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DVLA Delays and COVID-19

August 4, 2020 by in category Covid-19, News with 0 and 0
Home > News > Covid-19 > DVLA Delays and COVID-19
DVLA Delays Covid 19

The Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency (DVLA) seems to have been hit very hard with the impact of Covid-19 social distancing requirements. The DVLA contact centre is based on a single site in Swansea, Wales. Due to strict 2 metre Social Distancing requirements the site has suffered issues of short staff since March 2020 and continues to deal with significant delays in dealing with drivers’ applications and queries. The DVLA, since March 2020, have received over 250,000 paper envelopes a week. They have had to advise people that right now they “cannot” deal with any more paper applications.

The DVLA have been reported to be “almost impossible” to get into contact with and many drivers are unsure of whether they are legally entitled to drive. There have also been issues regarding the DVLA holding people’s documents for far too long causing issues for people who require these documents for work or travel.

The DVLA have said that they are working through the backlog as quickly as possible, but they are still warning of delays in processing applications and sending documents back.

This whole situation has left drivers unsure and their questions unanswered. Some questions have unpalatable answers but we have addressed the most common concerns below.

My licence photocard has expired, can I still drive?

Driving licences must be renewed every 10 years. The photo on your licence needs to be changed due to changes to your appearance over a 10 year period.

Renewing your licence is a legal requirement under section 99 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. However, the DVLA announced on the 4th June 2020 that drivers with driving licences due to expire between 1st February and 31st August 2020 have been granted a 7-month extension from the date of expiry. There is no need to make your application for the extension which is automatically granted.

This means you can continue to drive legally with your licence for 7 additional months whilst the DVLA deals with the backlog of applications.

This also applies to bus and lorry drivers who are required to renew every 5 years (except those aged 45 and over who need to renew their entitlement to drive). A 7-month extension will be automatically added to your licence and so you can continue to make necessary journeys.

You will need to ensure your licence is renewed once this extension is over otherwise you could face a fine of up to £1000 and/or 3-6 penalty points.

Remember, the 7-month extension begins from the date your licence was due to expire. The DVLA have said that a reminder to renew will be sent before the 7-month extension ends.

This extension applies only to photocard expirations and not a person’s entitlement to drive, more on this below.

I have applied to renew my licence and sent off my old licence but haven’t received a new one yet, can I still drive?

If you have sent your old licence off in order to renew you licence, you may experience significant delays in receiving your new licence.

In normal times, the DVLA usually take 3 weeks to process your renewal application and send a new licence out to you. However, due to delays caused by the Covid-19 crisis a significant delay is to be expected.

If you are affected by this delay, section 88 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 states that drivers can continue to drive whilst their application is being considered by the DVLA. For Section 88 to apply to you, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Your doctor agrees that you are fit to drive*
  • You have held a driving licence and only drive vehicles you have applied for and were entitled to drive on your last licence
  • You meet any conditions specified on your previous licence
  • If you hold a group 2 (bus or lorry) licence, your entitlement has not been suspended, revoked or refused by a traffic commissioner
  • DVLA has received your correct and complete application within the last 12 months
  • Your last licence was not refused or revoked for medical reasons
  • You are not currently disqualified from driving by a court
  • You were not disqualified as a high-risk offender on or before 1st June 2013 (a high risk offender is a driver convicted of a serious drink driving offence)

*If stopped by police, you may wish to have a letter from your GP to prove this criteria.

Please take a look at our DVLA DELAY tool to check if you meet the s.88 Criteria. If you do, you can produce a free certificate to carry with you whilst you drive.

How can I be sure section 88 applies to me?

The DVLA state that while they are completing medical investigations to decide whether a licence can be issued, they cannot tell you if section 88 applies to you.

The DVLA explain that you and your doctor are in the best position to consider the Section 88 criteria and to decide whether you are fit and legal to drive whilst waiting for your licence to be renewed/issued.

The DVLA have provided this leaflet to help you work out if section 88 does apply to you and you can continue driving.

We realise that the DVLA passing it onto you to decide whether you can continue to drive or not may be quite concerning. Our online tool may assist with making this decision. If you meet the criteria it is more than likely you can continue to drive whilst the DVLA deal with their delays. Once you complete the questions, if the result is that you can continue driving, a PDF certificate will be generated.  You may wish to print off this certificate and place it into your car to make you feel more at ease whilst driving.

The DVLA are keeping my documents and I need them for other reasons than driving – what can I do?

When making applications to the DVLA, if you do not have a UK passport, they may require original documentation to be sent with the application. Usually they advise that these documents will be returned within 3 weeks, but a significant number of people are experiencing delays in receiving these back.

The DVLA can ask for documents such as foreign passports, biometric residence permits, national identity cards etc. However, these documents are often needed for other important purposes such as applying for jobs and visas etc.

The DVLA have said that there will be a delay in getting documents back to you due to Covid-19 and have suggested delaying driving licence applications if you have a need for these documents.

