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16th February 2004


Opinion: Continuous Registration And All That

'Keep this book in a safe place' it says... Does a website count as a safe place?We tried to find out what the UK's forthcoming road fund licence and vehicle registration regulations actually mean for classic bike owners. But Frank Westworth's brain melted before we could figure it all out...

I'm as bemused by bureaucracy as the next man, and have rarely been as baffled as I am by the new regulations concerning continuous registration, the new form of the registration document and SORN.
I can entirely understand that our representatives in government want to save all of us honest taxpayers the cost of the allegedly small army of drivers who refuse to tax or indeed insure their bikes or cars, but this does appear to be a slightly strange way of going about it.

So far as I can drag my failing intellect into understanding the concept of continuous registration, it appears to work like this. In brief, the existing V5 Registration Document is being replaced by the new V5C Vehicle Registration Certificate. This action is a result of yet another hunk of Euro-legislation (European Directive 1999/37/EC) which sent me to sleep when I tried to read it. The ultimate idea is that 'by June 2005 all traceable vehicles will have been issued with the new style Registration Certificate. This means that from 1 July 2005 all existing Registration Documents will no longer be valid.'

So far, so good. And thanks to the DVLA for providing the website from which I gleaned these riveting facts (www.dvla.gov.uk if you fancy some good bedtime reading).

It gets a little more complicated when you understand that word 'traceable'. A 'traceable' vehicle is one which is either taxed (ie. You've paid your money or kept your historic exemptions up to date) or which you have declared SORN (sent in a Statutory Off-Road Notice). If you - like me - have a stack of vehicles, all of which are registered on V5 Registration Documents, some of which carry current Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) discs, and several of which are declared SORN, then you have a worry. I'm worried because I have no idea which of the family's 21 motorcycles has been declared SORN. It's easy enough to keep track of which of the three family cars, two of them alleged classics, is in what state of registration, but the bikes, some of which I have owned since the 1970s and not ridden since then, are another matter.

Consider this: 'The legislation surrounding Continuous Registration enables the DVLA to take enforcement action against the registered keeper of an unlicensed vehicle directly from records, without relying on sightings on the public roads, and a new statutory offence of being the registered keeper of an unlicensed vehicle has been created.'

Ten years before the first rebuild was finished, and only six for the second...Thanks to Glass's excellent trade publications (www.eurotaxglass.co.uk) for that little gem. What it means is that you can be fined for simply owning an unlicensed vehicle. Gentle reader, you and I are both aware of these changes - if only because you've read it here. But how many other enthusiasts are unaware? Why is it suddenly the responsibility of a bike's owner to effectively re-register it? Why does the DVLA not simply send its precious new Vehicle Registration Certificate (V5C) to every holder of the suddenly obsolete V5 Registration Document, all of which are held on their computers? It's not a question of postage costs, because they're going to be sending them out eventually anyway. As I said before. I'm baffled.

Did I mention that 'being the registered keeper of an unlicensed vehicle' carries a statutory penalty; a fine, in other words? Oh yes it does.

While some classic bike enthusiasts are worried about losing original registration marks by failing to keep up with the slew of Euro-paperwork, and that's a distinct possibility if you don't acquire the V5C in time, I am more concerned that lots of us are going to get slapped with fines for bikes which are innocently at rest in the shed, as they may have been for some considerable time.

I can't argue with the stated intention of this legislation, which is to cut down on the number of untaxed and uninsured vehicles on the road (although how it actually does that is a minor mystery), but I am baffled by the methodology.

Why the need for yet more paperwork?

Why turn the simple ownership of a classic bike into an offence?

How dare anyone transform enthusiasm into something very different?

Someone typed the details onto that 1966 one with a typewriter. Those were the days.

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