Paper licence abolition plans delayed

The DVLA appears to have postponed its plans to abolish the driving licence paper-counterpart from January after concerns were raised that the new system would introduce unnecessary complexities for business.
According to the Freight Transport Association (FTA), the Department for Transport (DfT) confirmed the delay in an informal exchange with the association earlier this week but gave no reason for the postponement, or any fresh target date for abolition.
A spokeswoman for the DVLA told CM it remained “committed to making it as easy as possible for motorists to access government services and get rid of unnecessary paper”, adding: “That is why the paper counterpart will be abolished in 2015.”
She said DVLA recognised businesses like the car hire industry, employers and fleet operators would need to be ready for the change. She also said the agency was developing a new service that would allow trusted third parties to check a driver’s licence information provided they had the permission of the driver to do so.
Trade bodies such as the FTA and vehicle hire body the BVRLA have raised operational concerns about the original proposal. This would have forced anyone seeking to check a driver’s counterpart information to rely on that driver printing it out from an online database, before verifying it themselves by entering a unique code on the printout into a website, along with the driver’s licence number, within 48 hours.
FTA head of policy for driver licensing Ian Gallagher said the proposed system would have created a great deal of unnecessary work for firms seeking to check the licences of hundreds or thousands of drivers three or more times a year, as many do.
“This process is [supposed to be] all about removing burden as part of the Red Tape challenge… and all it’s doing is adding to the burden, rather than taking away,” he said. “There hasn’t been an agreement to change what they are suggesting yet and they haven’t given us any clarity on how long the delay will last,” Gallagher added. “We’re just pleased they have delayed [it] because it comes after months of pressure.”

Malcolm Group heads DfT’s longer trailer trial

Scotland’s Malcolm Group has taken pole position in the Department for Transport’s (DfT) longer semi-trailer trial regarding units either in build or on the road.

A Freedom of Information (FoI) request dated 5 December revealed that Malcolm Group now has 113 longer semi-trailers, 90 of which are the longest 15.65m variant.

The group, which was granted just 12 longer semi-trailer allocations in the initial round almost three years ago, has made the most of the DfT’s reboot of the stalled scheme last year, which saw allocations opened up again.

Other big hitters in the trial include Eddie Stobart, which has increased its allocation from 90 in 2012 to 106 longer semi-trailers; Royal Mail Group, which has increased its number of trailers in the trial from 45 to 89; and Morrisons, the leading supermarket chain with 75.

Overall, the list reveals 118 companies (including several divisions of larger groups) are involved, compared with 180 in the original trial.

However, following the announcement by the DfT in October that all 1,800 allocations had been made, the FoI has also shown that 478 longer semi-trailers remain “missing” from the trial.

These are likely where an allocation has been awarded but no VSO has been issued as yet, meaning the trailer is not on the road or being built as yet.

Taking into account it is not a complete list, the document is nevertheless interesting in the names it omits, or shows to have trimmed their allocation.

Wincanton, which along with Eddie Stobart was the original poster-boy for the trial, is now only listed as having 17 longer semi-trailers compared with an allocation for 68 in 2012.

Other hauliers that appear to have found the trailers not as useful as they first thought include container specialist Maritime, which had 75 but is not listed at all now, and Norbert Dentressangle, which has 13 15.65m trailers but had a joint allocation of 131 when the trial started in 2012.

Andrew Downton, MD at CM Downton, which now has 24 15.65m trailers compared with a joint allocation of 60 when the trial started, told CM: “On a fixed route trunk or dedicated journey leg, the extra length trailers are fine.

“However all of our assets need to work in a network to provide flexibility and help us respond quickly to our clients’ requirements.
“In that environment, the extra-length trailers can be challenging, which is why we’ve reduced our allocation over the past three years,” Downton said.

  • This story first appeared in the 18 December issue of Commercial Motor. Why not subscribe?