Working in harmony: The future for licence checking
One year on from the abolition of the paper licence counterpart, we look at how the licence checking industry is changing.
After years of toing and froing on the start date and concerns about how the whole system would cope with the upheaval, the DVLA confirmed that the paper counterpart of the UK driving licence would be abolished on 8 June 2015. From this date onwards, the driver’s licence (whether photocard or paper) remains the official document that shows what vehicles a person is permitted to drive; but the driver record held by DVLA is now the only legal source of penalty point and endorsement information.
DVLA online system
The DVLA launched its own free-of-charge licence checking services a month before the deadline, building on the existing View Driving Licence service. The system allows GB driving licence holders to view their driving record online, and to generate a one-time use code to enable a third party to see their licence status for up to 21 days.
Aside from a few, widely-reported teething issues during the system’s first week online, the DVLA system is now running smoothly. Many professionals agree that now the new licence checking system is fully operational, the changeover has, overall, had a positive effect on awareness of duty of care requirements, and the importance of driver details being up-to-date.
For companies with more than a couple of drivers, however, using the DVLA system can prove inefficient and the task of checking licence validity can easily fall the bottom of a fleet manager’s to-do list.
Overview of risk
Citing a recent study that revealed that 87% of motorists wouldn’t tell their employer if they received penalty points whilst driving, Ashley Sowerby, managing director of Chevin Fleet Solutions, believes that having access to an easy to use licence checking system is essential to maintain up-to-date and accurate records.
“That’s an incredibly high figure, representing almost nine out of 10 employees,” he says. “Having access to faster checks is very, very useful. We’ve certainly seen the effects of this and based on the interest we’ve seen (three times as many checks since the abolition of the paper licence); we believe that more and more fleet managers will opt to quickly and easily check drivers’ licences in this way.”
Chevin offers a Real-Time Driver Licence Checking platform – available either as a standalone product or as part of Chevin’s fleet management offering. The Real-Time Driver Licence Checking software provides automatic batch checking alerts, reminders and instant updating of records. It works by connecting with the latest DVLA database to enable faster access to driver information – with a service guarantee that all checks are returned within an hour.
When the software is integrated with Chevin’s fleet management system, FleetWave, users can set alerts and reminders for important dates such as license renewal deadlines as well as pull in information relating to fuel cards, repairs and accidents, allocations and costings. All of this information is quickly viewable within in a single location – enabling improved profiling of driver risk.
More sophisticated licence checking regimes can also be implemented – for example, to specify more frequent checks for higher mileage drivers or high-risk drivers, such as those with more points on their licence.
Reduction of administration
As well as improved accuracy, reduction in administration time and paperwork is another key incentive to consider.
“The DVLA does offer its own online service for employers to validate employees’ driving licences, but it is not scalable and is administratively time-consuming for any business wanting to check more than just a handful of
licences,” says Martin Evans, managing director of Jaama Ltd. “The abolition of the paper licence means that there is simply no realistic alternative to check licences with the DVLA other than through approved suppliers.”
Evans reveals that the abolition of the paper-based licence initially caused confusion for fleets; “However, that uncertainty was eased when customers realised there were straight forward methods of obtaining the required data,” he says. “Not only that, but the services available from the likes of Jaama mean employers can now be certain of the validity of the checks and not be fearful that employees perhaps had two licences, for example. Such rogue drivers had the potential to present their original obsolete ‘clean’ licence, while their ‘new’ licence contained points or had possibly been revoked. With the online checking services, this kind of behaviour is flagged up straight away.” Jaama has also reported positive feedback on its newly launched online eConsent service. “The new service is considerably more administratively efficient than previous versions,” says Evans. “Our customers are now able to send an electronic consent rather than producing paper mandates, posting them and then uploading them.
A lot of paper-based mandates would previously go missing which would then mean that additional mandates would have to be sent along with the associated administration and postal cost,” he adds.
Prioritising duty of care
First Travel Solutions has also developed its own system directly with the DVLA to check driver licences. Part of the First Group, this means that the system is used by
First UK Bus to check the details of 15,000 bus drivers.
“By working directly with the DVLA, we can have checks performed quickly and efficiently, providing employers with a dashboard of all their drivers’ licence statuses, backed up with helpdesk and account management support from our team,” explains Colin O’Keefe, head of business development at First Travel Solutions.
Raising awareness of legal requirements is an important part of bringing customers on board with a new licence checking system. “Organisations already working with us knew the requirements and were regularly checking their employees licences,” says O’Keefe. “By removing the paper portion it has in fact made the process simpler for them.
Where education is required is with businesses and large public sector organisations as a whole – we’re having conversations where the awareness that employers have a duty of care to ensure their employees are fully licensed is lacking.”
Meeting legal requirements
O’Keefe explains that while job descriptions may require new starters to have clean or full driving licences, once details have been taken during the recruitment process, they are quite often filed away and rarely checked again, or rely on the honesty of drivers to admit to any misdemeanours.
“Not only are we trying to highlight how we can help with licence checking procedures, we’re actually having to explain why this is required in the first place to some companies,” he says. “Any organisation that requires its employees to drive on business, whether regularly or occasionally, needs to make sure that those drivers have all the right paperwork and are qualified.
“Bill in sales may have worked for you for 10 years, but if you haven’t checked his licence since he started you are trusting him to keep you up-to-date with any endorsements or convictions. There’s too much room for error in that approach, particularly when you consider how exposed organisations can be if a disqualified driver has an accident whilst on business. It’s here that a licence checking system can really come into its own.”
As well as helping to ensure a fleet is legally managed, integration with a licence checking platform can have financial incentives, too; “We have some customers that have negotiated special premiums with their insurers or brokers as a result of the occupational road risk management programmes they have introduced following partnership with us,” Evans reveals.
In some cases this requires notification when individual drivers have notched up more than a specified number of endorsements points (such drivers also attract an additional premium). “Access to such notifications is impossible if a fleet does not have a facility in place to check licences directly with the DVLA through software providers such as Jaama,” he adds.