Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency

Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency is the executive agency of the UK Department for Transport that is responsible for maintaining the database of drivers and vehicles for the country. The agency issues licenses to drivers, collects vehicle license fees and sells personalized registrations. The current Chief Executive of the agency is Julie Lennard.

The agency is located in a centralized office in the suburban district of the city of Swansea, Wales. The DVLA previously maintained 39 offices throughout the UK, but as of the end of 2013 all of these offices have been closed.

The majority of the agencies services are conducted through remote means. In 2004, the agency enacted the Electronic Vehicle Licensing (EVL) allowing customers to pay their vehicle taxes online or via phone. Customers still have the option to pay their vehicle tax by postal service. An agreement was struck in November of 2012 to enable the Post Office to process these vehicle tax applications for an additional seven years with an option of extending this service another three years.

Members of the British Forces Germany, their families and their vehicles are registered with the DVLA through the Ministry of Defense.

Vehicles used for official diplomatic or consular puposes are registered with the DVLA through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.



The Motor Car Act of 1903 created a system where vehicle registration was the responsibility of Borough and County councils throughout Great Britain.

This system was modified and centralized into the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Centre (DVLC) in Swansea, Wales in 1965. This agency was renamed the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) in 1990 as it was brought under the authority of the Department for Transport.


DVLA and the DSA (Driving Standards Agency) combine together to employ more than 50% of all Department of Transportation staff in the UK.

Criticizm was raised against the DVLA In November 2007 after a Public Accounts Committee report pointing out the astonishingly high levels of sick leave among the staff of the agency. Staff took an average of three weeks per year of sick leave. The seven agencies within the Department for Transport averaged only 10.4 working days per full-time employee in 2005. In the report, Committee chairman Edward Leigh questioned how the agencies could “function adequately”.

Possible causes for the problem were that starting salaries in the DVLA in 2008 were just over £12,500 (US$16,250). DVLA staff went on strike citing pay inequality and argued that they should receive compensation similar to those of other agencies within the Department for Transport. Staff members within the DVLA were predominantly female while other agencies within the DfT were mostly male.


DVLA database

The DVLA database system uses a client-server architecture that was built by EDS (Electronic Data Systems – an American multinational information technology equipment and services company), was implemented in 1999 under a £5 million contract signed in 1996.

It uses the vehicle identification number as the primary key to track vehicles, thus eliminating the possibility of multiple registrations for a single vehicle.

The DVLA uses the vehicle register contained on this system to identify untaxed vehicles. Outside agencies use the vehicle register to identify auto owners entering London’s Congestion Charge Zone (CCZ) without paying the Congestion Charge. The database is also used to identify owners who exceed speed limits on roads with speed cameras.

To reduce vehicle crime, The Vehicle Identity Check (VIC) was implemented in 2003. It was a regulation concerning car ownership in the UK and was created to deter the practice of using the identity of scrapped or salvaged vehicles to disguise stolen vehicles. The program remained in force until October 2015.

Commercial vehicle check companies offering a comprehensive individual car check to potential vehicle buyers access these vehicle registration records.

Data accuracy and security is a continuing problem. Access to the information can be granted to anyone stating they have a need to it and paying a fee of £2.50.

The database with records of license holders in the UK was created in the late 1980s and holds the personal information on approximately 42 million drivers. This information is used by organizations like the Driving Standards Agency (DSA), the courts and the police to enforce legislation relating to road safety.

The DVLA banned 294 public organizations temporarily in 2012 for not using their database access correctly between 2006 and 2012. Another 38 were banned permanently.



A 2010 BBC investigation discovered £13 million worth of vehicles had been stolen in the 18 months preceding the investigation using vehicle registrations certificates that are linked to the disappearance of 120,000 to 130,000 documents back in 2006. Comments from the police state that they believe it will be decades before the remaining documents are recovered.

A letter bomb was delivered to the DVLA in Swansea injuring four people on February 7, 2007. During the period of January and February of 2007, seven letter bombs were sent to various companies and governmental agencies. These appear to be related DNA testing and road transport. The DVLA have installed X-Ray machines to reduce the possibility of this happening again in the future.

The DVLA sent out surveys to 1,215 drivers In December 2007, which included confidential and sensitive materials. Unfortunately, these surveys went to the wrong owners. The agency only found out about the error when members of the public contacted the DVLA to notify them of the error.

BBC’s Watchdog reported in 2009, that entitlements granting the right to drive a motorcycle were being lost when renewed driving licenses were being reissued. Watchdog had highlighted the same program had lost entitlement to drive heavy goods vehicles in much the same way back in 2005.

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency sold names and addresses of more than 7,000 vehicle drivers to a company run by a convicted criminal. It appears that this is not an isolated event as the DVLA has sold these details of approximately 4.85 million drivers over a six-year period.