However, this suggestion may come too late as people have been waiting since the beginning of March for vital documents.

Unfortunately, there is not much that can be done here. It is good to note that whilst your documents are with the DVLA, and have had a driving licence, you can continue to drive. However, the issue with needing ID for other important purposes is a difficult one to solve.

We would suggest you contact the DVLA urgently. Albeit this may be difficult due to the short staffed phone lines. Explain to the DVLA the urgency of getting your documents back. If you still experience little help or information you may wish to make a formal complaint.

The DVLA are working through the backlog but we would advise people to think carefully before sending original documents which may be needed for other important reasons.

I had my licence revoked for medical reasons but my circumstances have changed and I have applied to get my licence back - can I drive whilst my application is with the DVLA?

You cannot drive whilst your application is being considered by the DVLA. You need to wait until it has been considered and approved. It is illegal to drive, after revocation of your licence, before a new licence has been granted.

You can reapply for your licence once your doctor says you meet the medical standards of driving subject to DVLA’s rules on the relevant medical grounds. You will have to meet the conditions of your revocation, if there was a period of time you were expected to wait you cannot reapply until 8-weeks prior to that date. Your Doctor will need to complete a form with you and this will need to be sent along with your application and evidence that you are fit to drive.

If you drive before the DVLA send you a new licence, you can be disqualified from driving, receive penalty points or even fined up to £1000.

These applications are required to be made by paper and so a delay should be expected.

Our advice differs if you have voluntarily surrendered your licence and have now applied for it to be renewed. If you meet all of the following requirements, you can begin to drive whilst the DVLA considers your application:

  • You have the support of your doctor to drive
  • You had a valid licence
  • You only drive under the conditions of the previous licence
  • Your application is less than 1 year old
  • Your last licence was not revoked or refused for medical reasons
  • You are not currently disqualified
When will the delays at the DVLA stop and the issues be fixed?

If you are experiencing any of the above issues or are delaying an application due to not wanting to experience the reported delays, you may, as we are, be asking ‘when will the problem be fixed?’

Sadly, for a service which was struggling to cope at the best of times, these delays, regardless of the far reaching consequences for some, are expected to continue for some time to come.

The DVLA have apologised for the issues drivers are experiencing and have assured the public they are working through the back log as soon as possible. They have also announced over the past week that they will be recruiting 400 new staff members at their office in Swansea, who will hopefully be able to assist with working through the applications in the backlog.

Unfortunately, we cannot recommend instructing solicitors to assist with DVLA delays as we are unlikely to be able to achieve your objectives any differently to you. The situation is not acceptable but sadly, there are few options available to those caught up in this lesser known consequence of the Covid-19 crisis.

My disqualification period has ended but I cannot get through to the DVLA to check the status of my application – can I drive?

If you have been disqualified for driving and your ban is coming to an end you need to apply to have your entitlement to drive reinstated.

Whether or not you can drive prior to receiving your physical licence, after your ban has ended, depends on whether you are classed as a high risk offender or not.

If you are not classed as a high-risk offender, you can apply for your licence to be reinstated after a disqualification up to 56 days before your ban ends. Once your application is with the DVLA and has been accepted, and your ban period has ended you may be able to drive again even if you have not received your physical licence. However, this is only if the DVLA has accepted your application and there are no medical reasons which prevent you from driving.

This means that unless you have had it confirmed by the DVLA that your application has been accepted, and your licence will be sent to you, you should not drive. You need to wait 3 weeks after your application to chase the DVLA for an update. If you do struggle to get through, they have now introduced an online chat service.

You are classed as a high risk offender if any of the following apply:

  • You have been disqualified for driving, or being in charge of a vehicle, when the level of alcohol in your body was equal to or more than:
  • 87.5mcg per 100ml of blood
  • 200mg per 100ml of blood
  • 267.5mg per 100ml of urine
  • You have been disqualified twice within the space of 10 years for driving over the limit or being unfit to drive because of drink
  • You have been disqualified for refusing or failing to provide a breath, blood or urine sample for testing.
  • You have been disqualified for refusing to allow analysis of a blood sample taken due to incapacity.

Please Note: the court do not automatically tell you that you are in the high risk offender category as a result of a drink-driving conviction.

If you do fall into the category of being a high-risk offender and your disqualification is coming to an end, you can apply for it to be reinstated up to 90 days prior to your end of ban date. The reason for the extension of time to apply is because you are required to have a medical assessment taken by a DVLA approved GP.

If your disqualification began on or after 1 June 2013 you will not be entitled to drive until your licence has been issued. If you drive before then, you will be committing an offence under section 103 of the Road Traffic Act 1988.

Delays in attending a medical examination due to Covid-19 may impact on you getting your licence back and may mean you will not be able to drive until the end of your disqualification until the medical process and licencing decision is completed. Our advice here is be patient, and remain off the road.

The DVLA have issued a leaflet for applying for a driving licence after a disqualification for drink-drive offences here.

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