Renewing your driving licence should be quick, simple, and stress-free.
Yet during the pandemic, millions of drivers suffered from record delays due to a backlog of licence issuing and renewal cases caused by six months of industrial action at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).
My small team and I have raised hundreds of instances with the DVLA of unacceptable delays. Residents would tell me the DVLA wasn’t answering their phone calls and letters pleading for help. Things got so bad that the Transport Select Committee in Parliament ran an inquiry to grill the DVLA’s Chief Executive.
The DVLA want people to apply online. Admittedly customers through this route receive their documents within a few days. However, some of us can’t do everything online. That’s made all the worse in particular because those over 70 must renew every three years.
If you need to confirm medical evidence from your GP as part of your application – like an eye exam, diabetes or head injury assessment – that may also need to go via the post, too, and adds an extra step to the process.
As of last month, the total number of paper applications awaiting processing at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) was 898,673. Usually, the DVLA has around 400,000 paper applications for processing.
To reduce waiting times for customers, the DVLA has introduced additional online services, recruited more staff, increased overtime working and has opened new customer service centres in Swansea and Birmingham.
These measures are beginning to have a positive impact. Vehicle paper applications are being processed within normal timescales as are straightforward vocational driving licence applications and renewals. Ministers say the DVLA is on track to return to normal turnaround times on all non-medical paper driving licence applications by the end of May.
60,000 pieces of paper arrive each day and the Transport Secretary has already said he’ll look at which bits of the DVLA can be digitised. The option to submit via paper will still be there for those who need it and I’ll continue to provide support to anyone who needs my help.
This column was first published in the Exmouth Journal on Wednesday 4th May 2022 and in the Sidmouth Herald and Midweek Herald later in the week.