Your licence to make a living
If you drive for a living, your driving licence is one of your most valuable documents.
It’s just as important to your employer – partly because they have a legal duty of care for you when you’re driving on business. This is why more and more companies now insist on verifying all their drivers’ licences and other documents.
This guide from TMC, the fleet fuel and mileage expenses specialist, covers the biggest risks to your licence; what to do if you face a ban, and why it is vitally important to keep your driving documents up to date.
How at-risk is your licence?
- There are nearly 34 million driving licences in the UK.
- 8 million of them carry penalty points
- Around 80,000 drivers had nine points on their licences in 2019. The trigger for a six-month “totting up” ban is 12 points.
- Home Office records show over 2 million speeding prosecutions in 2018.
- 340,000 drivers were prosecuted for driving licence and insurance offences that year.
- Courts disqualified 58,000 motorists in 2017.
- Eight thousand went to court for driving while disqualified.
- 91% of speeding prosecutions in 2017 were successful.
- Over a million UK drivers every year choose to attend a speed awareness course rather than have points on their licence.
It's easier than ever to be caught out
Today’s surveillance technology means fewer but better-targeted road patrols. You see fewer police on the road, but they now track you everywhere you drive.
Permanent Automatic number plate reading (ANPR) cameras already record the average speeds of all vehicles on Britain’s major motorways.
So far, they haven’t been used to catch motorway speeders. But they’re increasingly widely used in routine traffic enforcement on other types of road.
Police already have 11,000 ANPR cameras across the country. They store 50 million new ANPR records per day on a national database where they are kept for a year.
ANPR has led to a five-fold rise in detection of untaxed, unregistered and uninsured vehicles.
Ways to lose your licence
You can be disqualified from driving by a Magistrates’ Court. The DVLA may revoke, withhold or refuse a licence on health grounds (fitness to drive safely), or when a new driver incurs six points within two years of passing their driving test.
- The commonest reason for a court to ban someone is for accumulating endorsements. The limit is 12 points in three years.
- Serious motoring offences including dangerous driving and drink/drug driving mean an obligatory ban for two or more years unless the magistrates accept a plea of exceptional hardship.
- Obligatory bans also apply to convictions for using a vehicle for the purpose of crime and for vehicle theft.
Revocation or refusal by the DVLA
Dozens of permanent and temporary health conditions must be disclosed to the DVLA on penalty of a £1,000 fine for not doing so. They include quite common issues such as:
- Sleep apnoea
- Eating disorders
- Caesarean section (if you’re still unable to drive after three months)
Some conditions mean you cannot hold a licence. Others require sufferers to have regular medical check-ups to show they are still fit to drive. Getting your licence back after a notifiable illness may mean taking a driving test again.
If you think your health may be affecting your driving, visit here for advice and the list of reportable conditions.
Drink-driving prosecutions almost always mean a long ban. Remember that though the blood alcohol limit in the UK and Northern Ireland is 80 milligrams, it is now nearly 40% lower in Scotland (50 milligrams).
Every unit of alcohol you drink – the equivalent of a half pint of ordinary beer or a small glass of wine – takes roughly one hour to clear your system. Three pints of 5.5% ABV lager could take nine hours. Beware of still being over the limit the morning after a few drinks.
How the points system works
You can incur points – between two and 11 per offence – for committing any of over 70 types of motoring offence. They will stay on your licence for between four and 11 years, although in the final year they won’t count towards “totting up”.
We’ve included the full list of offences and points tariffs on page 1. Speeding is by far the most common reason for getting points, but other offences include:
- careless driving
- using a defective vehicle
- disobeying road markings
- not wearing glasses or contact lenses if you need them to drive
- not having the right licence for the vehicle you’re driving, e.g.
- driving a manual car on an automatic-only licence
- driving a minibus with a trailer on a standard car licence if you passed your driving test after 1 January 1997 but haven’t passed the additional D1 test
- parking badly
- not providing information to the police
- refusing to take a sight test.
Causing or permitting a motoring offence
You can be prosecuted for someone else’s motoring offences if you knowingly “cause or permit” them to commit the offence.
For example, if you let someone drive your car although you knew they didn’t have a full licence or insurance, both of you would be fined and given points if they were found guilty.
How fixed penalty offences work
Endorsable fixed penalty notices (FPNs) give you the option of accepting a set fine and number of points rather than going to court.
£100 and three points FPN
These include speeding, tailgating, hogging the middle lane, not stopping at a red light or pedestrian crossing, and having an insecure load.
£200 and six points FPN
Failing to respond to a police request for the identify of a driver. Using a mobile phone while driving.
£300 and six points FPN
Driving without insurance
A few FPNs, such as driving without a seat belt or using a vehicle without an MOT, carry a fine but no points.
Tips for avoiding points
Don’t underestimate speeding risks
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can get three speeding tickets in three years (i.e. nine points) before a ban becomes a possibility. Tickets for driving more than 10mph over the limit usually result 4-6 points.
Fit a sat nav
Avoid points with a sat nav that alerts you to known speed camera locations and traffic hold-ups (but don’t use an illegal radar scanner). Some sat navs include hands-free calling, which might save you another six points one day.
Take a speed awareness course
Go on a speed awareness course, if offered, instead of getting three points and a £100 fine. You’ll have to pay for the course (usually around the same cost as the fine) but you will keep a clean licence.
