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Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Lost Entitlements

16 seater minibus and 7.5 tonne van and truck
They don’t want you driving these once you’re 70

In 2009, the BBC programme Watchdog reported that DVLA* were removing entitlements from driving licences reissued after a change of name or address. Drivers found they had lost the right to drive motorcycles or other categories of vehicle.

It may be conspiracy theory but the rumour is that many people who are qualified to ride motorcycles have not done so for years, and DVLA do not want them to start again because of the dangers. Some who do still ride motorcycles had to re-take their motorcycle driving test because they were unable to prove they had passed it years ago.

2-stroke Velocette motorcycle (Wikimedia Commons)
2-stroke Velocette
You can understand the outrage. My dad felt the same. He passed his motorcycle test in the nineteen-thirties and rode through the war on his 2-stroke Velocette as an Air Raid Patrol Messenger (childhood polio ruled out active service). Yet, around nineteen-seventy, he was dismayed to notice he no longer had the motorcycle entitlement on his licence. Not that he wanted to ride again – he wouldn’t have dared – it was the principle.

This is a page in his old licence. Until 1973, driving licences took the form of little red books issued by County Councils. They had to be renewed every three years or annually before 1959. West Riding residents sent their licences to 14 St. John’s North, Wakefield, where a new three-year (or one-year) sticker was pasted in.

1950s driving licence

They really knew how to stick things in those days but, as best he could, my dad peeled back through the thick wodge of renewals in his old licence book and discovered that what used to be Category III (later G) “Motor Bicycle (with or without side-car) …” was there in 1939 but not in 1940. I still have his licence with all its stickers and what appears to have happened is that his motorcycle entitlement was not carried forward when he passed his motor car driving test. Oversight or clerical error, he seems to have ridden his Velocette through the war illegally.

What annoyed him even more was that he worked with someone who started to drive before tests were introduced in 1935 and was licensed to drive just about everything you could imagine. Despite never having taken a test of any kind his colleague could drive both cars and motorbikes. My dad had passed to drive both but could now only drive cars. It was no consolation that somehow around 1950 he had bizarrely acquired the right to drive a road roller. 

Now, I feel hard done by too. Did you know they remove some of your entitlements when you get to seventy?

Most people currently in their fifties and sixties can drive 16-seater minibuses and medium-sized vans and trucks (up to 7.5 metric tons or tonnes: categories C1 and D1). They are there on my paper driving licence (many people now have plastic photocards but green paper licences issued before July 1998 remain valid up to your seventieth birthday unless updated due to a change of name or address, but at seventy you have to change to a photocard).

pre-1998 UK driving licence

The rule is that you can drive 16-seater minibuses and 7.5 tonne vehicles if you passed your car driving test before 1997 (partly subject to Restriction 1: not for hire or reward). Those who passed after 1997 are restricted to 8-seater minibuses and smaller vans up to 3.5 metric tons. However, at 70, they take away the higher entitlements and restrict everyone to the lower limits. You can keep the higher ones by taking a test and asking a doctor and an optician to certify your fitness to drive, for which no doubt they charge, but that’s too much faff.

Even to continue driving ordinary cars and smaller vehicles, I have to send back my paper licence, self-certify I’m fit and can see, and get a photocard. It will have to be renewed every three years. I will no longer be able to hire 7.5-tonne trucks or drive minibuses. Not that I ever have. It’s the principle.

What I don’t get is this. If it’s all right to self-certify I’m fit to drive a car or a 3.5-tonne Transit, why can’t I self-certify for slightly bigger vehicles? Maybe we should all go out and hire flatbed trucks and big box vans while we still can, just for the fun of it.

I suppose it’s like with some people who own guns: restrictions should apply to everyone else but themselves.

16 seater minibus and 7.5 tonne van and truck
Hire one while you still can - just for the fun of it.

*DVLA – the Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency which until 1990 was called the DVLC for -Centre.

