Legal Article: Road Traffic Legislation – Temporary Changes for the COVID-19 Pandemic

18 June 2020

Written by: Christopher Smith, PNLD Traffic Law Consultant
Not reviewed after the date of publication

Over the last few months, there have been many temporary changes to road traffic legislation, brought about by the Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This article, written by PNLD’s Traffic Law Consultant, Christopher Smith, highlights the main modifications currently made to the legislation. However, it should be noted that at present the situation can change very rapidly.

In compiling this article, we would like to express our thanks to staff at the DfT, DVLA and DVSA for the information they have provided.

DVLA

DVLA state that because they are working with far fewer staff on site in order to meet the requirements in relation to social distancing, paper applications for driving licences will take longer to deal with. However, their online services have not been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, members of the public should be advised to apply online to renew their driving licence or change their address etc.

Renewing a driving licence - photo card licences

On 4th June 2020, a temporary measure to assist drivers in complying with the law during the COVID-19 pandemic was introduced.

Legislation was brought in to extend the expiry date of photo card driving licences by seven months, from the date of expiry. This applies to driving licences that have expired or are due to expire between 1 February 2020 and 31 August 2020. However, this will only apply where the driver’s entitlement to drive is still valid.

The extension to the validity of the licence will take effect automatically and the licence holder does not need to take any action. The DVLA will not be updating the driver records of photo card licence holders to reflect the seven-month extension.

It is important to realise that driving licences in Great Britain have both an administrative validity and an entitlement period. Usually, entitlement to drive cars remains valid until a driver reaches 70 years of age, while entitlement to drive a lorry or bus expires every five years, once a driver reaches 45. The expiry date of a photo card driving licence can be found at 4b on the front of the photo card licence, while the expiry date of the driving entitlement is recorded on the back of the licence.

Where a driver fails to renew their photo card licence every five or ten years, depending on what category of vehicle they wish to drive, they would normally be committing an offence contrary to section 99(5) of the Road Traffic Act 1988. Therefore, the temporary measure will ease the burden on motorists who can’t renew their licence in the current circumstances. Even though the physical document and corresponding driver record will not be updated to reflect the extension period, drivers will no longer be committing an offence. Note the temporary extension applies to the photo card expiry date. As mentioned above, this is separate to the entitlement to drive. If a driver’s entitlement to drive is due to expire, they will need to renew it in the normal way by making an application to continue driving.

DVLA have asked that all police officers be made aware of this extension to the validity of photo card driving licences, to ensure that enforcement action is not taken against drivers who have a licence that expired between 1 February 2020 and 31 August 2020, as no offence will be committed.

Renewing a driving licence - lorry / bus drivers (D4 medical updates)

Usually, applications to renew a lorry or bus licence at the age of 45 or over have to include a medical examination report (D4) that is signed by a doctor. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic doctors aren’t available to conduct the medicals, so lorry and bus drivers can’t obtain the medical report to support their licence application. In these special circumstances, a D4 will not be required when applying to renew a lorry or bus licence, until further notice. However, this will only apply if the licence has expired or is due to expire on or after 1 January 2020.

If a lorry or bus licence is renewed without the production of a valid D4, it will only remain valid for one year. These temporary changes to the system:

will not affect applications for the renewal of licences made by those aged 65 or over, because these licences are already only valid for one year.

do not apply to applications to renew small lorry (C1) and minibus (D1 (101)) entitlements, included on car licences issued before 1997.

In the event that a driver has obtained a D4 form, this can still be submitted with their application. Licences issued in such circumstances would be valid for the usual term that applies.

Applying for a new driving licence with a medical condition

DVLA state that there are likely to be delays before doctors, consultants and opticians etc., can provide them with information to make licensing decisions. This is likely to affect drivers who have a medical condition that requires further information / examination.

However, providing a driver has a current driving licence and they have not been told by their doctor or optician that they should not drive, they will be able to drive while DVLA is considering their application.

MOTs

In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, MOT expiry dates have been extended by 6 months. This applies if the MOT was due to expire on or after 30 March 2020 and the vehicle is a:

car;

motorcycle;

light van; or

other light vehicle.

The extension also applies to these types of vehicles that are due their first MOT test on or after 30 March 2020.

