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The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA; ) is the organisation of UK Government responsible for maintaining a database of drivers and a database of vehicles in Great Britainmarker; its counterpart in Northern Irelandmarker is the Driver & Vehicle Agency (DVA). The agency issues driving licences, organises collection of vehicle excise duty (also known as road tax and road fund licence) and sells "cherished marks" (private number plates).

The DVLA is an executive agency of the Department for Transportmarker and It is directly responsible to the Minister of State, one of the department's ministerial team. The current Minister is Lord Adonis. The current Chief Executive of the agency is Noel Shanahan, appointed in 2007.

The DVLA is based in Swanseamarker, south Walesmarker, with a prominent 16 storey building in Clasemarker and offices in Swansea Vale. It was previously known as the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Centre (DVLC). The agency also has a network of offices around Great Britain, known as the Local Office Network.

DVLA introduced Electronic Vehicle Licensing (EVL) with customers now being able to pay vehicle excise duty online and by phone. However, customers still have the option to tax their vehicles via the Post Office.

DVLA database

The vehicle register held by DVLA is used in many ways. For example, by the DVLA itself to identify "untaxed" vehicles, and by outside agencies to identify keepers of cars entering central Londonmarker who haven't paid the congestion charge, or who drive too fast on a road that has speed cameras by matching the cars to their keepers using the DVLA database. The current DVLA vehicle register was built by EDS under a £5 million contract signed in 1996, with a planned implementation date on October 1998, though actual implementation was delayed by a year. It uses a client-server architecture and uses the vehicle identification number, rather than the registration plate, as the primary key to track vehicles, eliminating the possibility of having multiple registrations for a single vehicle. However, the accuracy of the data held remains a continuing problem .

The database of drivers, developed in the late 1980s, holds details of some 42 million driver licence holders in the UK. It is used to produce drivers' licences and to assist bodies such as the Driving Standards Agency, police and courts in the enforcement of legislation concerning driving entitlements and road safety.

Problems at the DVLA

DVLA letter bombs

On 7 February 2007, a letter bomb was sent to the DVLA in Swansea and injured four people. It is suspected that this is part of a group of letter bombs sent to other organisations that deal with the administration of motoring charges and offences, such as Capita in central London, which was targeted a few days earlier. Miles Cooper, aged 27, a school caretaker, was arrested on 19 February 2007, and charged on 22 February. The DVLA have since installed X-Ray machines in all post opening areas to reduce the effectiveness of any further attacks.

Sickness and absence

In November 2007, a Public Accounts Committee report criticised "amazingly high" levels of sick leave among staff at the DVLA, with employees having an average of three weeks a year sick leave. The report said that overall sickness leave at the DfT and its seven agencies averaged 10.4 working days per full time employee in 2005 - which they said cost the taxpayer £24m. While sick leave rates at the department itself and four of its agencies were below average - at the DVLA and DSA, which together employ more than 50% of all DfT staff - they were "significantly higher." Committee chairman Edward Leigh said it was surprising the agencies could "function adequately."

Wrong confidential records on surveys

On 6 December 2007, it was revealed that while sending out surveys to 1,215 drivers, the DVLA sent out confidential details, but to the wrong owners. The error occurred during the sending out of routine surveys, and was not discovered until members of the public contacted the DVLA on 5 December 2007 to notify them of the error.

Pay and conditions

DVLA staff is two thirds (2/3) female and DVLA staff are the lowest paid staff in the DfT.

Inclusion of Scots Gaelic on Driver Licences

While the DVLA has included Welsh on driver licences issued in Wales for many years, requests for Scots Gaelic - also an official language in the UKmarker - to be included on licences issued in Scotland have so far been rejected.


The DVLA appeared to be a running joke within British sitcom, Yes Minister, with numerous comparisons made for comic effect to the 'vehicle licensing centre in Swansea'.


  1. DVLA sick leave 'amazingly high' BBC News - 20 November, 2007

External links

  • accessed 13 June 2006
  • accessed 13 May 2006

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