The DVLA appears to have postponed plans to abolish the driving licence paper counterpart from 1 January, yielding to concerns the new system would introduce unnecessary complexities.

According to the FTA, the DfT confirmed the delay in an informal exchange with it in early December but gave no reason for the postponement or any fresh target date for abolition.

The BVRLA has separately confirmed the news and said it was told abolition would now take place in the spring.

A spokeswoman for the DVLA said last week it remained “committed to making it as easy as possible for motorists to access government services and get rid of unnecessary paper”, adding: “That is why the driving licence paper counterpart will be abolished in 2015”.

She did not confirm or deny the postponement, but said the DVLA recognised that businesses like the car hire industry, employers and fleet operators would need to be ready for the change.

She also told us the DVLA was developing a new service that would allow trusted third parties to check a driver’s licence information provided they had the permission of the driver to do so.

The government website containing guidance on the change, however, no longer refers to 1 January as the start date.

Despite welcoming the principle of ditching the paper counterpart, both the FTA and BVRLA had voiced operational concerns about the intended proposal.

The FTA told the original plan would have forced anyone seeking to check a driver’s counterpart information to rely on that driver printing it out from an online database, before verifying it themselves by entering a unique code on the printout into a website, along with the driver’s licence number, within 48 hours.

FTA head of policy for driver licencing Ian Gallagher said this would have created a great deal of unnecessary work for firms seeking to check the licences of hundreds or thousands of drivers three or more times a year, as many do.

“This process is [supposed to be] all about removing burden as part of the red tape challenge… and all it’s doing is adding to the burden, rather than taking away,” he commented.

A spokesman for the BVRLA told us this week that vehicle rental firms would also have been forced to rely on the same process, or else use a premium-rate DVLA phone line to check the licence details of any driver turning up to collect a vehicle without their paper counterpart.

He added that the phone line service cost over 50p/minute and was only available from 8am to 7pm on Monday-Friday and from 8am to 2pm on Saturdays.

With around 10 million rental transactions a year in the UK, the time and cost involved in using the premium rate phone line would be prohibitive, he said.

Though pleased with the decision to postpone abolition of the paper counterpart, the BVRLA continues to campaign for a cost-neutral, 24/7, realtime online licence checking system to be put in place before abolition finally takes place, he added.

"We are very disappointed with the way the DVLA has acted," he said. “We're continuing to put pressure on ministers to ensure our members get the help they were promised.”