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Driver’s license check – what you need to know

Alongside vehicle procurement, general fleet organization and coordination of repairs and maintenance, driver’s license verification is one of the most important topics in the fleet, and which repeatedly gives rise to questions from fleet managers. We will explain the legal framework for driver’s license inspections, outline what inspection methods are available and provide tips for conducting license checks along with comprehensive hygiene measures in the pandemic.

Driver’s license check by the employer

Fulfillment of respondeat superior obligations is required of the vehicle owner. Contrary to certain assumptions, liability does not fall on the driver but the company or the person responsible for the vehicle fleet. If damage occurs due to a driver’s license not having been checked, the fleet manager is held accountable. This can mean a fine or, in serious cases, criminal charges.

Failure to comply with respondeat superior obligations can result in costly fines, loss of insurance coverage and, in the worst case, criminal charges for both fleet manager and company. For these reasons, driver’s license checks need to be carefully planned, executed and, above all, fully documented so as to protect the company from liability of any kind.

man on steering wheel

Systems for verifying driver’s licenses – What methods are available?

There are a number of ways. They are basically divided into electronic and manual inspections. Up until recently, manual license checks were considered the gold standard. However, electronic inspection methods have been gaining ever greater popularity, not least because they save time and resources.

Manual driver’s license check

Manual driver’s license check must be carried out on site by fleet managers. They verify the validity of the licenses along with other features like watermark and typeface. It is vital for the inspection to be conducted on the original license. Facsimiles are prohibited. After a thorough check, documentation must be done in a legally compliant manner. There are all kinds of templates in which data can be recorded. To complete the documentation, the individual in charge of the fleet may photocopy the original license and place it in the driver’s file. Even with manual driver’s license verification, secure handling of data must be maintained. This means inspection documents must be stored in a way that denies access to third parties.

This method of inspection appears, at first glance, simple enough, but costs can quickly spiral, even for fleets of 20-30 vehicles. For example, appointments must be made with each individual driver, inspection documents need to be organized and results must be securely documented and archived.

Electronic driver’s license check

Electronic driver’s license checks may be conducted in various ways. Company car drivers, for example, conduct their own licenses check by scanning barcodes or RFID chips at specific inspection stations or via an app on their smartphone or desktop computer. The technologies available vary greatly in terms of security standards as well as inspection procedures. As fleet manager, it would be wise to figure out for yourself which method best suits your fleet. Determining factors for system selection are fleet size, organization and budget.

A legally sound method is the electronic driver’s license check. It uses RFID chips – there data is encrypted and decoded and checked for authenticity by a reader. While this process is technically complex, it does offer the utmost security. Involvement of a third party is unnecessary as drivers can conduct the check on their own. This saves a whole lot of time and resources, especially when it comes to large fleets.

Young company car driver in fleet

Driver’s license checks amidst the Covid pandemic

For companies, the Covid pandemic, which has been ongoing for upwards of a year, has resulted in far-reaching contact restrictions requiring hygiene measures put in place so as to allow fleet operations to continue. However, this has also meant more and more fleet managers are turning to digital solutions for drivers’ license verification, as these are contactless and can be coordinated from the home office.

This is because fleet managers are required to fulfill their respondeat superior obligations despite extenuating circumstances. Brief postponement due to imposed quarantining of individual employees is permissible. Nevertheless, fleet managers need to act cautiously and not delay deadlines indefinitely. Here, digital checks have the decisive edge: they keep both drivers and fleet managers in mind of the check.

Electronic driver’s license check and the GDPR

The driver’s license check can, of course, be done manually, but this requires coordination of appointments as well as agreement with the individual drivers. While this procedure is feasible for small fleets, it is a whole different thing when there are dozens of drivers involved. It is not only the time aspect, but also the documentation of the checks that pose a challenge to many fleet managers. Drivers must present their licenses in the original to the fleet manager, who then checks them for authenticity and validity. Afterwards, both sign a proof of verification and an agreement that the driver is to inform the fleet manager in case of loss of license. The documentation is then archived. Even the archiving of the data involves strict data protection rules that many fleet managers are unaware of or fail to observe. For example, the fleet manager or the authorized personnel carrying out the license check must archive the collected data in such a way that it is not accessible to unauthorized third parties.

In the course of choosing a provider for electronic driver’s license check, you should always ask where your data will be. According to Sec. 11 of the German Federal Data Protection Act and Art. 28 of the EU GDPR, it is important when selecting a provider to ensure the provider’s technical and organizational measures meet the requirements for secure processing of the data.


A forgotten or expired driver’s license is no trivial offense and can have serious ramification in the event of an accident. For drivers themselves, as well as the company, regular license verification is an important safety issue. A check, whether manual or digital, should always be carried out with due care.