DRIVING LICENCES – HAS YOUR BUSINESS ADAPTED TO THE CHANGE?

From the 8 June 2015, the paper counterpart to the photo card driving licence was abolished and is no longer issued by DVLA.

Since 8 June 2015 new penalty points (endorsements) are recorded electronically, and won’t be printed or written on either photo card licences or paper driving licences. This means neither the photo card driving licence nor the paper licence provides a clear representation of any driving endorsements people may hold.

What does this mean for your business?

Failure to carry out checks on an individual’s entitlement to drive may result in their driving whilst uninsured.

There is a duty placed on the person seeking insurance to drive a vehicle to disclose all material facts, motoring convictions and endorsements.

Motor insurance policies may exclude cover for drivers above a certain number of points or types of conviction. Therefore it is imperative the motor trader has all material facts when confirming insurance cover.

If a motor trader fails to disclose a material fact this may invalidate the motor insurance cover.

It is essential that the motor trader ensures that customers or agency drivers, including the spouse or partner of the driver if they intend to drive hold a valid licence and are eligible to drive under the terms of the trader’s motor insurance.

It is not sufficient to rely on a customer’s assurance that they hold a current and valid driving licence. Often individuals acting in good faith may not know the current number of points on their licence. Indeed, where individuals do not keep the DVLA aware of changes to their address they are at risk of accumulating points and even having their licence revoked without their knowledge.  Operating on a basis of trust can leave a motor trader exposed to legal action through negligence and failing to meet duty of care obligations.

It is essential that systems are put into place which document checks on licence validity and endorsements.  This enables the motor trader to assess the level of risk that the licence holder presents.

What are the risks of failing to undertake and document license checks?

According to Department of Transport statistics there were 1,775 reported road deaths in 2014.

A motor trader may find themselves subject to investigation if one their vehicles is involved in a serious accident or fatality. In the event of an investigation you will need to produce evidence and an audit trail in relation to the system for undertaking driving licence checks.

In the event of a death The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 can be used to prosecute any serious management failures. A motor trader could be guilty of an offence if the way in which “its activities are managed or organised – causes a person’s death; and amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased.”

This offence is indictable only and on conviction the judge may impose an unlimited no lower limit fine ranging from £500,000 upwards.  Steps will need to be taken to address the failures behind the death by means of a remedial order.

The threshold for such a prosecution is high but it is possible to imagine circumstances where it may be considered. A motor trader may be targeted by an individual with an appalling driving history if that trader was known to carry out inadequate checks or worse no licence checks at all. If that individual was then to be involved in a fatal accident, it is inevitable that the Police would be asking questions of the motor trader and investigating in what circumstances the driver came into possession of their vehicle.

In addition, The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 places a general duty on employers to “conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety work.”

Therefore, individual directors can be held culpable under Health & Safety law and fines can range from £100,000 for health and safety breaches resulting in a fatality.

How to perform the checks?

Anyone can view on line the details on their own licence by inputting their National Insurance number, postcode and driving license number into the DVLA’s online free View Driving Licence service. This service will display which vehicles can be driven and any penalty points you may have.

The customer can provide a “check code” to pass to the motor trader who can then view that individuals driving licence details.

Alternatively, you can contact the DVLA by telephone and get their assistance in validating the driving licence.

These routes may be seen as cumbersome especially where a trader has a high volume of checks to undertake on a daily basis.

The DVLA also provide the Access to Driver Data service, which provides driving licence data via a business-to-business interface. The information made available through ADD includes the driver’s name, address, date of birth, driving entitlement and penalty points/disqualifications. However, this option has significant set up costs of approximately £25,000 to £30,000.

There are also several private sector licence checking services and online solutions, some of which are bespoke to the motor trade sector.

It will be necessary to train staff on the importance of carrying out checks for all relevant individuals and to ensure that customers understand and come prepared with all necessary information including national insurance number to pass the new checks.

In conclusion it is clear this new system places a greater burden on the motor trade who can no longer rely on simply checking the photo on the plastic part and the endorsements on the paper part. It does however have the benefit of allowing access to information which is more reliable than the paper counterpart. If the necessary checks are undertaken it provides the motor trader with a greater degree of protection from high risk drivers using their vehicles.

 

Andrew Kerrigan, Solicitor & Catherine Hill, Trainee Solicitor with the Crime and Regulatory Team at Rradar Limited – 05/11/15

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