Confusion over systems to replace paper counterpart

The Government has delayed the abolition of the paper counterpart of the photocard driving licence, following pressure from industry bodies concerned that there are none of the promised systems yet in place to help fleets check driving licence records.

The abolition was planned for January 1, as part of the Government’s objective to cut red tape and bureaucracy. However, the deadline has now been extended until 8th June 2015, following trade associations’ fears that there was no viable alternative available.

The paper counterpart’s demise already 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?

Warning from trade associations

The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association recently warned that customers of its daily rental members faced increased costs or huge queues when picking up their vehicle due to the lack of an affordable and workable alternative for checking driving licences in real time.

There are around 10 million vehicle rental transactions in the UK each year, the majority of which are approved very quickly and at no cost by checking the driver endorsement and qualification information contained on the driver licence counterpart. Failure to make these checks can nullify insurance cover and potentially result in an unlicensed driver being allowed to rent a vehicle.

The BVRLA warned that the absence of the industry-specific online solution promised by the Driver Vehicle Licencing Agency (DVLA) would leave rental operators having to use potentially costly or time-consuming alternatives – such as the Agency’s premium rate telephone service or relying on customers sharing access to their online driver records via a print-off or smartphone screen.

What alternatives are being developed?

The DVLA is developing an online platform called Share My Driving Licence (SMDL), which is said to be in the final phase of testing before it goes live, although the date for this is now uncertain.

By accessing the SMDL service, individual drivers will be able to print a PDF document of the information currently held on their licence counterpart, and generate a one-time passcode, valid for 48 hours, to allow third parties, such as rental firms or employers, to check licence details.

Third parties can choose to accept the PDF or they may verify its information by visiting www.gov.uk and entering the passcode and the last eight digits of the driving licence number.

The third party will then be presented with a limited view of the driver’s entitlement and endorsement information direct from DVLA’s own driver database.

There are concerns, however. Firstly, whether rental firms can quickly and conveniently check licences with the new system, especially if customers haven’t printed out the PDF, and secondly, whether 48 hours is a long enough period before the entry code expires.

New driver licence checking association

The clock is ticking and fleets will have to consider getting to grips with the new platform, when it arrives, to complete in-house checks or outsource the checking of licences to a third-party provider.

The Association for Driving Licence Verification (ADLV), has now been launched, in part as a response to the abolition of the paper counterpart. The ADLV’s aim is to deliver a best practice approach to driving licence verification for fleets and its members include those that offer licence checking services as one of their main activities.

The ADLV is now working with the DVLA on a new digital service for fleet customers to check licence data in real-time.

Subject to licence holder consent, the new technology will enable ADLV members, and other organisations meeting DVLA requirements, to perform 24/7 real-time licence checks for the first time.

The new system, which is scheduled for launch early in the new year, will also enable faster batch processing of licence data.

This contrasts with the DVLA’s Share My Driving Licence (SMDL) system, which is being viewed as a single-query service that requires each driver to register their consent every time their employer wishes to access their driver record from DVLA.

Why licence checking matters

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?

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

The provider analysed more than a quarter of a million initial licence checks it made during 2013 and discovered an initial failure rate of around one in 200 drivers, largely due to provisional licence holders, and those with revoked, expired and disqualified licences.

On rechecked licences, the failure rate fell to just over one per 500 with drivers with expired licences and disqualified drivers being most common.

Without a licence recheck, both these issues would not have been picked up by the employer, and could potentially have caused duty-of-care issues as these categories of driver are not insured in the event of an accident.

If you’d like to find out more about the need for checking your own drivers’ licences and how we can help, please get in touch.