Counterpart Driving Licence to disappear
What this means to drivers and their employers
The DVLA have recently announced that as of the 8 June this year, the paper counterpart of the driving licence (D740) is to be abolished.
What does it mean for the industry and how are the DVLA working to get the new systems in place to achieve their deadline.
The proposed changes
The abolition of the paper counterpart driving licence was originally scheduled to take place at the end of last year and has now been pushed back to early summer. What is apparent is that the DVLA haven’t yet got all the processes in place to make this a smooth transition.
The accompanying paper part of a UK driving licence will become obsolete as of this date and it will have no legal meaning. However paper driving licences issued before photocards were first introduced in 1998 will remain valid.
The DVLA will be the only means of obtaining the additional information that is not carried on the photocard. The driver record, which they will hold electronically, will be the only legal source of information on penalty point endorsements. The official line for the counterpart’s abolition is: ‘The decision to abolish the counterpart arose from the Government’s Red Tape Challenge consultation on road transportation. It also aligns to the DVLA Strategic Plan which includes simplifying DVLA’s services.’
‘The D740 counterpart to the photocard licence was introduced to display information that could not be included on the photocard. This includes provisional categories and current endorsements. The introduction and development of new customer facing systems has now made this information available online.’
Share Driving Licence
There is a cost free way for operators to see a copy of their employee’s driver record and this is through the Share Driving Licence Scheme. The system is still under development and is expected to be completed by the time of the 8 June deadline. It is not dissimilar to the current system of a paper counterpart. The owner of the licence will need to log in to the site’s ‘View Driving Licence’ service where they can then generate a unique, one time only, access code to their licence, along with the last eight digits of their driving licence number, which they can then give to their employer. By accessing the Share Driving Licence page on the Gov.uk website, the operator can then access the licence by using the data supplied, which will show its status, any endorsements and what vehicles their employee can drive. There is a downside to this, you can only use the code once although the owner of the licence can generate up to five codes in any 24 hour period, and they are valid for just 72 hours. However, the online version is available to print off in a PDF format and is date and time stamped so will assist with auditing.
There is nothing to stop the driver going through this process and printing off the PDF themselves and handing it over as they would have the D740, of course, it is then the responsibility of the employer to assume that this is the most up to date data or do further checks.
Access to Driver Data
By entering in to a contract with the DVLA, third parties can access licence information about others through their Access Driver Data (ADD) service. This is still in the development stages and is expected to be available from the summer. This will be a paid for service and no indication of cost has yet to be released. It will initially be accessed through a dedicated leased line connection but it is hoped that this will follow with an internet based service. Tachograph and Driver Qualification Card information will not be available through ADD, but is being considered for addition at a later date.
Due to data protection laws, the employer will still need the consent of the driver and this can be obtained using form D796.
Should an operator not have access to the Shared Driving Licence scheme and not deem it cost effective to opt in to ADD, yet still need to see an employee’s driver record, with consent they can access this information either online, by post or calling a premium rate line – all at a cost to the operator. This smells to me of a money making opportunity by the DVLA.
Currently, it is general practice for an employer to take a copy of the paper licence of an employee or potential employee who will be using a company vehicle as part of their job to show any driving restrictions that they may have. Those with good working practices in place will check them every three to six months as a matter of routine although it is the responsibility of the employee to advise the employer of any changes to their licence. This system is not without its faults however as it is not uncommon for several copies of a licence to be in circulation. This of course is dishonest and could be a dismissible offence.
I spoke to Peter Woodhouse, Partner and Employment and Transport Law specialist at Stone King LLP to clarify what rights both the employer and employee have regarding the checking of licences to new and existing employees. He said that there were two main things to think about, these being the possibility of discrimination, and if the driver had actually been employed at the time the matter comes to light, then unfair dismissal as well.
Regarding discrimination, an employer must not discriminate on protected grounds such as disability or race or sex. On the face of it, taking action against someone with points on their licence will not class as discrimination. The problem comes where the individual claims that the real reason for the action is not the points on the licence (or indeed a ban) but the protected ground itself. So, for example, if you refuse to employ a black driver or female allegedly on the grounds of their driving record, it is open to that driver to claim that the real reason for the refusal is their race/sex.
The key to defending such claims is to ensure that if you claim to operate a policy entitling you to refuse employment that you can show that a policy does actually exist. The bare minimum would be to have a written policy, and/or something in the employment contract. Additionally, if you can show previous occasions when you have operated the policy you are less likely to fall on the wrong side of the law.
Once the driver has been in employment for a minimum of two years, then unfair dismissal comes in to play. As I have already mentioned, it is the responsibility of the employee to declare any driving convictions that they may have. Should an operator find out retrospectively that his driver did not declare his endorsements/convictions, then it is very difficult to prove that he wouldn’t have employed him on these grounds unless his recruitment policy supports that and in these circumstances, he could be liable for unfair dismissal.
If a driver should lose his licence after having been in employment for two years or more, it is usually going to be the responsibility of the operator to offer alternative employment for them, if such a position exists. If there is no suitable alternative role for the banned driver, and, as in all cases a proper procedure is followed, then a dismissal is likely to be fair.
CPT’s Operations Director, Stephen Smith has been in talks with the DVLA for some time regarding this issue as he is concerned that it will be a huge burden on operators – particularly the very small firms who struggle with all the regulations etc at the best of times. He said on hearing of the delay to the changes ‘We are pleased to learn that the DVLA has decided to delay the abolition until June 2015. This extension gives time for further discussions to take place in order to try and reduce the administrative burden on our members due to this change, and we very much hope that a workable solution can be found for dealing with the recruitment of new drivers and licence checking for existing PCV drivers.’
There was no alternative but to delay the scrapping of the counterpart licence as clearly the DVLA does not have everything in place yet to support its withdrawal. It seems slightly ridiculous to replace a paper counterpart licence with potentially another paper copy as I suspect that most companies will ask for this in much the same way as they do with the current D740.
It is something else for employers and employees to consider and should have little impact on larger businesses who will quickly have a procedure in place, but regardless of that, the proposed process is a cumbersome one. As we have said here many times before, some of the smaller operators are still learning to embrace new technology and this is yet another set of procedures to take up their already stretched time.
It is currently a legal requirement to have your photocard and counterpart driving licence on your person at all times. I checked with the Ask the Police website which confirms that the police are entitled to ask to see your licence at any time and you are legally required to produce it. However, if you do not have it immediately, you will be ordered to present it at a police station within seven days. Failure to comply within that period of time is another offence, even if you do actually hold a licence. From a crime prevention perspective, the police recommend that you do not leave all your documentation within the vehicle. It would certainly be unwise to drive abroad without it.
For more detailed information of the proposed changes, download the information pack from the DVLA www.gov.uk/dvla/nomorecounterpart website.