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Paper cut likely to cause disruption

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Motorists are being warned of increased costs or huge queues when hiring vehicles as the government plans to rush-through the abolition of the paper counterpart to the photocard driving licence in January 2015

The counterpart, which has been around since 1998, is being axed as part of the government’s drive to reduce red tape and bureaucracy. However, political pressure to speed up the process now means the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) is set to renege on its promise to provide the vehicle rental industry with an affordable and workable alternative for checking the counterpart in real time.

There are around 10 million vehicle rental transactions in the UK each year and the majority of rental bookings 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.

If the government proceeds with its plans, the counterpart will be abolished from 1 January 2015 and millions of existing driving licence documents will instantly become out-of-date. The absence of the industry-specific online solution promised by the DVLA will leave rental branches having to use potentially costly or time-consuming alternatives. For example, they may use the agency’s premium rate telephone service or rely on customers sharing access to their online driver records via a print-off or smartphone screen. 

‘Our industry handles more than 10 million vehicle rentals each year and provides a swift and professional service to customers at some of the busiest transport hubs around the UK,’ said BVRLA chief executive Gerry Keaney.

‘Rushing the abolition of the paper counterpart before the DVLA is ready with a real-time driver checking service is going to cause huge disruption and may result in customers having to pay to have their own driving licence details verified,’ Keaney added.

‘We applaud the government’s attempts to reduce red tape and bureaucracy, but this piece of poorly-timed political point scoring could cause chaos for our industry and its customers during this busy festive season.’

In response, a spokesman for the DVLA said, ‘Timescales for implementation are under discussion, but we can confirm that no changes will come into effect over the busy festive season.’

Following a letter from BVRLA Chief Executive Gerry Keaney to the secretary of state for transport, the BVRLA has now secured a ministerial meeting to discuss the impending abolition.

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