Discussion Document on Continuous Licensing

Published on 13 May 2005 by Gill

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency introduced continuous licensing on 1 st January 2004. They claim that it was to help to keep better track of vehicles, improve their record keeping and to prevent fraud.

Continuous Licensing
Keepers of vehicles whose names are featured in their registration documents are required to either tax their vehicles or to make a Statutory Off-Road Notification if it is not to be used or kept off public roads. The reminder sent out by DVLA when the current road tax expires or on the anniversary of a SORN declaration may be used for either of these requirements. Re-licensing can only be undertaken with the reminder or the registration document. A keeper has only one of these two options. Doing nothing will result in a fine by post through DVLA's monthly computer check. This is at least preferable to the proposals in 1980 for a tax on possession of a vehicle rather than its use.

There is the question of when is a vehicle not a vehicle. Apparently a motorcycle frame requires taxation or a SORN declaration!

Update of Registration Documents
Until 1st January 2004, vehicles registered with DVLA required a V5 registration document. An EU harmonised V5C which contains more information is progressively replacing the old V5 documents. These are being sent to keepers as and when their vehicles are flagged up by the system with instructions to destroy the old document. The V5C is being used to monitor vehicles' changing hands by including two sections to add details of the new keeper including the new keeper's date of birth and a declaration to be signed by both parties. The new keeper's driver number and the vehicle's mileage are also requested but this is not mandatory. The bulk of the registration document must be sent to DVLA while the new keeper retains the New Keeper Supplement. Without this notification to DVLA, the old keeper remains responsible for the vehicle which includes any parking or road traffic offences.

Some of us may have vehicles which were taken off the road before the SORN scheme was introduced. It may soon be necessary to reregister them in order to obtain a V5C registration document. With their appearing on the DVLA's radar, they may then be subject to continuous licensing. DVLA do not intend to reallocate registration numbers of vehicles which have not been reregistered so it may not be necessary to do so. However, if such vehicles are to be put on the road or sold, then a current V5C will be necessary to do so. There may be bureaucratic and cost implications for those of us with a number of motorcycles in the garage in various states of repair.

Continuous licensing is automatically and rigorously enforced by checking registrations against SORN declarations and taxed vehicles on the DVLA computer. There is no appeal with cases of genuine oversights or keepers being on extended holiday not given any leeway and DVLA harbouring presumption of criminality. In the event of ‘determined evasion' fines of over £1,000 can be levied. The justification for this position is that it prevents ‘month skipping' or the occasional use of an untaxed vehicle on public roads. There is an established link between vehicles which are unroadworthy and/or uninsured and unlicensed. Hence continuous licensing is intended to keep them off the road. However, while the normally honest citizen who makes an honest mistake or errs occasionally is picked up by this process while the professional evader will use a vehicle which is unlawfully acquired, has dropped off of DVLA's system, are fitted with false or cloned number plates, or by giving false details as a new keeper. They can only be detected by ANPR followed by a police stop – if there are any police officers to make the stop.

There are strong indications from roadside checks that there is a high rate of VED evasion among motorcyclists. DVLA has claimed that continuous licensing has been responsible for a significant reduction in unlicensed motorcycles in 2004 . The Government's Motorcycling Strategy claims rates of evasion of 31.8% in 1999, 45.9% in 2002 and 19.8% in 2004. However, the 2002 figures are questionable since something in the region of 25% was originally quoted and there are questions of whether the numbers of motorcyclists surveyed are sufficient for accurate statistical treatment.

Costs and Potential Costs to Vehicle Keepers
DVLA receives a fee for the collection of VED. Its administration in keeping the vehicle register up to date must be self-funded. The main sources of income are from newly registered vehicles and new driving licences.

When a vehicle is first registered, a first registration fee of £38 is payable although this is often absorbed by the dealer as part of the sale. This is a fixed sum regardless of the class of vehicle and is intended to fund any administration by DVLA during that vehicle's life. DVLA have since claimed that it does not cover all of their administration costs.

At present, vehicles first registered before 1971 can be licensed free of charge. The process of licensing provides a check on the MOT and insurance.

Making a SORN declaration is free of charge.

Registering with a new keeper is also free of charge.

However in a recent consultation on the charging of fees, DVLA proposed to fund their administration and the recall of paper licences and their replacement by photographic licences by amending and introducing a range of fees. They gave four options which included:

First registration reduced from £38 to between £25 to £30

An annual registration fee from £2.50 to £4.50 absorbed when the vehicle is taxed but payable for a SORN declaration. This could apply to the older vehicles which are currently not required to pay a fee.

A re-registration fee when there is a new keeper of £7.50.

In addition to this, there has been a further consultation proposing vehicles kept off road like those subject to a SORN declaration should continue to be insured. While keepers of valuable vehicles undergoing restoration may do so already for non-road risks, a mandatory insurance requirement would be onerous. There are also concerns that it could be enforced in a similar way to continuous licensing by checking vehicles subject to SORN against the Insurance database.

Clearly this could cause hardship for multiple ownership and the impecunious.

Last reviewed/updated 13/05/05