1 and B codes.
A code EC1 licence holds the same rights as a C1 licence, but with the inclusion of trailers with a GVM in excess of 750 kg. Likewise an EC licence permits the driver to drive vehicles covered by a C licence with a trailer of GVM in excess of 750kg. The holder of an EC licence, in addition to vehicles covered by a C licence, may also drive EC1 vehicles.

In 2010 reports were issued that drivers who obtained a Heavy Duty Vehicle Licence after January 2011 would not be permitted to drive light motor vehicles. This law was never passed.

To obtain a driver’s licence, you must hold the appropriate learner’s licence and do a practical test for driving that vehicle. The test comprises of a yard test (inclined start and alley docking. Additional three point turn and parallel parking for LMV and additional straight reverse for HMVs). As well as an on the road test, generally along preset routes in general traffic. For each of these you must follow practices specified by the K53 defensive driving system, which has many critics. It is advised that anyone attempting to pass a driving test in South Africa first go for driving lessons with an accredited driving school.

A South African Driver’s Licence must be renewed every 5 years.

SA Driver's Licence

SA Driver’s Licence
Rear and Front

Professional Driver’s Licence
Anyone who wants to drive a motor vehicle for reward (taxi, deliveryman etc.) or anyone driving a Goods Vehicle, or Vehicle able to transport more than 11 people must hold a Professional Driver’s Permit. See my article here for more information. A standard PrDP licence is valid for 2 years.

Other things to note
It is possible to hold a licence which is valid for both an LMV or HMV as well as a motorcycle. You will be issued with one card which displays the separate restrictions, dates etc. for each.
Whatever vehicle you do your licence in will be the vehicle that you are given a licence for. If you drive an automatic vehicle, you will not be permitted to drive manual vehicles.
Whenever you renew your driver’s licence you will be required to do an eye test, this test will dictate whether you are required to drive a vehicle with or without glasses.
A South African Driver’s licence is in the shape of a credit card. Pre-1998, driver’s licences were included in your ID book.
Go here to view a table comparing the old and the current driver’s licence codes.

Most of the information here I posted from memory. While every effort has been made to ensure accuracy, if uncertain, please contact your local Traffic Department for assistance.
Source: General Knowledge and the National Road Traffic Act.

1,420 thoughts on “Driving Licence system in South Africa

  1. Can you tell me if a PrDP P licence requires any form of driving test as, although I have all the relevant application information, nowhere does it say what type of driving test, if any, is required.

      • For a PrDP application, you are required to have a Medical Certicate and a police clearance. The police clearance ensures that you have not been convicted of any offences relating to drunken driving of reckless/negligent driving and if applying for a PrDP for a bus or taxi where passengers are carried, you must not been convicted on any charges relating to violence/assault.

          • i have a foreighn sadc licence with prdp on it. Now, can i get a southAfrican prdp with this licence and what are the requirements then? Thanks

          • Hi Hairley, why do you want a South African licence?
            You may be able to transfer your driver’s licence to a South African one, but you will have to do a normal PrDP application.

          • Yes, you have to do a code 3 HMV learner’s licence, and then do a new driving test in a suitable vehicle.

      • Good Day

        Can you help me l have code 10 drivers licence can l upgrade it to code 14 or l must start again from leaner’s licence for code 14

          • i have a code 8. i would like to get a code 14. i suffer from having sum blind spots. would this stop me in anyway ?

          • Hi Dane, what do you mean by blind spots? A code 14 licence does require slightly higher eye-sight results. You can apply for your heavy duty learners and do the eye test then to find out if you are able to pass or not.

          • i would like to get a code 14. Because my mom has a bus drivers. and driving a truck i think could be fun.

          • HI G. Can I get a temporary PDP?, the reason behind that is there’s a job that needs it in a week tym n I dnt have enough cash to afford a permanent one.

          • Hi Witness
            You can only get a temporary licence if you’re applying for a full licence, I don’t think it will work out any cheaper, but you can ask at your local traffic department.

