Report calls on DVLA to set up website for drivers to check car emissions

Agency urged to set up online resource ahead of launch of clean-air zones

With access to details of every registered motor vehicle in the UK, the DVLA is ideally placed to set up an emissions website  Credit: PA

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency is being urged to develop a website to allow motorists to check a car’s emission standard by entering a registration number in order to aid the rollout of clean air zones across the country.

A report from the RAC motoring group today claimed that drivers lack an easy and official source to check a vehicle’s category under the Euro emissions standard.
It is calling on the DVLA to “urgently develop” a website that allows every UK driver to check a vehicle’s Euro emission standard by entering a vehicle registration number.

A number of other European countries already offer such a service, according to the RAC, and as the DVLA already holds a detailed log of every registered vehicle in the UK it is ideally placed to provide an online look-up at GOV.UK as part of its vehicle information database.

It said the service should be made available well ahead of the anticipated rollout of clean air zones, so that motorists have enough time to check which category their vehicle falls under and if necessary consider changing it and not face unexpected charges.

As well as pledging to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2040, the government’s Clean Air Strategy included plans to mandate local authorities to create and implement comprehensive Clean Air Zones to tackle nitrogen dioxide levels.

A zone to be introduced in London in 2019 will require motorcycles to meet Euro 3 standard (0.66g/km of carbon dioxide and 0.50g/km of nitrogen oxides), Euro 4 for petrol cars and vans (0.5g/km of carbon dioxide and 0.25g/km of nitrogen oxides); Euro 6 for diesel cars and vans (0.5g/km of carbon dioxide and 0.08g/km of nitrogen oxides) and Euro VI for lorries, buses and coaches and other specialist heavy vehicles, which is based on engine power: 1.5g/kWh for carbon dioxide and 0.4 g/kWh for nitrogen oxides.
Introducing these schemes without giving drivers a way to check their vehicle standards would leave drivers confused about whether or not they are likely to be impacted by the introduction of clean air zones, RAC spokesman Rod Dennis said.

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“As councils across the UK develop plans to tackle harmful emissions on a local level, we expect millions of drivers will want to find out the Euro emissions category of their vehicle – and the natural place to look will be on the official GOV.UK website,” he said. “We’ve already seen a big increase in traffic to our own website from people trying to find this information and to understand more about what the Euro emissions standard actually means.

“It is simply unacceptable that there is currently no easy-to-use or conclusive online look-up system available – this will no doubt leave drivers confused about whether or not they are likely to be impacted by the introduction of clean air zones. And this is all the more surprising given that the government stated in its detailed air quality plan published in July that ‘information enabling customers to understand quickly and easily whether or not a given vehicle would potentially incur a charge is particularly important’.

“The DVLA already holds detailed records on vehicles registered in the UK – including CO2 emissions and engine size – and makes this freely available online; so why shouldn’t they also make available this one vital piece of information on each vehicle’s Euro emissions category?”

Responding to the report, a DVLA spokesman said: “There’s a lot of mileage in the suggestion. The Department for Transport is at the forefront of this work, and DVLA has already been in discussions with manufacturers for some time on how they can share Euro status information to allow us to make it more accessible.” 

Speaking to PublicTechnology sister publication Civil Service World earlier this year, DVLA chief executive Oliver Morley stressed the role the agency could play in encouraging drivers to use electric cars and vans through the development of its digital motoring hub.

The hub will be based on the DVLA’s two key motoring registers – of drivers in the UK and vehicles in Britain – which makes it, Morley said, a unique opportunity to provide “a really exciting mix of capabilities for government”.

He painted a possible picture of the digital future for motorists. “If you think in the long term, someone using an electric charging point would use their phone, access the driving licence they might have on the mobile phone, and ‘blip’ it to go back to DVLA for charging. Then we can be an independent arbiter and be able to farm that back out to the owner of the charging point,” he said.

“The same would go for car hire – the car hire company is already essentially verifying the licence against our driving licence service via the check code, if you combine that with other aspects of charging and also tax, it becomes a really interesting mix of capabilities.”


Sam Trendall

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