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Fleet managers urged to continue licence checking when paper version disappears

Cash-strapped fleets face a dilemma on licence checking when the paper-based driving licences are dropped in the next few years. The change could see them needing to find thousands of pounds each year.

At present, fleet managers can check their drivers’ details directly with the DVLA or get an outside firm to do it for them online. Others prefer to check their drivers paper licences themselves once or twice a year to see if drivers have any points on their licence. How fleets address this issue is being brought into focus after major changes to the driving licence were revealed. The changes will see the paper licence scrapped which will create problems for fleets that use it to inspect licences. Most now believe that the online system will be the only option to fleets when the paper version disappears in 2015. This means thousands of fleets throughout the United Kingdom will have to access online checking services for the first time and pay a fee of up to £10 per driver on either a quarterly, half-yearly or yearly basis. However, a number of fleets are considering the option of getting drivers to sign a mandate which commits them to updating the firm if there are any changes to the licence.

David Faithful, consultant solicitor at Lyons Davidson, said “Driving licence checking has never been a cornerstone of risk management. It all started many years ago by insurers at a time when there were no risk management requirements. They insisted that the fleet checks the drivers licence as a bare minimum just to make sure they were at least eligible to drive the insured vehicle. This along with relaxation by DVLA of data availability eventually created a licence checking culture at a time when there was no recognised risk management process and many employers believed that was all they needed to do.”

During last year, the Licence Bureau found that one in every three-hundred licences checked was invalid, with 43% driving on a provisional licence, 31% on a revoked licence and 9% disqualified. The Bureau estimates there are 24,000 people driving illegally for companies in the United Kingdom. Fleets need to be sure the details provided by their drivers are accurate and that a licence hasn’t been revoked or endorsed without the employer realising it. The details are vital for commercial vehicle insurance to be valid should there be the need to make a claim, and the penalties for sending out drivers without the requisite licensing could be horrendous for any fleet manager and the company they represents.

DVLA set to profit from private details of drivers

The latest money raising scheme by a Government Department involves the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) selling the names and addresses of motorists to companies chasing after them for private parking disputes.

In a move that is bound to cause controversy across the UK, the DVLA have admitted that they already pass information on to wheel clampers but in the future want to charge more. Simon Tse, the chief executive of the DVLA, is hoping to get ministerial approval to raise the current charge of £2.50 which only covers administrative costs, to a higher fee that will enable the DVLA to cover the £100 million deficit it is currently facing.

The proliferation of private parking enforcement companies has not been slowed at all by the Governments decision to outlaw wheel clamping on private land, instead the companies now issue tickets that are often passed on to debt recovery companies to collect. Van drivers and lorry drivers typically that have van insurance cover are often ticketed by these private companies if they spend a few extra hours at motorway service stations catching up on sleep to comply with their working hours. The tickets can be for as much as £150 and there is no official means of appealing against the charge.

The DVLA plan has not been welcomed by driving groups who believe that the end result of any increases could see drivers even more out of pocket. Professor Stephen Glaister, from the RAC foundation and long time transport expert, said “Rightly, an admin charge is currently levied to cover costs. Wrongly, it seems talks have already taken place about turning the system into a money making scheme. Not only would the DVLA be making cash out of drivers’ details, to add insult to injury car owners would ultimately foot the bill, because you can be sure parking companies would pass on the extra charges.”

Licence withdrawal figures on the increase

As the average age of motorists continues to grow in the UK, there has been a dramatic increase in drivers having their licence taken away from due to failing eyesight.

The latest figures available show that in 2010 just over 4,000 people had their driving licences taken away from them due to failing eyesight, the figure is almost three times the number of the licences retracted in 2005. The figure is only a small proportion of the entire driving population of the UK, it represents 100 drivers in a million, but illustrates the fact that many people over the age of 70 are still driving.

