DVLA processing woes show that overhaul is needed

Longstanding difficulties at DVLA have translated into severe delays to the processing of vocational licence applications and renewals. At the time of writing, those letters sat unopened for over two months.

On 31 August, DVLA was processing what it received on 28 June.

Under normal circumstances, such delays would surely be unacceptable. With some parts of the industry on their knees through a lack of drivers, they are now doubly so. One affected business has already lost multiple new recruits because of them.

And yet, the government is well aware. The crisis has been raised by operators and their representatives in multiple sectors. Meanwhile, driving test availability is poor and other DVLA functions – including the registration of new vehicles – are similarly disrupted.

But there is little interest among politicians in finding a solution. Minister Kwasi Kwarteng recently brushed off some of the same woes being experienced in the freight sector.

The DVLA crisis sits alongside difficulties at DVSA. MoT extensions have tipped the spread of expiry dates off kilter, and it is also struggling to service other needs. One company saw its August appointment for a notifiable alteration examination cancelled with a day’s notice. It was rescheduled for over a month later.

Instead of disregarding legitimate concerns, the government must take short term action by employing external help to clear backlogs. COVID-19 has shown that some ministers are very well acquainted with companies that offer such ‘assistance’.

And in the long term, it needs to begin steps towards an overhaul of how DVLA and DVSA services are provided.