Providing a vehicle is eligible, its MOT will be automatically extended by 6 months, about 7 days before it was originally due to expire. This means that:

vehicles will have a valid MOT certificate for an extra 6 months;

drivers can still tax their vehicle but they might need to wait to do this until later in the month if both their MOT and vehicle tax run out in the same month; and

a driver’s insurance will still be valid.

Vehicle records will be updated so the police can see a vehicle has a valid MOT; however, motorists will not get a new paper MOT certificate with the new expiry date on it.

In any case, drivers must still make sure their vehicles are safe to drive.

The Government says that the system will operate as follows:

A vehicle’s MOT expiry date will be updated about 7 days before it was originally due to expire. Three days before an MOT was originally due to expire, drivers need to check the expiry date has been extended. If the expiry date has not been extended 3 days before it was due to expire, they should email covid19mot@dvsa.gov.uk.

Drivers need to include the following details in the email:

the date their MOT expired; and

the vehicle registration number.

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) will then:

update the vehicle’s record; and

email them to tell say this has been done.

However, it should be noted that:

MOT extensions will no longer apply if a driver takes their vehicle for an MOT and it fails. The vehicle will need to be fixed and pass its MOT before it can be used again.

motorists cannot renew their vehicle tax until their MOT expiry date has been extended. As stated above, it will be extended a few days before it was originally due to expire. This means that drivers might need to wait until later in the month to tax their vehicle.

HGV and PSV Annual Testing

The DVSA has suspended MOTs (annual tests) for all heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) and public service vehicles (PSVs) for up to 3 months from 21 March 2020. All HGV and PSV vehicles with an MOT will be issued with a 3-month certificate of temporary exemption (CTE), until further notice. However, vehicles must be maintained, kept safe to drive (roadworthy) and operate within the terms of operators’ licence conditions.

Whilst in most cases, lorries, buses and trailers will be issued an automatic 3-month extension, some owners may need to apply for an exemption for certain types of vehicle – please see the link for further information: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-mots-for-lorries-buses-and-trailers

Relaxation of the EU/GB drivers' hours rules

The Department for Transport introduced a temporary and limited urgent relaxation of the enforcement of both the EU and GB drivers’ hours rules in England, Scotland and Wales on 23 March 2020. Both of these relaxations have now ended.

Driving / Theory Tests

Driving tests are currently suspended, due to Coronavirus, but you can apply for an emergency test if you are a critical worker – the link provides further information: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-driving-tests-and-theory-tests

Theory tests are currently suspended to 3 July 2020, due to Coronavirus, but you can apply for an emergency theory test if you are a critical worker – the link provides further information: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-theory-tests

Driver CPC card validity for lorry, bus and coach drivers

Most professional lorry / bus drivers have to complete 35 hours of periodic training every 5 years to maintain their Driver Certificate of Professional Competence qualification - this is evidenced by a Driver CPC card, or as it is sometimes called, a ‘driver qualification card’ (DQC).

The validity of DQCs with expiry dates from 1 February 2020 to 31 August 2020 has been extended by 7 months. If the expiry date on a driver’s card is in this period, you should add 7 months to that date, to calculate the new expiry date.

DQC with an expiry date from 1 September 2020 to 30 September 2020

On 31 March 2020, the DVSA gave notice that, subject to review, it did not intend to carry out enforcement action against drivers from 1 September 2020 to 30 September 2020, if their DQC expired during this period. This gave these drivers up to 29 extra days to complete their periodic CPC training, if it was disrupted due to COVID-19.

However, please note that this notice has been rescinded and enforcement action will be carried out from September in relation to DQCs expiring after 31 August, as there are now enough periodic training courses available for drivers whose DQC expires in September 2020, to renew their DQC before then.

If a driver’s DQC expires from September 2020, they must not drive until it is renewed. They could face a £1,000 fine if they drive without a valid DQC – see regulation 10 of the Vehicle Drivers (Certificates of Professional Competence) Regulations 2007.

A final word 

As can be seen above, there have been various road traffic law changes, made in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. It is important that officers ensure they are aware of these changes, particularly where extensions are being granted but records are not being updated, as there will be a reliance on the knowledge of officers, to ensure that offences aren’t being wrongly charged.

As already stated, amendments are being made regularly to deal with the rapidly changing circumstances. Officers should therefore ensure they keep up to date with any further changes. The latest Coronavirus changes can be found on PNLD and Ask the Police.

Back to more articles.

Back to News