Most UK driver’s licence holders will be aware that as of 8th June 2015 the DVLA effectively scrapped the paper licence, replacing it with a photocard version which brings the UK much more closely in line with the rest of the EU. Paper licences will still be accepted if they were issued before 1998, but will not be updated with new fines or points deductions.
Those who are resident in Spain and have switched to a Spanish licence will be unaffected by the changes, as the Spanish photocard is already fully digitized.
In principle one of the reasons for this change being implemented, apart from the need to conform to European norms, is to streamline the administrative processes involved with licences and make points information more readily available, and despite a computer crash on the very first day the new system was introduced there is little doubt that this will be achieved. However, for UK drivers hiring a car, especially those doing so abroad, it’s important to be aware of the implication of the new photocard licences.
If you’re hiring a car then, for the time being at least, the procedure has become slightly more complicated, rather than easier.
The new rules mean that in the 72 hours before picking up the hire car you need to request a personal code from the DVLA. This code effectively gives the hire company temporary access to your licence information, enabling them to see points sanctioned and other details such as which categories of vehicles you are allowed to drive: this information is not featured on the new photocard licence, but is stored digitally by the DVLA.
The code can be obtained either via the DVLA website (using the “Share Driving Licence” online facility at https://www.gov.uk/view-driving-licence) or by telephone from the UK on 0300 790 6801. In order to be given a code drivers need to provide their licence number (found on your photocard or on your paper driving licence for the remaining paper-only motorists), national insurance number and the postcode on the licence. The service is available for all UK drivers except those whose licences were issued in Northern Ireland.
Remember, the code gives only temporary access, and is valid for only 72 hours: request the code too early and the hire car company will no longer be able to use it when you pick up your rental vehicle, so BE CAREFUL NOT TO REQUEST THE CODE TOO SOON: take into account possible flight delays!
When picking up your hire car, in theory you will be asked to produce both your licence and your temporary code. This may not actually happen in all cases, but you should definitely be prepared.
The DVLA has informed members of the public that anyone who holds a photocard licence can throw away the paper counterpart, but for the time being the common-sense approach is to disregard this advice. This is because although UK hire car firms are well aware of the changes, those operating outside the UK, for example in Spain, may be unfamiliar with the new procedures and request to see the paper copy.
This could also apply to non-UK traffic police, who may ask to see a paper licence.
They will be wrong to do so, as from now on new points deductions will not be registered on paper licences, but even so motoring organizations advise that it’s not worth taking the risk. The AA recommends a “belt and braces” approach: DON’T THROW AWAY YOUR PAPER LICENCE!
In addition, in order to cover this eventuality, those who only have a photocard licence should make use of the Share Driving Licence facility to download a pdf copy so that they are able to provide documentation in black and white if required to do so.
Drivers who only have an old-fashioned paper driving licence issued before the photocards were introduced in 1998 must not destroy them, as they are still valid. If these drivers need to change any details on the paper licence they will automatically be issued with a new photocard free of charge. Otherwise, they can continue to use the paper licence.
Note: drivers who fail to obtain a temporary code before picking up their rental vehicles do have a way out of their predicament. It is possible to give the car rental company permission to contact the DVLA and check details over the telephone, but this will be time-consuming and potentially costly due to international call charges and possible extra service costs.
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