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Government bodies failing to meet basic licence check rules

Date: 14 July 2009

The responses BusinessCar received from the Goverment departments

A Freedom of Information request by BusinessCar has revealed that virtually all Government bodies are not following the licence checking advice given by the Department for Transport, writes Tristan Young

An investigation by BusinessCar has revealed the Government is not following its own advice on the most basic area of fleet safety - driver licence checking - and could be allowing unlicenced and uninsured drivers onto the roads to carry out Government business.

According to the Department for Transport, fleets should carry out licence checks every six months for those who drive on work business. While this isn't law, it is widely accepted that a check at least every year using the DVLA database is an absolute minimum to comply with duty of care obligations.

Using the Freedom of Information Act, BusinessCar asked 21 major Government departments what their policy was for licence checking of both company car drivers and grey fleet drivers. The results reveal a shocking lack of compliance with only one department fully meeting the Government's own recommendation.

The policy responses ranged from the textbook - six-monthly checks on the DVLA database for all work drivers - to the shocking, with no checks of any kind on any driver, as is the Department of Health's policy.


BusinessCar showed the findings to independent risk and road safety expert Nigel Grainger of Fleet Risk Consultants who was concerned, but not surprised, by the findings: "It has long been agreed within the road safety community that the checking of driving licences is the absolute minimum that should be done to ensure that staff are legally entitled to undertake journeys on behalf of employers. This being the case, I am rather shocked by the results uncovered by the BusinessCar requests made to various Government departments.

"Having looked at the responses received, the best of the group seems to be the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, who on paper at least have a well organised system with relevant risk assessments being mentioned in addition to the information being requested. My only concern is that parts of DEFRA has now joined with parts of the Department for Business Enterprise Regulatory Reform [now called the Department for Business Innovation and Skills or BIS] to form the Department of Energy & Climate Change, and the BERR policy is very vague.

"The Home Office, Department for Work and Pensions, Highways Agency, Ministry of Justice, MoD and the Department for Transport all seem to have reasonably good systems, if they all actually do as they say.

"Among the others, the worst offender seems to be HM Treasury with no apparent system at all. The most culpable seems to be the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Department for International Development who have no system for grey fleet drivers [those that use their private cars for business], but have a reasonable system for fleet drivers.

"You would expect the Health & Safety Executive to have some excellent systems, but they are only checking licences once on joining the organisation or being issued a vehicle."

Grainger summed up: "I find the situation within Government very worrying as they are the bodies that either deal with the aftermath of collisions or are responsible for our safety in general. If they cannot do the basics of checking licences, can they do anything else with vehicles?

"Also, do our elected politicians have their licences checked, if they drive on parliamentary business?"


Statistics from the Licence Bureau, one of the UK's largest driving licence verification services, show that five in 1000 checks reveal a licence that isn't valid.

Commenting on the importance of licence checking, Malcolm Maycock, managing director of the Licence Bureau, said: "As an ex-police officer I've been surprised by the level of drivers not licenced or able to drive the type of vehicles they drive.

"We recommend an annual check for those with less than four points; twice a year for those with between four and seven points and quarterly for those with more than seven points or who have previously been banned.

"There's nothing in the law that says you have to do a licence check, but there's lots of documentation saying that fleets should check frequently and regularly.

"Public sector fleets are just starting to get into it, but they have been very slow to take this up because they run massive grey fleets."