Accept a short ban instead
Courts will sometimes agree to impose a 14-day ban in lieu of points. This lessens your risk of getting a six to 12-month ban under the totting-up rules if you commit a subsequent offence. Get legal advice first.
Pay the fixed penalty or go to court?
Courts can impose a bigger fine and more points than the FPN. We would advise anyone to talk to a legal expert before choosing to appear rather than accept the fixed penalty.
Check your motoring documents
Wrong or outdated details on your driving documents – including your licence – could be costly.
If you don’t inform the DVLA of a change to the address on your driving licence and vehicle registration document, you can be fined up to £1,000.
Not updating his licence put this driver in police cells
This real-life case started when speed cameras twice caught the car of someone who hadn’t told the DVLA their new address.
Police sent two routine requests for driver ID to his old address, but these weren’t forwarded by the new occupants.
Because there was no response from the driver (a six-point offence each time), the case eventually went to court without him. The court disqualified him in his absence and issued a warrant for his arrest.
He knew nothing about any of this until he was pulled over and taken into custody a few weeks later.
The driver, a professional with a previously unblemished record, was then further charged with driving while disqualified and driving without insurance.
All because he did not get around to updating the details on his licence and V5C document!
Don’t let it happen to you. The good news is you won’t be fined by the DVLA as long as you tell them your new address – even if you’re very late – before it becomes an issue (for instance, if licence or tax renewal reminders are returned undelivered).
Also, it doesn’t cost anything just to get your address changed on your licence or V5C.
Renewing your licence
New style photocard licences must be renewed every 10 years. It’s illegal to drive on an expired licence, with a £1,000 fine – though no points luckily – if you’re caught.
You should get a reminder in the post from the DVLA in plenty of time to apply for a replacement (the expiry date is code 4b on the front of the licence).
For most people, the easiest way to renew is online, with a credit or debit card, at www.gov.uk/renew-driving-licence. Post, phone and cheque options are also available.
At the time of writing the renewal fee was £14. You’ll be asked for your passport number and National Insurance number, your driving licence details, and the addresses where you’ve lived in the past three years.
If your licence is lost or stolen
Replacing a lost or stolen licence is essentially the same process as renewing one, except the DVLA charges £20 instead of £14.
Report your lost licence to the police immediately. Keep a record of where and when you reported it. Someone could use it to hire a vehicle or use your identity in other ways. Having a police record of the loss/theft will help if you need to prove it wasn’t you.
If you lose a paper licence, you won’t be able to replace it with another paper one: you’ll have to switch to a photocard licence from then on.
If you're facing a ban
Seek legal advice
You would normally be expected to attend a disqualification hearing, even if you intend to plead guilty and accept a ban. You could represent yourself, but it is strongly advised to take legal advice before the hearing and be professionally represented there, if possible. Legal aid isn’t normally offered for driving cases, but you may qualify if losing your licence could mean losing your job.
Tell your employer
Don’t leave it until the last minute to tell your employer. They need time to prepare for time you might be off the road. If driving is crucial to your employment, they may agree to attend your court hearing to speak up for you and hopefully help you reduce or even avoid a ban.
Some key facts about disqualification
- If you are banned for 56 days or less, you can simply start driving again when the ban ends. Drivers banned for longer must reapply to the DVLA for their licence.
- New drivers whose licence is revoked for totting-up (six points in the first two years) can reapply for a provisional licence immediately. They must retake both parts of the driving test to get a new full licence.
- The UK Sentencing Council sets the guidelines on ban durations and mitigating circumstances. However, magistrates don’t always stick to them. This can make case outcomes something of a lottery in some courts.
Finally, watch out for licence scammers
It’s bad enough having to pay for a fine or a speed awareness course. Even worse is losing money to a licence scammer. Two to watch out for are:
Online licence renewal “checks”
These unofficial web sites charge a significant extra fee for “checking” applications to renew photo licences. Their web address and appearance are typically designed to give the impression that they are a genuine renewal portal for the DVLA.
The first Google result in this screen shot taken on 29 November 2019 is such a site:
The second result, GOV.UK, is the correct site to go for ALL online applications and advice relating to licences and vehicle registrations. Renewing your licence there (or at a Post Office) will cost you £141.
Note. Two weeks after we took the screenshot, the first site no longer appeared in the first page of search results and its results summary had changed to: “This is a non-official optional checking service with charges from £57.60, additional and separate to any DVLA fee.”
Phishing emails and texts
The DVLA never sends emails or text messages that ask you to confirm your personal details or payment information, such as for a vehicle tax refund. Most likely, any such message is from a scammer hoping to steal your identity, bank and card information.
If you get anything like this, don’t open any links and delete the email or text immediately.
How TMC Licence Checks work
Where employers use TMC’s licence checking service, TMC uses of a highly secure web-based portal and an instant DVLA licence check to verify individuals’ driving licence details.
- Your employer provides TMC with the details of every driver that requires a driving licence check.
- We contact you to ask you to complete a DVLA Declaration online. This gives your consent to the driving licence check.
- Your consent is valid until you cease to drive in connection with the company or, in any case, three years after the date you completed the DVLA Declaration.
- You can withdraw your consent at any time.
- TMC will send you reminders if you don’t complete the declaration. If you use TMC Mileage Capture to make mileage claims, you may be unable to continue using the system until you sign the declaration
UK government driving licence information, renewals etc
www.gov.uk/browse/driving/driving-licences/. Comprehensive list of links for advice, online applications and renewals, declaration forms, etc.
Disqualification – sentencing guidelines for courts