19 April 2016

In this article, Richard Smith reviews the current options for employers seeking to check their employees’ driving licence details in the absence of the paper counterpart. This replaces other articles on the subject published in Croner-i Road Haulage in 2015.

Introduction

Almost a year after the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) ceased to recognise the paper counterpart to driver licences, the dust has settled somewhat and complaints have become less common. To be fair, the initial storm was pretty much confined to the members of the general public who were concerned about obstacles in the way of hiring cars in foreign holiday destinations and those who retained faith in pieces of paper that can all too easily be fraudulent.

Of greater importance is the need for employers to be able to check the validity of a driver’s licence for the vehicles, he or she is required to drive and also to be aware of any endorsements and penalty points attached to the licence. It is essential that holders of Operator Licences (O-licences) make these checks regularly as part of fulfilling the undertaking made in the licence application, but it is important that all employers of drivers make these checks as part of their duty to show the utmost good faith to their insurers and as part of their company occupational safety policy.

Abolition of the paper counterpart is no loss

It might first be worth explaining why the paper counterpart was not a robust system and should never have been relied on. The fact is that it was all too easy to obtain a second, fraudulent, copy of a “clean” paper counterpart by claiming that the original had been lost or destroyed — a fact that cannot by its nature be proved. The original counterpart would then be filed away against the day when an endorsement was required to be made or penalty points added to the licence. When that circumstance arose the replacement counterpart would be submitted for endorsement but the “lost” original could still be presented to an employer or car hire firm if required.

Now that the only way to check driver details is by the central DVLA electronic record such subterfuge is no longer possible.

Driver consent

Whichever method is used to check licence details, the specific consent of the licence holder is always required. This consent may be required on each occasion a check is made or may be an enduring consent, depending on the method used to check the licence.

Access Driver Data (ADD)

Access Driver Data (ADD) was introduced in June 2015 as a service to organisations with a business need to access driving licence data and provides real-time licence data through a dedicated interface. Before using ADD, businesses need to register with DVLA and pay substantial, initial and continuing costs. There is a line rental cost of £6000 per year and the charge for deployment and installation of the system is approximately £20,000 (which includes the first year’s line rental). There is also a fixed cost per enquiry. Licence holder consent is needed but under this system it can be stored electronically providing the system for doing so is approved by DVLA.

ADD has now fully replaced the old Electronic Driver Entitlement Checking Service (EDECS), which was turned off on 1 April 2016. DVLA can migrate users of EDECS over to ADD without charge.

View/Share Driving Licence

This was also introduced in June 2015 and whereas ADD is intended for businesses where there is a repeated need to check the details of a number of licences View/Share Driving Licence is meant for one-off, individual checks by the licence holder. This was the system that caused people so much bother when it was introduced.

View Driving Licence is free to use and enables individuals to see their own licence details online, including historical information such as expired penalty points. To access the information the driving licence number, National Insurance (NI) number and postcode are needed.

The Share Driving Licence facility enables individuals to create a unique licence check code that can be given to any third party such as an employer or car-hire firm and used in the Check Licence Details facility. The code is valid for 21 days. The licence details can also be printed out.

Check Driving Licence

Check Driving Licence is intended for third party use and requires the licence holder to pass on the licence check code generated under Share Driving Licence. The handing over of this code implies consent by the licence holder. The last eight characters of the licence number are also needed. This system provides a limited set of current information and no historic details.

This is also free to use but a new code will be required every time. While employers will certainly be in possession of the personal information needed to log on to an individual’s record under View Driving Licence DVLA have confirmed that to do so would be in breach of the Data Protection Act.

Licence checks through Check Licence Details can also be made by telephone on 0300 083 0013 between 0800 and 1900 on Monday to Friday and 0800 to 1400 on Saturday.

Premium rate telephone service

Licence checks can be made by telephone without first generating the check code, but the licence holder must first call DVLA on 0300 790 6801 to leave permission for the check. Once permission has been given, the person making the check can then call on 0906 139 3837 (51p per minute) to learn the details. This service operates during the same hours as given above.

Postal service

Licence details can be checked by post using form D888/1, completed by both the enquirer and the licence holder. This is then sent to Driver Licence Validation Service, DVRE 5, DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1AJ with a cheque for £5.

Licence-checking agencies

Employers who need to make regular checks on employees’ licences (and that is every employer whose employees drive in the course of their employment, even if in their own cars — AA statistics show that 1 in 650 drivers is driving while disqualified) will find the various individual licence-checking options cumbersome and time-consuming to operate but ADD may well be too expensive. One solution to this problem may be found by using one of the licence-checking agencies. These are accredited by DVLA and should be a member of the Association for Driver Licence Verification (ADLV).

While there will obviously be an annual cost involved, at least the initial set-up cost for ADD will be avoided. These agencies can also offer added-value services such as regular reports and even alerts whenever a driver acquires a new endorsement. A further advantage is that agencies can also access in real time the details of licences issued in Northern Ireland which are not available through DVLA systems.

In conclusion

Regular driver licence checks are an essential part of the management of safety in all companies where employees drive as part of their work and are also required by the undertaking given by O-licence holders. DVLA provides a number of options for making these checks but perhaps contracting for the services of a member of the ADLV will provide a more effective and efficient solution for fleet operators.