DVLA Phasing Out Paper Driving Licences

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) is phasing out the paper counterpart and will only issue the photocard driving licence starting 1 January 2015. The decision to eliminate the paper licence stems from the government’s Red Tape Challenge consultation on road transport and is aligned with the government’s recent abolition of the paper tax disc in an effort to digitise driver records and cut through bureaucratic red tape. The government estimates that phasing out paper licences will save drivers about £8 million in reduced fees.

What does this mean for employers?

As an owner or manager, you must verify whether your employees who drive for work need to use a tachograph, have a valid licence and possess the proper qualifications. Failing to do so could generate a £1,000 fine for the motorist and expose you to liability for any injury, damage or death caused by your employees driving with an invalid licence while working.

Beginning 1 January 2015 employers can no longer use the paper counterpart to check driving information—such as provisional entitlements and endorsements—which is not listed on the photocard licence. Currently employers can verify employees’ driver information with their permission through the following services:

  • By post for £5 per enquiry
  • By phone for 51p per minute: 0906 139 3837
  • By fax for £5 per enquiry
  • Via the Electronic Driver Entitlement Checking Service, which requires organisations to pay set-up costs, an enquiry fee and enter into a contract with the DVLA

Along with phasing out paper licences, the DVLA is developing a digital enquiry service for businesses that need real-time access to drivers’ information which cannot be accommodated via existing services or an intermediary. The service, Share My Driving Record (SMDR), will only reveal data to organisations that are authorised to see it and that have notified the driving licence holder.

SMDR will initially be free, but that could change pending further review. The DVLA decided to initially not charge SMDR users in an effort to mirror drivers’ ability to present such information found on their paper counterpart free of charge to organisations or employers who have a right to view it. Existing services, along with their attendant costs, will remain unchanged.

Currently, the DVLA only discloses driver data with the licence holder’s explicit consent, but that could also change—after the abolition of the paper counterpart the DVLA may offer driver entitlement checks without the driver’s consent. Deliberation is ongoing, but data requesters may eventually only need to notify the driver and prove they are accessing the information legitimately.

What does this mean for employees?

Not much—employees with paper driving licences issued before the photocard was introduced in 1998 should keep their licence. The next time they update or renew their licence, they will only be issued a photocard. After 1 January 2015 licence holders may destroy their paper counterpart—but not before. Employees can check their own driving information by visiting www.gov.uk/view-driving-licence.

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