As promised, the Government axed the paper counterpart of the UK driving licence on 8 June, an event closely followed by the inevitable meltdown of the DVLA website the following day. This in turn caused panic among holidaymakers, worried about picking up a hire car at the airport without a paper counterpart to prove their lack of points.
To be fair, from 8-14 June the DVLA’s View Driving Licence website received 264,000 hits, generating 133,000 codes that week. So teething problems aside, the paper part of the licence is no more and companies wishing to check drivers’ penalty points and licence entitlements will need to access that DVLA database before handing over the keys to a van or truck.
Fleet managers will have systems in place to check their own drivers for company-owned vehicles or for rental vehicles that are covered under their company insurance. Potential difficulties may arise however from agency drivers, or when spot renting vehicles to supplement the fleet, for instance in the run up to the Christmas delivery rush.
All of the information contained on the paper counterpart, such as penalty points, is now replaced by an online service, which puts the onus back on to the driver to make their information accessible.
To do this, the driver must choose to share his or her licence with the person requesting to see it, via the driving licence section at Gov.uk, which will generate a one-off check code. This code can then be shared with people who need to see the details. A summary document can also be printed.
Checking service Licence Bureau is reminding companies that online licence checking is vital to ascertain an employees’ entitlement to drive. By having access to real time licence data online, through the DVLA portal, this forms a solid foundation for a fleets’ approach to road safety and risk prevention.
The firm claims that switching to all-online licence checking could also encourage fleets to similarly refresh related HR policies. This will ensure that all relevant information is managed and stored safely and securely, allowing Duty of Care obligations to be adhered to.
However Licence Bureau says that if the employee doesn’t consent, employers should not use the View Driving Licence service by using other private employee information. Doing so is a serious offence under the Data Protection Act 1998, without the explicit consent of the data subject.
Employers can obtain written consent from the employee, although in companies with over 10 drivers, this can cause further problems with data collation and is not cost effective. An external third party provider can warrant a smooth transition, while ensuring driver data is up-to-date and regularly checked.
“The abolition of the paper counterpart raises further awareness that verifying an employee’s entitlement to drive is crucial and fleets need to do everything possible to minimise unnecessary risk,” said Malcolm Maycock, managing director at Licence Bureau.
“Moving to an all-online platform should question a company’s approach for licence checking and other in-house HR duties. Using a third-party provider, such as our Compliance Managed Services portal, to securely carry out regular and efficient checks, allows fleets to reduce unnecessary administration hours.
“In any case, both employers and employees need to be fully aware of their responsibilities when performing licence checks.”
The BVRLA believes that the transition to online checking has gone reasonably well, with the majority of members reporting that they are happy with the service.
Hertz UK’s van fleet customers have the possibility to sign an undertaking whereby they are responsible for checking the driving licences of those employees who will drive vans. As a result, they do not have to present their licence at time of rental.
With many of the firm’s customers renting on a long-term basis, it then becomes part of the fleet managers’ duty of care responsibilities to check that their drivers’ licences remain valid on an ongoing basis.
“We fully understand that the recent changes to the UK driving licence can result in an added headache for our van fleet customers and their drivers,” said Laura Moran, commercial vehicle director at Hertz UK.
“Whilst we cannot ignore the legislation, we have come up with a solution that will hopefully help us to make the transition more seamless.”
Natalie Mottershead, assistant manager at Lex Autolease, added: “It is important to note that changes to the driving licence will not impact any car and van rental customer hiring a vehicle under their own company insurance in the UK and Northern Ireland.
“Those customers that do request a rental company damage waiver for UK rentals will need to use the new online service from the DVLA, Share Driving Licence, for validation of their driving record.
“Customers should check with individual companies about the documentation they will need to hire a vehicle. If they are asked for evidence of what vehicles they can drive, or confirmation of any penalty points, the Share Driving Licence service allows them to share their details or download a summary of their driving licence record by generating a unique code. The code is valid for up to 72 hours and will allow the hire companies to make any necessary checks,” she said.
“Alternatively, they can call the DVLA and leave permission for their driving record to be checked verbally by a nominated hire company. This also applies if they have a paper licence that was issued before 1998.”
“These changes represent another upheaval for the motorist, and my fear is that it will be the small business owners that are once again hit hardest,” said Steve Bridge, managing director of Mercedes-Benz Vans.
“Drivers need to remember that they must get their checking code or printable summary in advance of being asked the information. If you run a business, this is the responsibility of your driver to sort, but remember you have final responsibility if you put a driver in a company vehicle and they do not have the correct licence.”
There are additional problems for companies that employ overseas drivers, as non-GB licences cannot be checked on the same system. Indeed the only way to check is to call a premium rate number during normal office hours.
“Far from reducing the burden, FTA believes this new system will be more cumbersome for employers,” said Ian Gallagher, FTA’s lead on DVLA.
“FTA members who employ hundreds if not thousands of drivers, have complained to us that the proposed system adds time to the licence checking process, forcing many to look for a cost alternative.”
The association is disappointed that, despite prolonged dialogue, DVLA has failed to develop a suitable online alternative which would provide an employer with the ability to check driver details in bulk, instead relying on a system which requires the licence holder to go online obtain a PDF or access code and provide that to their employer within 72 hours.
FTA says the agency has also failed to recognise that not all employees are domestic drivers. Given the shortage of vocational drivers in Great Britain, many operators employ drivers from Europe. These drivers are encouraged to obtain a counterpart, so that points can be attributed to an individual’s licence.
Unfortunately, despite continued requests that this information be made available through the online systems, DVLA has failed to provide a facility other than a telephone number, which is only available during working hours for employer to check licence details.
“This is completely unacceptable,” said Mr Gallagher.
“DVLA has had fair warning of this requirement and it will mean that some non UK drivers reporting for work will be sent home if their licence details can’t be verified. This information must be made available on the proposed checking systems at the earliest opportunity."
The association is urging DVLA and the Government to rethink its approach to licence checking and introduce a system that provides an employer with mandated authority from the driver to check licence details as and when required in bulk and free of charge.