The paper counterpart to the driving licence is set to be axed, although currently no one knows when. While many drivers will be thankful that they no longer have to carry a (probably) scrappy piece of paper alongside their sleek, small and convenient photocard, some organisations are warning of potential problems. Here’s everything you need to know about the latest revolution the DVLA is planning to impose on drivers.
Why the paper counterpart to the driving licence is going
The government is committed to abolishing red tape. It believes furnishing people with pieces of paper when all the information is stored online is rather antiquated. The public purse should be saved around £8 million a year by abandoning the paper counterpart to the driving licence.
What does it mean?
If you have a photocard, you simply won’t have to carry its paper counterpart around. You don’t have to do anything else. If you move house or change your name, you’ll apply for a new licence as you would have done. But rather than getting a paper counterpart, you’ll simply get a photo card. The Government is planning to phase out the paper counterpart to the driving licence completely by 2033.
When’s it going to happen?
On the DVLA website it says the paper counterpart will be abandoned on January 1, 2015. However, a DVLA spokesman told us: “We are committed to going ahead with this but it won’t be happening over the 2014/15 festive period.” As the DVLA is still trialling the computer system that will allow organisations such as hire car companies to access our driving records, it currently appears unlikely to go live much before summer 2015. But the overwhelming message in November 2014 is: don’t tear up your paper counterpart just yet.
What the benefits are
If we are going to drive abroad or hire a car, we need to present the paper counterpart to the driving licence. Under the new regime, organisations will be able to look our driving record up over the internet. Equally, insurers have to take our word on endorsements when we apply for cover. This is a risk that they take account of with a small charge that goes on our premium, according to the Association of British Insurers. It says if cover providers could access the truth quickly and easily, they could lower premiums. Lastly, drivers with ‘indiscretions’ marked on their licence will no longer have a visible reminder of their law-breaking clangers.
What the disadvantages are
On the first day that the DVLA abandoned the paper tax disc in the autumn of 2014, its computer system collapsed under the weight of enquiries. There are thus question marks over the robustness of the system dealing with driving licence enquiries. There will also be a cost to companies ringing up to find out information. Currently, for phone enquiries that’s 51p, written enquiries cost £5 and companies making web enquiries pay £1.50 per licence. The DVLA is looking into how much it will charge in future.
What critics say
One of the scheme’s biggest detractors is the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA). It says the absence of an industry-specific online solution will leave car rental branches having to use potentially costly or time-consuming alternatives. These include the DVLA’s premium rate telephone service or having customers sharing access to their online driver records via a print-off or smartphone screen. BVRLA Gerry Keaney said: “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.”