Is it the end for plastic driving licences?

Is it the end for plastic driving licences? Digital documents could replace traditional permit under plans to make transport more eco-friendly

  • Digital driving licences could be introduced by the Government from next year
  • A trial will see provisional licences be made available online through an app
  • If successful, the trial would then be extended to incorporate full licences too

Digital driving licences could be introduced from next year – raising the prospect that traditional physical documents could be phased out.

A trial will involve learners’ provisional licences being made available in electronic form, including through an app.

It was revealed yesterday by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who said it was part of post-Brexit plans to make transport ‘fairer, greener and more efficient’.

If successful, it is understood full driving licences could also be digitised.

Digital driving licences could be introduced from next year – raising the prospect that traditional physical documents could be phased out (stock image)

The move is part of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency’s strategic plan for 2021-2024, meaning digital licences may not be available until 2024. 

Although the DVLA said plastic cards would continue to be available, it has raised fears officials will ‘switch the whole thing digital’. The trial start date has not yet been set.

Motoring groups said last night this would be disastrous for older drivers without internet access or who struggle online. 

AA president Edmund King said: ‘We envisage that many, particularly older drivers, will still want to stick to paper or card driving licences as they don’t all have mobile phones.

‘Digital driving may suit many but it should sit alongside the traditional driving licences for some time to come.’ 

A trial will involve learners’ provisional licences being made available in electronic form, including through an app (stock image)

Hugh Bladon, 80, of the Alliance of British Drivers, said: ‘The danger is physical licences start out as being available but then they switch the whole thing digital, which this Government seems intent on doing, what with the NHS Covid app.

‘I’m fairly fortunate that I can cope with using a computer, but a lot of elderly people don’t have a computer, so how would they manage?’

Steve Gooding, of the charity RAC Foundation, said: ‘The risk is that the more personal data we store on our phones, the more tempting a target they become for thieves and hackers.’

A Department for Transport source said development of digital licences was prevented before Brexit due to EU law.

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