Employers will have access to a new electronic licence-checking service a month before the paper counterpart is abolished on June 8.
Industry bodies and associations have already been testing the online alternative with the Driver Vehicle Licence Agency (DVLA).
However, it hopes making the service available to all employers – a month before the paper counterpart is withdrawn – will make the transition easier for fleets.
DVLA programme manager Dudley Ashford said: “What we’re really trying to do is provide the opportunity for users to be well-versed in this new service, to understand how it’s going to impact their day-to-day operations and to provide any feedback on how we can enhance the service to make it an easier transition.”
Fleet News was given access to the DVLA development team charged with providing fleets with the online alternative, while also being given a preview of the prototype.
Similar in principle to the paper counterpart, the online alternative – Share Driving Licence – places the driving licence holder in control of their information and who they share it with.
The first part of the process requires the driving licence holder to generate a unique, one-time use access code for their record. This is achieved by the driver logging on to the View Driving Licence service.
The driving licence holder may then share the access code, plus the last eight digits of their driving licence number, to anyone who has a right to see it.
The second part of the process will enable the third party to enter the access code and last eight digits of the driving licence number via the Share Driving Licence page on the Government website gov.uk. This will allow the third party to see the driver’s licence status, endorsements and what vehicles they can drive.
The view of the driving licence presented back to the third party will be date- and time-stamped, and downloadable in the form of a PDF. The information will be accurate at the time of download and is a snapshot of the record at that time.
Drivers will also have the option of downloading a PDF summary of their driving licence information that will have the unique one-time access code printed on it.
The DVLA believes the new service, which it says will "initially" be free to fleets, will improve risk management by giving employers access to "real-time" driving licence data.
In the event of a driver receiving any endorsements, courts will update driver records within 24 hours. “They will get bang up-to-date driver entitlement information, providing a far more accurate view than the paper counterpart,” said Ashford.
However, Richard Brown, managing director of licence-checking company LicenceCheck, believes many fleet operators are concerned about the change. He told Fleet News: “It’s going to work for some smaller operations, but larger operators are worried.”
Licence-checking companies have seen an upsurge in business since the removal of the paper counterpart was announced.
DVLA market share for electronic checks increased by 71% during 2014 and LicenceCheck has increased its business by 170% during the same period.
“People simply don’t understand how licences work,” explained Brown. “It’s not the stuff you can see, it’s the stuff you have to interrogate, which fleets haven’t got the time to do.”
A target of the Government’s ‘red tap challenge’, the paper counterpart is being consigned to the history books, like the tax disc before it, because it is deemed surplus to requirements in a digital age.
However, its withdrawal has required the DVLA, which collects more than £6 billion in vehicle tax for the Treasury each year, to build a new driving licence data platform to access more than 45 million driving licences online.
It has gone live with its View Driving Licence service, which uses the new Integrated Enquiry Platform (IEP), along with My Licence, which is aimed at the insurance industry.
The View Driving Licence service, which was launched in October, 2014, has already been used nearly half-a-million times.
Ashford said: “We didn’t do any publicity around View Driving Licence, which meant we had a gradual ramp-up and we could test the resilience of the system.
“It was the same with My Licence: we started off with a handful of insurance companies which gave us time to assess the performance of the technology and make any tweaks before we scale-up to the really high-volume enquiries.”
However, a soft launch is not an option with Share Driving Licence, because from June 8 the paper counterpart will have no legal status.
As a result, the DVLA says it is working hard to ensure that the new service will be ready and capable of delivering an alternative to the thousands of fleets that currently rely on checking the paper counterpart to fulfil duty of care obligations.
It is also keen to stress that feedback from users during private testing has enabled it to make changes to the Share Driving Licence service.
They have included an increase of up to five code requests per day on an individual’s driving record, which the Freight Transport Association (FTA) highlighted was essential for agency drivers. The code validity period – currently set at 72 hours – may also change, depending on feedback obtained from fleets.
Ashford explained: “It’s a very flexible and fluid environment, which is a significant improvement for us in terms of making sure the services are fit-for-purpose.”
Throughout April, it will be conducting a private ‘beta’ test with industry bodies, including the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), the FTA and fleet representative body ACFO.
Ashford said: “We believe Share Driving Licence is going to be a really good digital service, but it’s fair to say that the BVRLA and others have said they do a lot of high-volume enquiries and their preference is to not be typing in a code in every instance.
“We are therefore working with the trade bodies to explore the possibility of dedicated access to drivers’ data.”
That would involve car and van rental companies satisfying similar commercial terms to those which the licence-checking industry has to abide to around compliance and data security. It could also result in a cost to the rental industry, which in turn could be passed on to fleet hire customers.
Ashford continued: “We’re still having conversations as to what we can deliver and what the commercial model may be.”
The DVLA is also currently developing a new service for the licence-checking industry called Access to Driver Data. This will give them access to real-time driving licence data through a business-to-business interface. Contractual terms and conditions still need to be agreed.
However, while the Access to Driver Data service will be available prior to June 8, no timeline has been agreed for an alternative service for the rental industry.
To download a briefing pack on the abolition of the paper counterpart, click here.