When it comes to driving licences, the UK has never had the most efficient of systems. We have gone from the old school paper licences that didn’t even bear a photo, through to the recently (1998) introduced combination of a photo card and a paper licence. As of June 8th this year we’re going through yet another change - the paper part of the licence will no longer be valid and licence holders are being advised to destroy it.
Those who still have a paper licence only are being told to hold on to it, as it will still remain valid after the changes have come in. However, the new system is not just affecting what form your licence takes but the way that it is checked too. Now, in order to be able to check for penalty points, a licence will have to be checked either online, by phone or – rather archaically – by post. So, any points acquired on a driving licence after June 8th with be recorded electronically and will not be printed or written on paper driving licences. If you commit an offence after 8th June you will still be penalised in the same way i.e. you will still have to pay the fine etc, but instead of the penalty appearing on the licence, the licence will be sent off to the court and the paperwork will be dealt with differently.
Of course this has thrown up a whole raft of complications, particularly for those who are considering heading overseas this summer and looking to hire a car. The DVLA insists that information about the changes to UK driving licences has been disseminated far and wide – far enough to ensure that wherever you travel local hire car companies will know that you no longer need a paper licence in order to book a car. However, not everyone is convinced of the effectiveness of the spread of information and many have pointed out that this could cause significant problems. The terms and conditions of most hire car firms require that both parts of the driving licence are produced – currently, if you show up to hire a car and you only have the photo card, not the paper licence too, you won’t be able to take the car. Commentators have been concerned that there could be a period during which hire car firms – especially those abroad – continue to treat people who don’t have the paper part of the licence as unable to hire a car, despite the fact that the paper part is no longer valid.
It is possible for motorists to download their driving history from a pdf file but it’s not year clear whether this would be an acceptable document for a car hire firm. To obtain the file, a pass code is required for the DVLA – which is only valid for 72 hours – and you can also give your permission for your record at the DVLA to be checked verbally by a named person or organisation. So, there are ways in which it is possible to overcome the problem. However, it all seems like rather a lot of hassle for a simple document change and the summer a rather unwise time in which to introduce it.