The current UK driving licence consists of a photocard, together with a paper counterpart — but this is set to change in January 2015, when the paper counterpart will be abolished.
Although this has been known about for some time, I haven’t seen a lot of publicity about it. For car and van rental customers, however, it is relevant.
You will no longer need to provide the paper counterpart of your driving licence when you pick up a hired van or car. That’s the good news, and in the long run, this seems like a sensible move.
However, as you might expect, the replacment solution involves a new DVLA online service. As you might also expect, from a government-funded IT project, it may not be ready in time.
If the new service, known as Share My Driving Record (SMDR), isn’t ready in time, the hire company may need to use the DVLA’s existing driver data service to check for details of points on your licence, recent convictions, and entitlement categories. This is quite expensive — current costs are 51p/minute by telephone or £1.50 per enquiry via a dedicated electronic connection.
Given that there are 10 million rentals a year in the UK, according to the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Asssociation, this could add up to a sizeable cost for hire companies, until the DVLA gets it IT act together.
What do I need to do?
Let’s hope I’m wrong, and SMDR is ready in time. However, as it probably won’t be, then if you are planning to hire a van (or any other vehicle) early in 2015, I’d suggest three things:
- Take your paper counterpart along regardless of whether it has been abolished, just in case it’s still useful.
- Be prepared for some delay and confusion while the hire company checks your driver data.
- Be prepared to pay any of the resulting licence verification costs.
Although abolishing the paper counterpart seems like a good idea in principle, this looks set to be yet another poorly-planned piece of government red tape cutting that could actually cause more hassle for customers and small businesses, rather than less. Let’s just hope I’m wrong.