The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency has today announced it has – for the second time in lockdown – extended the validity of photocard driving licences.
Having introduced a seven-month extension in June, it has increased the period to 11 months as it continues to buckle under demand for renewals during the coronavirus pandemic.
It means drivers whose existing pink plastic licences were due to expire between 1 February and 31 December 2020 will automatically have 11 months added to their cards’ expiration date. This is also the case for motorists with expiring entitlements to drive during the same period.
Sister agency, the Driver and Vehicles Standards Agency, also announced today that it will make almost 400,000 practical driving test booking available later this month in a bid to clear the log-jam of learners who have been desperate to get their hands on their licence since the nation went into lockdown.
Extension to the extension: Motorists whose existing pink plastic driving licence photocards were due to expire between 1 February and 31 December 2020 will automatically have 11 months added to the expiration date, the DVLA has confirmed today
By extending the scheme until the end of the year, the DVLA says it will reduce pressure both on its staff and motorists.
Like many businesses since Covid-19 hit, the government agency has shifted much of its Swansea-based workers to a working-from-home policy.
This means it has been unable to deal with the huge backlog of requests for new photocard licences so far this year.
The DVLA said there have been delays processing applications sent by post, though its online services have been unaffected and continued to operate as normal throughout the pandemic.
This is Money has received a number of emails from concerned motorists who fear they could be stung with £1,000 if caught by police driving with an expired licence.
However, anyone with a licence that says is due for renewal any time from 1 February 2020 will have the validity of their current plastic photocard extended by 11 months – therefore into 2021.
Drivers do not therefore need to apply to renew their licence until they receive a reminder before their extension expires.
This is also the case for entitlement to drive, which comes into force when a motorist hits the age of 70. From this age, drivers need to renew this entitlement every three years.
Julie Lennard, chief executive of the DVLA, said: ‘Being able to drive is a lifeline for millions of people and this further extension will ensure that in these continued uncertain times, drivers don’t need to worry about the admin or the associated costs with renewing their licences.
‘The temporary extension is automatic, and drivers do not need to do anything. Drivers who have already applied to renew their photocard driving licence or entitlement to drive can usually carry on driving while we process their application providing they have not been told by their doctor or optician that they should not drive.’
The driving licence photocard was introduced in 1998 with renewals costing £14 online, £17 by post or £21 at the Post Office (or free if you’re over 70 years old).
More than 45million driving licences are currently held in the UK.
Last week, over 200,000 learners were queued to book one of just 35,000 available driving test slots for the next 6 weeks. The DVSA will later this month make 395,000 tests available, with dates up until the end of January 2021
DVSA attempts to clear log-jam of learners applying for driving tests
Last week, This Money reported on the hundreds of thousands of frustrated learners who were caught-up in enormous online queues on the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency’s online system to book a driving test.
With tests suspended for four months during the pandemic, it has been estimated that between 400,000 and half a million people are ready and waiting to sit their practical tests.
Limited test bookings have been drip-fed over the last week, with the latest round of slots being made available today – though by lunchtime have already been allocated.
However, the DVSA looks set to clear some of its backlog of eager learners with the announcement that a small number of tests will be available on 7 September and a further 395,000 will be added on 14 September.
The latter availability will be for driving test dates until the end of January 2021.
We’ve closed the booking service – no more tests are available today
A limited number of tests will be available on 7 September and more than 395,000 will be added on 14 September
Sorry for the inconvenience, we know many of you’ve been waiting a long time to book a test.
— Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (@DVSAgovuk) September 1, 2020
Reacting to the news, Sarah Rees, managing director AA Driving School, said learners have been sent on a ‘merry-go-round for weeks by the DVSA, with many who have already passed their theory tests unable to book an available practical test slot before the certificate expires and they have to re-sit the theory exam – which costs £23 a go.
‘Coronavirus has placed many services under extreme pressure and we do understand the difficulties the DVSA has faced in re-opening test centres and then dealing with an enormous backlog of driving tests with fewer examiners available than usual,’ Rees said.
‘But, for many learners, the last few weeks have been a merry-go-round of failed attempts to book a test and hours waiting in an online queue that goes nowhere.
‘There is an additional cohort of learners, whose theory test certificates either expired during lockdown or in the time since, who will now have to pay to re-take their theory test before they can even attempt to book a practical test.
‘We think it would be sensible of the government to extend theory test certificates immediately to reduce this burden on learners.’