Will driving licence changes leave holidaymakers stranded?

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Holidaymakers are being warned that they could soon face problems hiring a car - especially abroad.

From June 8, the DVLA is scrapping the paper part of the driving licence, meaning that drivers will only need to keep the plastic card.

Good news, you might think. But with the paper counterpart currently required by most car hire firms, the DVLA is introducing a new system that requires drivers to log on to a special website before they hire a car. (It calls this a 'purge' of red tape).

And motoring organisations are warning that the changes haven't been well-enough publicised. Many rental companies (Avis, for example) have failed to update their terms and conditions, leaving drivers at risk of being stranded.

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The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) is concerned that the changes have been rushed through, and that - contrary to the DVLA's view - most people aren't aware of them.

"Rushing the abolition of the paper counterpart before the DVLA is ready with a real-time driver checking service is going to cause huge disruption and may result in customers having to pay to have their own driving licence details verified," comments BVRLA chief executive Gerry Keaney.

And to make matters worse, the 0906 premium rate number through which this can be done only covers UK rentals. And there are concerns that the new system will make it much more difficult to hire a car abroad on the spur of the moment or during the second week of a holiday.

From June 8, travellers will have to log on to the DVLA website the day before they leave and enter their driving licence number and national insurance number. The system will then generate a one-time passcode which can be given to the hire company on arrival.

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However, the code is only valid for 72 hours. And while the DVLA says that drivers wishing to hire a car further into their holiday can download a printable PDF file to show the care hire company, it's not clear whether all firms will accept them. It's also little help for anybody without internet access.

And as for anyone wanting to hire a car in an emergency, they will first need to log on to the DVLA website first. This could mean struggling to find an internet cafe or paying overseas roaming charges.

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