The DVLA is to end its dependence on paper forms, after Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps MP, promised to end the two-year backlog in processing key documents that built up over lockdown.
Although no time frame was specified, the Transport Secretary, responding to Transport Select Committee requirements (and an undercover investigation by The Times) wants the DVLA to go digital to avoid any further delays.
While many documents can be printed off from the DVLA website without having to go to a Post Office, the process must still be completed by hand and posted back to the DVLA in Swansea.
Much of the DVLA’s administrative duties still comes from posted documents. The agency, which fell behind with its work at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, lost yet more time as 2020 dragged on, owing to protracted and drawn-out industrial action.
Staff were worried that coronavirus measures in DVLA offices weren’t up to scratch, while pay concerns further complicated negotiations. Owing to the sheer number of paper forms received per day, staff couldn’t take their work home, a problem further exacerbated by the antiquated computer systems used on site.
Strike action in 2021 added 400,000 more documents to the pile, and as of September, the total backlog stood at 1.6 million documents. That had been reduced down to a million by February, but the department still has a mammoth task ahead of itself – and in the meantime, drivers are left without important documents like driving licences.
The backlog has affected historic vehicle owners too, with delays in changing tax classes for vehicles crossing the 40-year exemption mark, and those bringing vehicles into the country from overseas unable to complete their import packs online.
Speaking to The Times, Shapps said, “I ask myself why, in today’s world, do we still need to have 60,000 pieces of paper arriving at DVLA every day. What is it we still need to digitise and how can we do things more efficiently?”
Thankfully, things are moving in the right direction. From June 2020 owners could change addresses on log books digitally and by September, duplicate V5Cs could be requested online. Registered keepers can also be changed online if you have the V5C document number to hand.
Last July also saw the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs (FBHVC) take a stakeholder role in the DVLA to assist with age related document processing, including date of manufacture queries and V765 applications. By October, the Historic and Classic Vehicle User Group had been formed to liaise with the historic vehicle sector.