Following the recent flurry of strikes in the UK held by Royal Mail workers, the Department for Transport (DfT) has issued updated guidance on what to do should your replacement Driver Card not arrive within the stated timescales.

Legal Requirement

There is a legal requirement, under Article 28 of the retained Regulation (EU) No. 165/2014 for the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) to issue renewal driver cards for professional drivers before the existing driver card expires, provided that an application for it to be replaced is made no later than 15 working days before the expiry date.  Where the card is lost, stolen or defective, Article 29 of the retained Regulation (EU) No. 165/2014 requires the DVLA to issue a replacement card within 8 working days, provided that the driver notified them of the need for a replacement card within 7 calendar days of the driver card becoming lost, stolen or defective.

These deadlines (for both parties) are usually non-negotiable, but the Royal Mail industrial action has made it difficult for both the applicants and the DVLA to meet them.  Accordingly, the Department for Transport (DfT) has issued a notice which states that the DVSA (who are responsible for the enforcement surrounding driver cards) will "not take enforcement action against drivers that are without a driver card after the relevant period provided the driver carries with them evidence of making an application in sufficient time".  the guidance does not specify exactly what would count as "proof", but it does encourage applicants for a card renewal or for lost/stolen cards, to use the online portal for applications, which provides the driver with an email confirming their application and so it would be sensible to assume that this would be accepted by the DVSA officers as proof of the application status/timing.  In the case of malfunctioning cards, where the current card needs to be returned to the DVSA, then "proof of postage" of the malfunctioning card and the accompanying application forms is stated as being sufficient for DVSA officers.

The DfT advises that this guidance is only for domestic journeys and that manual records must also be maintained in the absence of a valid driver card.  It is not recommended that rivers who, due to the industrial action, do not have a valid driver card should attempt international travel until a new card is issued, as other countries may not accept this approach.

All Plain Sailing?

A "fly in the ointment" of this advice is with regard to the Police who, alongside the DVSA, have the power to enforce the regulations relating to driver tachograph cards.  As the DfT advice states; "Police enforcement policy and practice is a matter for police forces and their officers".  The implication being that although the DVSA will take a more lenient view on driver cards during this time of industrial action, the various UK Police forces may not, and prosecutions could therefore be brought against drivers who are driving without a valid driver tachograph card, even if they have the email "proof" of application or proof of postage (although the decision to prosecute will lie with the Crown Prosecution Service and one can at least hope for a consistent approach with the one adopted by the DVSA)... time will tell as to whether that approach is taken by the Police authorities.

Please also note that this advice from the Department for Transport only has a "shelf-life" whilst industrial action continues to affect postal services.  Clarifying if your driver card is delayed due to workers striking ay well prove to be tricky in practice, so if there is an issue with a new card not being received within the legal deadlines, operators and their drivers would be well advised to proceed with caution and at the very least, to document when they applied for a new card and all attempts to clarify where said card is!

If you need any legal advice around this issue or if you would like advice on any other aspect of your transport operation, please click here to send and email, or call 01279 818280 to speak to one of our lawyers.  We are here to help.

(c) Richard Pelly.  January 2023

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