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EC opens door to smart card licences

27 June 2012

The driving licence is facing a major overhaul after the European Commission paved the way for it to be based on smart card technology.
 
The EC has agreed a set of standards allowing an array of personal data, including the licence holder’s photo, any endorsements and iris and fingerprint biometrics, to be stored on a new chipped card.  The UK Government has already signalled its intention to bin the paper counterpart of the licence from 2015, while a driver’s address will no longer appear on the existing photocard from 2013/14.
 
A DVLA spokesman said: “This will mean that a driver will no longer have to return the driving licence to the DVLA when they change address or receive points.”  However, it also has implications for fleets if their current licence checking policy requires drivers to bring in the paper counterpart to be checked for endorsements. This would no longer be possible.
 
The DVLA is remaining tight-lipped about any plans to launch a smart card here, despite being an enthusiastic supporter of the technology in recent years.  This may be motivated by fears of how people will react to a card containing so much personal information on it, when identity theft is a major concern.  It also comes in the wake of public anger to the previous Government’s plans for an identity card and the Coalition Government’s dumping of the resulting watered-down voluntary version in 2010.
 
The DVLA told Fleet News that “the UK has yet to decide whether or when a chip might be added” to the driving licence, but it was “continually looking at ways to improve the security of the driving licence”.
 
It recently outlined its smart card strategy to representatives from other European countries and admitted it was hopeful that chipped driving licences would be rolled out in the UK from 2014.  Changes to the driving licence are being driven by a combination of European legislation – the so-called Third European Driving Licence Directive, which takes effect from January 2013 – and the Government’s red tape challenge, which is aimed at cutting bureaucracy.
 
European Driving Licence Directives require member states to adopt a common format licence, to harmonise categories and to provide common standards of competence and fitness to drive.  The current law applies to the Second Directive, agreed in 1991, but a Third Directive was agreed in December 2006 and will come into force in January 2013.  It further harmonises definitions of vehicle sub-categories and rules on the duration of the validity of a licence, introduces minimum standards for driving examiners and attempts to ensure that no one can simultaneously possess more than one licence issued by an EU or European Economic Area (EEA) state.
 
It also gives the green light to chip technology, banned under the previous directive and it could also see the removal of the requirement for fleet operators to hold a V5C registration certificate from 2013, instead issuing them only on demand.
 
“This will reduce the administrative burden on fleet operators to handle, distribute and store often large volumes of paper documents,” said a DVLA spokesman.  “Instead, fleet operators will be provided with an electronic enquiry function to check vehicles’ details.”
 
Companies could find further savings if, alongside the removal of the paper driving licence counterpart, a database holding driver information, including endorsements, is developed and fleets are granted access to it.
 
A fleet manager checking for any endorsements on an employees’ driving licence currently pays up to £10 per driver per year.   Access to a new database could be granted at a reduced rate through ACFO or FTA membership, making the process cheaper for fleets and less bureaucratic.
 
The DVLA told Fleet News that it was looking at a range of services, which could include “enhanced access to driver’s data”.   “We are working with the insurance industry to provide access to driver information for the purpose of enabling more accurate insurance quotes,” said a spokesman.  “Further opportunities will also be examined with other stakeholders.”
 
ACFO believes the paper counterpart could be scrapped as early as June 2014, with the new database launched at the end of 2013.  However, ACFO director John Pryor, who attended a recent meeting with the DVLA, alongside the Freight Transport Association and the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association, sounded a note of caution. “There is a long way to go before a solution is developed that is satisfactory to ACFO and its members,” he said.

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DVLA clarifies advice for drivers

27 June 2012

The DVLA has today issued new guidelines aimed at making it easier for drivers with insulin treated diabetes to understand the new driver licensing rules recently introduced to comply with a new European Directive on driving licences.
 
The DVLA has worked closely with Diabetes UK, the leading charity for those with the condition, to make sure that the information available to drivers is clear and easy to understand.  Following concerns raised by Diabetes UK that the application form for a driving licence was misleading, DVLA worked closely with Diabetes UK to agree and implement a number of changes to the form, such as making it clearer what is meant by a "severe hypoglycaemic event".
 
Road Safety Minister Mike Penning said: "I asked the DVLA to work with Diabetes UK to ensure that people with diabetes understand the importance of notifying the Agency about their condition.  We must make sure that only those who are safe to drive are allowed on our roads, while at the same time avoiding placing unnecessary restrictions on people's independence and their right to work.  I am extremely pleased that Diabetes UK and the DVLA have worked so closely on this to make sure that the information available for drivers is clear and easily understood."
 
Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: "We were concerned about the impact of recent changes to the medical standards for drivers with diabetes. Some people did not understand the implications of some of the questions on the medical questionnaires and were providing wrong answers that meant that their licences could not be granted.  We raised our concerns with the Road Safety Minster and we are pleased by how the Government has listened to our concerns and been prepared to work with us to develop forms that are easier for people with diabetes to understand.
 
"We are still worried about the increase in people with diabetes having their driving licenses taken away, but this change means that at least people are unlikely to miss out because they did not understand the application form.  We will continue to work with the DVLA to monitor the impact of the changes to driver licensing for people with diabetes and to ensure that the process is fair, transparent and safe."

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Companies risk huge penalties for drivers who ....

28 May 2012

.... cause accidents whilst on the phone

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Rules needed on excessive tolling, says FTA

28 May 2012

As Spaghetti Junction turned 40 on 24 May, the Freight Transport Association said that the level of tolls – including those for goods vehicles - on any new, privately built parts of the roads infrastructure should be restricted in order to get the best use out of all parts of the roads network.
 
Originally known as the Gravelly Hill Interchange the junction serves in total 18 routes, and is an essential part of the road network in the West Midlands as it most importantly links the M6 with the A38(M) Aston Expressway in Birmingham, as well as the A38 (Tyburn Road) and the A5127.  When the M6 Toll road was planned, it was envisaged that significant relief would be provided for the M6 and Spaghetti Junction, but that did not happen, particularly for goods vehicles. The toll charger decided to price heavy goods vehicles off that road, leaving them, along with the majority of motorists, to use the M6.
 
Malcolm Bingham, FTA’s head of road network management policy, said: “Due to a combination of where people need to get to and excessive tolls, particularly for goods vehicles, the 40-year-old Spaghetti Junction infrastructure to the north of Birmingham is still the choice for most drivers. Therefore we believe that going forward, some rules are needed in order to make privately built parts of the road network affordable for all drivers, including goods vehicles.”

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Unite says public sector fleets should buy British

28 May 2012

As part of a 10-point plan to build on the recent successes in the UK automotive industry, Britain's biggest union Unite has called on public bodies to buy local to support UK automotive and components manufacturing.
 
A freedom of information request tabled by the Union has found that 72% of vehicles procured by police authorities were manufactured overseas.  Merseyside police procured 11.5% of their vehicles from UK-based manufacturers, with 8% of the total from Vauxhall, while West Midlands police procured 30% of their vehicles from UK-based manufacturers, with 2% of the total from Jaguar Land Rover.
 
Unite believes that a key element of boosting vehicle manufacturing must include a positive procurement policy encouraged by central government to buy vehicles manufactured in the UK. The public sector spends around £220 billion each year on procurement. 

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