Motoring groups fear holidaymakers will face car-hire confusion following today’s abolition of the paper part of the driving licence.
The paper counterpart shows a driver’s record, including offences and endorsements, and is being replaced by an online service.
Drivers needing to show their driving record to car hire companies will need to have viewed their licence information online and to have generated a check code so details can be shared with third parties.
The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) said car rental companies in the UK and abroad would be well aware of the changes.
However, the AA said there was “widespread confusion as to what drivers now needed to do to stay within the law” while the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) said drivers could be “caught unawares”.
With thousands of families set to rent a car during their annual summer holidays, Paul Brown, Managing Director of Wakefield-based car leasing specialists Cars on Demand, is advising holidaymakers to be prepared ahead of arriving at their destination to avoid unnecessary delays and disappointment at the vehicle collection desk.
He said: “There are a number of changes that travellers and those hiring vehicles abroad should be aware of and plan for if they’re planning to pick up a vehicle on their holiday.
“The most important one of these is that they will now need to go online to obtain a ‘check code’ to hand over at the collection desk when they pick up their vehicle.”
The access code – which requires drivers to enter their driving licence number, National Insurance number and postcode – can be obtained from the DVLA’s ‘Share My Driving Licence’ portal, and is only valid for 72 hours.
He added: “As the unique code is only valid for a limited period of time, it is advisable to set yourself a reminder to log on and generate it as close to your vehicle pick-up time as possible. This might be in the week leading up to your holiday or the evening before you travel.”
Those hiring a vehicle will also have the option to print out the details of their licence via the DVLA website, something which Paul advises should be done as and additional precaution ahead of travelling.
He said: “Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee on how different car hire companies will operate under the new rules. Unless you’ve been told explicitly that you don’t need your paper counterpart when you collect your car, I would strongly advise to print out your licence details in addition to generating a check code.”
Transport Minister Lord Ahmad said said replacing the paper counterpart with an online service “will save motorists money and reduce unnecessary red tape”.
He said: “It will also benefit employers and vehicle hire companies. Relying on the counterpart meant relying on a potentially out of date piece of paper.
“Now, when the driver chooses to share it, those organisations will be able to see completely accurate information direct from DVLA’s records. This will reduce their risk and improve road safety.”
A DVLA spokesman said: “Hire companies in the UK, and through them their overseas offices, should be well aware of the change. Many have published information for customers on their websites as their own requirements vary.
“Our advice to drivers is to check with their hire company what documents or information they will be asking for. Drivers can generate a check code up to 72 hours before collecting the vehicle and if they want extra assurance they can also download or print out an electronic summary of their driving licence record.”
An AA/Populus poll showed that a third of drivers who had hired a car abroad in the past five years had been asked to show their paper counterpart. The AA said that those hiring vehicles overseas from today should keep their counterpart as a “belt and braces” measure.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Question : What exactly is happening?
Answer: From June 8 the paper counterpart to the photocard driving licence is being scrapped and replaced by an online service. The counterpart includes information on a driver’s penalty points along with details of what vehicles they can drive.
Q. So what is replacing it?
A. Drivers can view their licence information online and can generate a check code to share details with third parties by logging on to www.gov.uk/view-driving-licence.
The check code can, for example, be shared with an employer or a car hire company. It will allow someone to see what vehicles you can drive, any penalty points or disqualifications, your name and the last eight characters of your driving licence number.
Q. Why is the change being introduced?
A. It is all part of the Government’s drive to reduce unnecessary red tape. Last year the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) had to replace around 445,000 counterparts because drivers had lost them, for which they were charged £20 each to cover the cost.
Q. Why are motoring groups so anxious about the change?
A. They think car hire companies, particularly those abroad, who want to check a driver’s record will be unaware of the change. Not all drivers need to show details of their driving record when renting vehicles. But an AA/Populus survey showed that more than a third of drivers who have hired a car abroad in the past five years have been asked to show their paper counterpart.
Recovery company GEM Motoring Assist fears that queues could build up at car hire offices while a survey from money.co.uk showed that nearly three quarters of drivers were unaware of the need to produce a code when renting vehicles.
Q. What does the DVLA say about all this?
A. They reckon car rental companies will be well aware of the change and they advise drivers to check with their hire company about what documents and information they require.
Q. Should people keep the old paper counterpart?
A. Well, the DVLA says no, but the AA says it is best to hold on to it and take it abroad as a “belt and braces” measure.
Q. Just how many people are affected by the change?
A. There are 46.3 million driving licence holders in Britain of whom 37.7 million have a photocard driving licence. A total of 8.7 million have an old-style paper licence issued before 1998, which remain valid.