Current DVLA rules don’t require motorists to reapply for their licence until they are 70 years old, from then on they have to re-apply every three years and it is up to them to inform the DVLA of any medical condition that could affect their ability of driving a vehicle safely. However, the law does require any person who feels they have problems with their eyesight to get a professional opinion. If the verdict of the professional is that they do have a problem the driver should notify the DVLA immediately, failure to do so will result in a big fine and more importantly render their insurance, even if it is direct van insurance, invalid.

Experts are calling for a change in the law, suggesting that the impetus should be put on the professional to relate the driver’s condition to the DVLA but it is certainly not a straightforward decision. A report by the RAC Foundation on the problem of older drivers said “Where significant problems with eyesight exist, opticians must surely have a ‘last resort’ duty to inform the DVLA so that appropriate measures can be taken,” but acknowledged in a footnote that “Opticians seemingly do have this duty at the moment, but it is not commonly used, not least because they do not have an appropriate test to use to deduce whether people’s eyesight is fit to drive.”

The report also warned that if the obligation is handed over to the professional it could lead to some older drivers putting off getting medical advice because they are afraid of losing their licence which in some cases will affect their livelihood.

Review of eye tests needed for safer roads

Road accident research has revealed that all motorists need to have an eye test at least every ten years, because one in seven suffers with such bad eyesight that they should not be driving. They have also called for learner drivers to undergo sight checks before being issued with a provisional licence.

The researchers also say that the number-plate reading part of the test needs to be replaced because it does not test other aspects of vision. Eye tests should instead be compulsory when drivers renew their licence every ten years. They also warned fleet managers to make sure that all van drivers have eye tests before they start work at their company and to also make sure that regular eye tests are carried out on all staff that are driving a vehicle which is covered by cheap van insurance UK. The research asked 3000 van drivers about eye tests and found 20% have missed the reminders for eye tests sent to them from their optician. This could mean they are driving on the roads of the United Kingdom despite falling short of the legal eyesight requirement, thus putting not just themselves but other drivers in danger.

A spokesperson for the research team said: “Van drivers spend a lot of their working day on the road so it is really important that their eyesight is tested on a regular basis. Failure to do so could endanger their life and the lives of other road users. It could also result in an unnecessary van insurance claim. You wouldn’t own a car and not MOT it, so why not MOT your eyes?”

A spokesperson for the DVLA said that all motorists are required by law to meet the appropriate eyesight standard at all times while driving. They would be happy to back eye tests as part of a ten yearly licence renewal, although a decade is a long time between eye tests so maybe there should be a different scheme to make sure drivers are tested every two or three years.

Diabetic van drivers could suffer under new law changes

As many as one million drivers with diabetes may lose their driving licences as tough new European rules will classify them as unfit to drive a vehicle. Experts predict the strict change will affect thousands who have been driving on the roads of the UK for decades without any problems.

The news rule, if given the green light, will mean a blanket ban on diabetics taking insulin who occasionally have episodes of hypoglycaemia, and those who have low blood sugar, which could cause a blackout if not countered with a sugary snack. The charity Diabetes UK has protested to the Department for Transport about the changes which could start in the first week of October. The charity also fears that the DVLA (Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency) are applying the EU directive far more strictly than other European countries.

The DVLA claim they are aiming to strike the right balance by making sure that only those who are classed as safe to drive will be able to get vehicle insurance and be allowed on the roads. They will also not place any unnecessary restrictions on a driver’s independence, every case will be looked at individually and licences will only be refused where it is absolutely necessary. This new rule may also mean that some jobs will be lost. Anyone who drives a delivery van which is covered by commercial vehicle insurance may no longer be able to continue with their job.

Professor of Diabetes Geoff Gill said: “We’re not looking for a softer option; we don’t want people driving who are a danger. This is about an interpretation of the rules that will unfairly impact on the lives of many diabetics. It could mean that people with diabetes who have been driving safely for years will lose the right to drive under these changes. They won’t only be people who use the car to drive to the shops or a football match, but those who depend on driving for their livelihoods.”

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