The past 30 years of my life, I now realise, have been building up to this moment. The chance, that is, to adopt the Beastie Boys' seminal 1986 album as a headline.
I have no idea what getting ill or indeed being licenced to do so actually means, but it feels like an oddly appropriate way to describe the DVLA's decision to scrap the paper counterpart licence.
From June 8th the paper part of the driving licence will no longer be legally valid. The only part you'll need is the card. This, like the plans for a rolling MOT exemption on cars over 40 years old, is part of the Government's initiative to cut red tape.
If you have an old paper licence - with no card - you don't have to do anything. If you have the later two-part version then the DVLA wants you to throw away the paper part after June 8th, in a sort of bureaucratic bra-burning statement of freedom.
My experience running Great Escape's classic car hire business suggests that quite a lot of people don't realise that they actually have a paper licence counterpart. They often lose it or throw it away. So getting shot of this apparently redundant piece of bureaucracy in the interests of saving tax revenues is surely to be applauded.
In the sense that the current system is silly, then yes. We only have card licences in order to harmonise with the rest of the EU. As it doesn't cater for our points system and the Government didn't coincide its introduction with an investment in technology to enable police, hire companies et al to read any data from it, it's pretty limited in what it actually does and says. Possibly pointless, except maybe as a 10 yearly reminder that you're getting older.
For the police and car hire companies, the only part of the licence that really matters is the paper bit: this shows what points and disqualifications the driver has accumulated.
The card and paper system clearly has its flaws. But, like the MOT exemption, is ditching the paper part really a good idea? The alternative provided by the DVLA is an online and phone check system: you can print a pdf of your licence history or generate a code, valid for 72 hrs, that hire companies can use. How they do that nobody is quite clear.
If you are hiring a car abroad and if you do remember to do this before you leave then you better be hiring the car within 3 days of departing. If not, you'll have to generate another code. Online.
The problem doesn't stop there. If you hire out cars, as we do, you'll need to access the dvla site, enter the code and check the details. How this works hasn't been explained yet. This is easier to explain than it is to do. The hirer has to spend time generating the code and we, within 3 days, need to spend time checking it. Chances are we won't manage to do this within three days, so we'll have to ask the customer to generate another one. Which is annoying for them. In the event of an accident my insurer will want proof that we did the check, which means printing the details out. Which isn't greener and isn't less 'red tape' than storing a licence scan.
Like the MOT exemption it feels to me as if the Government has identified a genuine problem, but then opted for a solution wherein all goals fall flat before that of cost reduction and revenue. The rest of the world manages to operate an effective, simple, paperless licence and checking system that harnesses technology to solve the licence penalty and checks conundrum. Why we can't do the same is beyond my limited intelligence.
Abolishing the paper licence ignores the role this document plays in hiring a car worldwide. It creates bureaucracy and red tape for small businesses such as mine.
We are upgrading our systems to cater for this change: I anticipate it will cost me around £500/month in equipment and staff time to operate under the new system. That's money and time to simply stand still and not spent doing more useful things.
I welcome improvement. I'm glad somebody looked at the paper and card licence conundrum. I'm not impressed by the Heath Robinson solution they came up with.
To find out more visit the DVLA website or call me on 01527 893733.