Thursday, 22 January 2015

FTA: scrapping of paper counterpart licence postponed . . .


FTA: scrapping of paper counterpart licence postponed

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The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has said it has convinced the government to delay its plans to abolish the paper counterpart to the driving licence, asserting that the electronic system the government was proposing to allow fleet operators to check their drivers’ licences was “not fit for purpose.”

The removal of the paper counterpart was due to go ahead on 1 January 2015, but FTA says this will now not happen following its intervention – and called the postponement: “an early Christmas present for employers who rely on the counterpart to ensure that their drivers are legally able to drive.”

While FTA had supported the initial decision to remove the paper counterpart aspect of the licence, this was on the proviso that a suitable online replacement, agreed by business users, would be available prior to implementation of the removal. The association says it was given assurances by the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) in July 2014 that the change would not go ahead until an alternative deemed satisfactory by FTA business users was in place.

The system proposed by the DVLA relies on an individual driver logging into the ‘View Driver Record’ system, printing off a copy of their counterpart details, then passing this to the employer who will be able to verify this information within 48 hours via the online service.

While FTA admitted that this would work for some employers, it said that those of its members who employ many thousands of drivers and check their licences up to three times a year would find the process “both time-consuming and costly.” It added that DVLA should not withdraw the counterpart for vocational drivers: “until a multiple checking system is in place that meets the needs of the FTA members and business users.”

Ian Gallagher, FTA head of policy for driver licensing, said: “Businesses that employ a large number of people who have to drive for a living have a critical role in ensuring these drivers are safe and eligible to be on the road.

“FTA members desperately want a sophisticated electronic system for monitoring their drivers – but the system the government is currently proposing is not suitable for business needs. The decision to postpone the scrapping of the counterpart is therefore welcomed while we all work together to sort out a system which is fit for purpose.”

He added: “Failure to ensure that a driver is entitled to drive has a direct impact on road safety. With many hundreds of thousands of drivers employed in GB, additional resources will need to be targeted at this process, adding cost and time to a requirement that is currently free of charge.”

On request for comment, a DVLA spokeswoman told Transport Operator: “We are committed to making it as easy as possible for motorists to access government services and to get rid of unnecessary paper. That is why the driving licence paper counterpart will be abolished in 2015.

“We recognise that businesses like the car hire industry, employers and fleet operators will need to be ready for the change. That is why we have actively involved these organisations in developing the new services, including those represented by [vehicle rental and leasing sector trade body] the BVRLA.”

The agency added that it was developing a new service in tandem with organisations, which would: “allow ‘trusted partner’ third parties to check driving licence information, providing they have the permission of the driver to do so.”

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