20 comments:

  1. I drove an extended cargo van for twenty odd years, hauling our weaving from show to show. My sister once observed that I changed lanes slower than anyone she knew, except her husband. He was an over the road semi-tractor-trailer driver. And no, you don't slam any high profile vehicle from lane to lane!
    If I lose my motor cycle endorsement, I'll.....I guess I don't know what. I'll never ride again, but that's not the point.

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    1. Joanne - Sorry but you've just made me think of of the Monty Python sketch Hells Grannies.

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  2. Well, you know what the law says . . . driving is a privilege, not a right.

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    1. Officially it seems to be an entitlement: gov.uk states "To drive a particular type of vehicle, you need an ‘entitlement’ for that category on your driving licence." So there! I'm entitled.

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  3. I'm sort of thrilled that you still have a paper license. When I began driving, one was already being issued a (flimsy) card.

    In order for me to be able to drive in Japan while on holiday, all I had to do was pay a certain American driving organization a fee. I was then issued a paper ID replete with my picture affixed to it that was valid for one year. It all seemed a bit too easy, to be honest.

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    1. So these awful plastic cards are yet another American idea, then?

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    2. Oopsie! Sorry for that! ;)

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  4. Sounds like a rather complicated set of rules to me. Anyway, I don't drive (have never even attempted to take driving lessons, as I was never interested in it, nor had the money or the need for a car), but what I observe on the roads every day makes me think that MORE people should have their licence (or part of it) revoked, and be forced to take driving tests every few years. For instance, indicating seems to have gone completely out of fashion, and more often than not, it looks more like war than like traffic out there.

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    1. Driving tests every few years? That would soon solve the congestion problems. I once knew a well-heeled chap who said you save an awful lot of money when you don't have a car, but he used to make up for it in the pub.

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  5. I have resigned myself to losing my right to drive a 7.5 ton truck when I reach 70, and I am even more resigned to losing my motorcycle licence, since I have ridden one for about 15 years, and when I did I found I had lost my nerve. My father relinquished his driving licence at around 75 and the next day was pronounced blind through cataracts. In that case he did the right thing, but he was still gutted.

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    1. I was interested to read about your truck in one of your recent posts. I don't think they automatically take away motorbike licences at 70, though, but DVLA are such a devious outfit I'd say anyone wanting to keep it should check everything twice and keep every shred of evidence.

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  6. My mother had steam engines on her license and also never took a driving test. Her father was a steam engine engineer and my mother drove them with him. The furthest I am aware that they went was to The Wash where he was engaged in the drainage in the 1930s. I still have my mother's license somewhere and my own old red one. When I changed address I got the new plastic photo sort but don't mind it and find it is quite useful these days when one is asked for photo identification so much. My brothers all drove HGVs with grandfather rights to do so. They are pleased to have retired and I doubt they could care less about what they have lost from their licenses.

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    1. Driving a steam engine. Now that's a proper job.

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  7. How brave of you to come clean and admit that your father was a criminal. Most bloggers would keep such embarrassing information to themselves but you just blurted it out. By the way, when your licence is renewed, will you be entitled to drive a mobility scooter?

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    1. You're one to talk about embarrassing information on blogs: Hull City supporter! We could all end up on scooters. Will they allow you to sit at the front of the KCOM when you get yours?

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    2. Yes. With a tartan blanket to keep my knees warm and a dolly bird called Fiona serving me hot coffee..."C'mon You 'Ull!"

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  8. My mother rode a Velocette in the late-30's; I imagine it was one similar to your photo.

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    1. It's interesting they had a belt drive rather than a chain, which you can see in the picture.

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  9. I suspect it's because larger vehicles now have so many associated regulations in terms of what they can carry - tachographs, Hazchem regs and driver responsibilities for roadworthiness, all in the current training, but that are nothing to do with physically being able to drive the vehicles themselves. Haulage/transport firms have been required to put their drivers through such courses for years.
    Using a sat-nav is, or is going to be, included for cars, and I've never even seen one!

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    1. I've no quibble with the extra testing and training for heavy goods and public service vehicles (i.e. lorries and buses) but ones under 7.5 tonnes don't have those restrictions. Some motorhomes are above that weight. My daughter took her test just after the satnav element was brought in and it was very superficial.

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