Motoring advice: European driving licence arrangements when hiring a car

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UK passport and driving license

The end of the driving licence paper counterpart may make hiring cars abroad more problematic – be prepared before you go

From June 2015, the British government scrapped the driving licence paper counterpart. Information that was contained on the paper part of the licence, such as penalty points, is now stored on a DVLA online service.

The change may have implications have for drivers who hire cars in the UK or abroad. With no paper counterpart to show the hire company, individuals still need to provide proof of their driving record. This means motorists have to access the DVLA's Share Driving Licence service and then have a number of options on how the information can be supplied to their car-hire firm.

The choices are: to print off the details to pass onto the company; to apply for a special code that gives the hire firm access to information for 21 days; to call the DVLA and verbally provide permission to a third party to access information; or to apply for licence information by post. These rules apply whether you have a photo card or an older paper licence.

This whole process places the onus on the driver to be organised, and could make hiring a car at short notice problematic.

The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association Chief Executive, Gerry Keaney said: 'The online system being offered by the DVLA is far from ideal and the car rental industry is working with it as best it can. Replacing paper forms with digital services is a great idea, but the government has gone about this the wrong way by rushing the process and not giving enough warning to motorists.'

The advice is to check with the hire firm beforehand regarding the information that is required.

Not everyone agrees that there will be a major problem when it comes to car hire. Rory Sexton, Managing Director of Economy Car Hire said: 'The scrapping of the paper counterpart of the UK driving licence is good news for drivers hiring cars abroad. There has been a considerable amount of negative spin put on this change for the sake of sensationalist PR and it's causing holidaymakers stress and worry. Far from creating chaos, this change will make the requirements for hiring cars abroad less confusing for UK drivers. Strangely, the change is more likely to create problems for drivers hiring cars in the UK and Northern Ireland.'

In future, if drivers are required to supply information about their licence to anyone, including their employers, they will need to go through the online process. This could have ramifications for the business community. Steve Bridge, Managing Director of Mercedes-Benz Vans, said: 'These changes represent another upheaval for the motorist, and my fear is that it will be the small business owners that once again are hit hardest.'

The Freight Transport Association has stated that the DVLA has failed to recognise that not all employees are domestic drivers. Ian Gallagher of the FTA said: 'Far from reducing the burden, the FTA believes this new system will be more cumbersome for employers.'

The changes will also affect car dealerships. Sue Robinson, Director of the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA), commented: 'Dealers will need to be aware that they will need to change their procedures if they lend courtesy cars or run self-drive-hire fleets where they will need to check customers' entitlement to drive.'

In addition to the Share Driving Licence system, an additional Access to Driver Data service will be available during 2015. This will provide real-time licence information via a business-to-business interface.

As the paper counterpart is obsolete, the DVLA are advising motorists that it should be destroyed. However, it might be more advisable to keep the counterpart until these initial problems are resolved.

If you still hold an older style paper driving licence do not dispose of it, as it is still valid. However, the DVLA recommend that drivers should update to a new photo-card licence.

With motorists encountering problems from the start with the new system Oliver Morley, the DVLA's chief executive, has had to apologise to those affected. But he also said many had been able to access the site successfully: 'We are currently experiencing exceptionally high demand for this service. We are aware some customers are experiencing issues with the website and we are working very hard to resolve this as quickly as possible. We are sorry for any inconvenience.'

More information on the driving licence counterpart is available at:

DVLA free drivers' enquiry line: 0300 790 6801

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