In 2013, the DVLA introduced a new design to the photocard driving licence in order to comply with EU rules. Even though these changes aimed to clarify category entitlements as well as valid to and from dates, they actually caused a great deal of confusion instead.
This is because the 4b date appears to indicate when the licence is valid to, when in fact it only applies to your photograph, which needs to be changed every 10 years. The actual expiry date can be found in column 11 on the back of your licence, which commonly coincides with your 70th birthday.
Prior to the photocard changes, police forces were actually threatening to impound vehicles for not having driving licences. Insurance companies also voiced concerns that motorists on driver improvement courses would not be covered without a ‘valid’ licence either.
But Michael Pace, partner and head of motor law and PI team, Andrew & Co LLP, contacted the DVLA to seek clarification. “I can confirm that the date at 4b is when only the photo expires,” he said. “Your licence remains valid until such time as the DVLA revokes it, and that requires written notice.”
Therefore, driving with an expired photo on your licence is not an endorsable offence. Neither does it invalidate a driving license.
However, this isn’t an excuse for fleet managers to overlook the 4b date, as serious consequences could await those that ignore their legal responsibilities.
Why licence information should be kept up-to-date
By failing to carry out annual checks of employee licences, fleet managers could be accused of failing to notify the DVLA of up-to-date information, which remains an offence.
What’s more, fleet licence checks can avoid the need for legal advice in the event of a police officer trying to seize a vehicle or if an insurer refuses to indemnify following an accident.
Pace believes that fleet operators “could also face allegations of aiding and abetting if the offence is committed by employees driving on company business, whether in their own vehicle or a company one.”
Drivers that don’t update their photo, which they will be sent a reminder about, still face fines of up to £1000. It was recently reported that 2 million photocards issued since 1998 had expired but not yet been renewed.