Admin and legal problems: end of driver licence counterpart30 April 2015

Fleet managers asking employees to allow access to their driving licence records, could find themselves breaking the law, in “the confusion” surrounding the upcoming abolition of the licence paper counterpart.

That's the warning from Richard Brown, managing director of licence checking and monitoring company Licencecheck. "There are just too many unanswered questions," he insists.

"The elimination of the paper counterpart was intended to remove red tape but, at the moment, the tight deadlines and practical difficulties of managing such change is adding to fleet managers' woes – as if they didn't have enough to think about already," he adds.

Brown explains that under Section 56 of the Data Protection Act 1998, employers are prohibited from forcing workers to supply 'subject access reports' containing information on criminal history and investigations conducted by the police and authorities.

Such information, if required, must now be obtained through agencies set up for criminal record checks – the objective being to prevent discrimination over aspects such as spent convictions.

Fleet operator organisation ACFO recently queried whether requiring employee drivers to sign a mandate allowing access to their driving licence record could amount to an offence. The Information Commissioner's Office says it won't be an offence provided the DVLA's procedures are followed.

"For the driver's consent to be effective, they need to understand why the information is being requested, what it will be used for and the possible consequences," states Brown.

"But will a busy fleet manager understand the need to carefully explain all this to the driver in these terms and at this level of detail?"

Meanwhile, the FTA (Freight Transport Association) is concerned tha the DVLA's new licence checking system won't work for operators.

FTA chief executive David Wells has written to the Driver Licensing Agency's CEO Oliver Morley telling him that the new online system will make driver licence checking extremely difficult for freight operators – and needs to be reconsidered as a matter of urgency.

"Freight operators, which employ hundreds and sometimes thousands of professional drivers, have a legal obligation to check licences on a regular basis," explains Wells. "FTA is not convinced that the proposed online checking system will be robust enough to cope with industry demands."

Wells says that FTA staff have been liaising with the DVLA to help bring an alternative on-line system to fruition for businesses, but states that the system due to be introduced in June "does not deliver" and will make licence checking "extremely difficult".

A recent FTA/ DVLA working group exercise – carried out to understand how much reliance was placed on the driving licence counterpart, confirmed that 94% of respondents currently rely on a physical check, either separately or as part of a process that involves either phone or external checking.

As of 8 June this year, the government is abolishing the driver licence paper counterpart that currently accompanies all UK photocard licences.

Brian Tinham

Related Companies
Freight Transport Association Ltd

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