    • Hi Gareth,

      I am confused with the new codes, not sure if I understand the codes correctly?

      Code EC, B, C1, C, EB and EC1 are all in the same category which means that should you have these codes, you are allowed to drive a 16 000kg truck together pulling a trailer above 750kg. But one needs a PDP, what is this PDP?

      • Hi Debbie
        The Codes you listed (EC, B, C1 etc) are all codes describing the type of motor vehicle combination you are allowed to drive relative to its gross vehicle mass. If you have a code B licence, you are only allowed to drive vehicles with GVM less than 3.5 tons and a trailer less than 750kg. If you have an EC licence you can, as you mentioned, drive a truck over 16 tons with a trailer over 750kg.

        A PrDP licence is something different and describes not the vehicle, but the cargo you can drive. There are three main classes, Goods, Passengers, and Dangerous Goods. You can read more about it here.

    • What do you mean by on the day of your test? If you are the correct age, and have a licence for a certain vehicle class (even if you’ve just passed your licence and only have a temporary one) then you can apply for a PrDP. Make sure you have your Medical Certificate, see more details here and on the application here.

  2. if I write leaners code 10 can I do my licence on a car,and also will I be allowed to drive code 8 with a code 10 license

    • If you write a learners licence for a code 10 (new code C) vehicle, you would have written the code 3 learner’s licence. This only covers HMV, thus you won’t be able to do your code 8 driver’s licence (new code B). However, if you get a code 10 vehicle licence, then you will be allowed to drive a code 8 vehicle.

      • I just booked my learners licence 2day and I was told that if u have a code 10 learners licence then u can choose 2 do a code 8 or 10 drivers licence! Its up 2 u what u want 2 do!

        • This shouldn’t be the case as the learner’s licences cover different topics. But I won’t deny that’s what someone told you.

  3. am working for a driving school as a receptionist and l went to book for my learners test and they refuse my letter the manager said l can’t use the letter from a driving school , so were will l get the letter for work since am working for a driving school, am a Zimbabwe, l have got my traffic registration number, l went to langlangt that’s were they refuse my letter

    • Hi Clara, what are you asking?

      What letter did you need when you went to apply for your learner’s test, what letter is this that you need?

      All you need to apply for a learner’s Licence is the money and your Zimbabwean Passport.

  4. Hi

    I did my motorcycle learners in 2002/2003 and would like to get my ‘A’ license.
    would i have to redo my A1 before trying for my A ?

    • Hey VMH

      If you currently have an A1 licence and would like an A licence, you need to rewrite your learner’s licence and redo your driver’s licence.

    • Hi Gareth I would like to know if I have done my learners for code 10, can I get my license for code 8 or would I have to write the learners for code 8 now?

  5. Hi
    Can I please have your advise?

    I wrote code 2(B)/code 8 learners license and I passed, the reason why I chose code B was that most of the job advertisement for electrician requires a code B but someone suggested me to rewrite for code 10(C), as code 10 also covers code 2, with code. So should I continue doing the code 2(B) drivers license or do code 10?

    • The choice is yours. A code 10 licence is a ‘better’ licence in that it allows you to drive a larger vehicle as well as smaller vehicles. However if you want to get it you would have to redo your learner’s licence. Depends what you’re wanting to do.

  6. Hi,I need clarity on a rumor from a friend that is it true if I’m in possession of my Code 10 license(C1) and would like to do a Code 8 I will write a theory test and if I fail it them my Code 10 license will be taken away from me so is it true though?

    • Hi Kensley

      If you have a code 10, why would you want to write a theory test for code 8?
      But no, I don’t believe that to be true.

  7. Hi

    I was wondering since I’m in position of a code 10 license can I use it to drive a motorcycle or would I have to go back to and do the A1 or just the motorcycle learners only.

    • Hi Collyna

      Unfortunately you have to go do your Motorcycle learner’s licence, and then a motorcycle driver’s licence to get your A or A1 licence, regardless of if you have a vehicle licence already or not.

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