Fleets claim victory over new driving licence rule change

The decision by the Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) to extend the validity of a new driving licence access code from three days to 21 with immediate effect has been hailed as a victory for commonsense.

Following the abolition of the traditional paper counterpart to the driving licence on June 8, the DVLA introduced an online system that allowed the electronic checking of all driving licences.

However to do so, drivers had to generate an access code from the DVLA website, which could then be used just once by a third party, such as an employer or daily rental company, to check that the licence details were up-to-date, valid and did not carry excessive endorsements.

But this access code was originally only going to be valid for three days, which caused an outcry amongst fleet operators due to the shortness of the time available to verify drivers’ licence details and to ensure they were legally entitled to drive the cars they were allocated.

However, the DVLA has now announced that this access code will be valid for a 21 day period, giving companies much more breathing space in which to carry out the necessary checks.

The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association claimed the new rule was a common sense approach that would reduce queues at rental desks and give millions of renters more time to plan and arrive prepared ahead of their journey.

And motoring organisation, the RAC, described the news as a ‘dramatic U-turn from the DVLA which feels very much like a victory for commonsense’.

Why the change to the driving licence?

The DVLA abolished the paper counterpart to the driving licence in June as part of a Government purge on unnecessary paperwork.

Traditionally, the counterpart carried details of any driving offences and endorsements that drivers might have received. But its abolition meant there would no longer be any manual means of checking drivers’ licences, entitlements and endorsements.

This presented fleet operators with a duty-of-care quandary: how were they going to check whether employees were legally entitled to drive without a visible record of their driving eligibility?

And how were daily rental companies going to check that their customers had valid driving licences when they came to hire short term cars for holidays or essential business trips?

New online system replaces old

The new online system which replaces the old manual one comprises a ‘View Driving Licence’ facility which is available via the Government website at https://www.viewdrivingrecord.service.gov.uk/driving-record/licence-number

To be able to access their driving licence details online, drivers now need to input:

  • Their driving licence number
  • Their National Insurance number
  • Their post code.

This then takes them to another part of the website, where they can, if they wish, generate a unique driving licence access code that they can share with employers or daily rental companies to provide them access to their licence details.

Driving licence information via the ‘Driving Record Share’ facility can only be made available with the consent of the driving licence holder.

The employer, or rental company, can use the driver-generated access code to check relevant licence details such as penalties or endorsements directly from the driver’s information held within the DVLA’s own driver database.

What are the benefits of the new driving licence system?

Supporters of the system say that it is now fully electronic, improving speed of access and removing all paper from the system.

Drivers can use the new online service to:

  • view their driving record, including the class of vehicles they are entitled to drive
  • create a licence access code to share their driving record with a third party such as an employer or daily rental company

The access code will be valid for 21 days to allow the third party to see:

  • what vehicles drivers are entitled to drive
  • any penalty points or disqualifications they may have
  • the last 8 characters of their driving licence number

Going forward, all new penalty points will only be recorded electronically on drivers’ records, and these will not be printed or written on either photocard licences or paper driving licences.

The only way to verify if drivers are legally entitled to drive and do not have excess endorsements on their licences is now through the new online system.

If drivers commit a driving offence they will still have to pay any applicable fine and submit their photocard licences to the court in the usual way.

Why licence checking is important

Online licence checking will help fleets avoid issues surrounding licence renewal, endorsements or verification of new and existing licences. Data for an entire fleet is now collated in a single place electronically, and in theory should cut down administration considerably.

It is an offence if a company allows an employee to drive a vehicle for work without a valid licence. And the Health and Safety Executive’s guide, Driving at Work, says employers should satisfy themselves that drivers are competent and capable, and asks the question: do you check the validity of the driving licence on recruitment and periodically?

Research by one of the leading licence checking organisations suggests that more than one in every 200 company car, van and truck drivers does not hold a valid licence to legally drive their company vehicle.

At CLM, we can provide a licence checking service to ensure all your drivers’ licences are valid for the types of vehicles they drive and that they do not have excess penalty points.

If you’d like to find out more about our services, then please get in touch.