No matter how short the distance, or how infrequent the journey, anyone that drives on company business needs their licence checked. This may seem like a tedious task however it’s incredibly important and failure to do so risks a fine or even a conviction should the worst happen. Here we’ll cover the basics of checking a driving licence, and answer questions we’re commonly asked.
What is a licence check?
It’s widely understood that the DVLA central database carries information associated with an individual’s driving record, such as points, endorsements, the vehicles that the licence holder is eligible to drive and any disqualifications or suspensions.
A licence check can be carried out via the DVLA’s own Share Driver Record service (however the driver must currently provide permission in the form of a unique time-limited share code each and every time) or employers, vehicle hirers, car sharing organisations, dealerships etc. can use a software service such as DAVIS, which manages driver permission- lasting for up to 3 years – and automates rechecks without any further intervention.
A licence check performed on an employee’s driving licence through DAVIS will return all the necessary data to confirm the employee has a valid licence for the appropriate vehicle including any unspent convictions and penalty points. The results of the check will reveal if the driver has had their licence revoked and shouldn’t be driving for the company and can also be an indicator as to whether additional monitoring or training should be put in place.
In summary there is a clearly established ‘duty of care’ obligation owed by all organisations to ensure that drivers are properly qualified to drive a vehicle that is being used for work related purposes or in connection with their business activities.
Is it the driver’s responsibility to ensure they have a licence and declare any points or disqualification?
It is certainly the driver’s responsibility to ensure that they are authorised to drive a vehicle under the Road Traffic Act 1988. It is a criminal offence to drive a vehicle when unlicensed or improperly licensed. There may also be additional contractual obligations imposed by employers, hirers or insurers as well as a wider duty of care obligation owed to other road users and members of the public. However simple reliance on disclosure by the driver is unlikely to suffice in all cases. Although you might hope that your staff would be honest and open about their licence status, some may choose not to disclose this information deliberately or by omission. If it is common practice in your industry, a professional requirement or a recommendation to independently check driver status and entitlement, failure to do so will be evidence of negligence or culpable behaviour on your part. Sanctions can include hefty fines and (in the worst case) the imprisonment of directors or senior managers.
Can you be prosecuted for not knowing if an employee has a valid licence?
You could be if this ignorance is seen as a consequence of intentional conduct or recklessness. In such circumstances not knowing will be no defence to causing or permitting someone to drive a vehicle without a licence. You may get fined £1,000 and the company secretary or MD could get points on their licence. However a much greater risk is that organisations may be prosecuted under the Health and Safety Work Act 1974, the ramifications of which are much more serious with possible fines of up to £20 million, depending on the size of the business. In the worst possible cases, there could be a charge of corporate manslaughter leading to heavy fines and imprisonment.