Licence Check: Paper counterpart abolition an opportunity, not a threat
10 April 2015
Leading driving licence checking company Licence Check is looking forward to the withdrawal of the paper counterpart, despite the DVLA's decision to make free online verification easier, writes Paul Barker
Licence Check is, as the name suggests, a company that provides a driving licence verification service and, as managing director Richard Brown claims, is an "authority on our subject".
Established in 2003, Brown claims the firm is a founder member of its industry, but has been "front of mind" since 2007 when corporate manslaughter legislation pushed duty of care nearer the front of corporate priorities.
Now, though, that industry is in something of a state of flux after the Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency announced it will be removing the requirement to hold a paper counterpart element of a licence from 8 June, instead using online checking to establish a driver's legitimacy to be on the road and what they are allowed to drive.
But, maybe surprisingly, Brown sees the change as an opportunity rather than a threat to his business.
The DVLA has established a service called View Driving Licence, designed so individuals can see their own information by inputting their licence number, National Insurance number and postcode. It's not meant for anyone other than the individual, and Brown warns there is a suspicion that companies, which would have all the information necessary to access the page, are using it without the permission of their employees. Such activity would be a data protection breach, and the DVLA has pledged, he says, to take the matter further if evidence is found.
"A company did a Freedom of Information request on the IP [internet protocol - a numerical label assigned to each PC, printer, etc. in a computer network] ranges, and it was clear there were a lot of single IP addresses," Brown tells BusinessCar. "On several occasions there was quite a high number [of licenses checked from one IP address], but it could be that they had the drivers sat next to them in the office."
The process designed for fleets and others needing to check the validity of drivers is currently in a DVLA testing phase. Called Share Driving Licence, a driver will be able to log in and get a 'token', giving a third party access to their details for 72 hours using the passcode. And it's this that Brown feels will be no match for professional licence check providers.
"This is a very manual process. Organisations with 20-30 vehicles will find it's not a massive increase in workload, but when you get organisations with 300-400 or even 5000, it's a totally impractical solution," he says. "It's worse than checking the green counterpart because you have to go to the driver and ask for the token."
That means the abolition of the counterpart will open up the business of licence-checking services to larger fleets that currently only visually check their drivers' counterpart, a practice that Brown is critical of.
"A licence is dynamic and a live document, whereas the physical check is of a historic document," he comments. "A licence has an issue number and we're not aware with a visual check whether this is the most up-to-date version. We find organisations with drivers that are disqualified, revoked or high risk, and the final issue number is completely wrong, sometimes by a couple of digits."
He points out that the photocard element also declares whether the driver must be wearing glasses to drive, and that offences such as causing death by dangerous driving and drink-driving don't necessarily carry points penalties, so a driver could be banned despite there being no indication on the paper counterpart that they hand over for scrutiny.
Brown is also critical of the new online system. "It's just a one-off check, no different to checking the counterpart in real terms. It may be a bit more up to date but it's not a continual service," he says.
Licence Check will offer continual rolling checks over a period set by the customer, subject to approval from drivers, which they can allow for a number of years.
"We advise to do the first batch and look at the risk based on penalty points, convictions etc., and then make a decision," he explains. "Most do two per year, and in the vocational market once a quarter, but clients can set their own frequency and can configure differently for a driver on three points with one on nine, for example."
Brown claims fleets are even finding insurance companies that are contributing to driver training or assessment in conjunction with understanding the risks on a particular fleet.
"We are seeing insurers look at the profile of drivers and they can now see in real terms what is the risk," Brown explains. "They are saying, let's give some contribution back to companies to spend on driver training or assessment, or other services to enable a reduced premium." It's mainly insurance brokers, he claims, because they have to collate the information on a fleet and put it into the insurance marketplace, but he says it's something he has witnessed more in the past 12 months than ever before.
"It's digital technology to profile the driver and then push down a route of improvement and training, and each driver will be different.
"Organisations have a duty of care to ensure drivers have a licence to drive that vehicle, and our process meets all the check requirements," he concludes. "Quite a lot of drivers are disqualified or revoked and we take drivers off the road every day - that's why we exist."