As I write, the hedgerows are blooming and the trees are taking on a leafy green hue. It is also cold and you would be forgiven for thinking that it was February, only with flowers. Thoughts then must be turning to getting the hell out of here and through the Chunnel or over the seas to the lands of milk, honey and extravagant subsidies. With two Bank Holidays in May, the opportunity presents itself for a short break or indeed two.
You may decide that you will go abroad by car simply because it is easier and more convenient for a long weekend. It is reported though that some drivers unwittingly will, as soon as they set a wheel on foreign soil, be acting illegally.
Drivers travelling in mainland Europe must carry their vehicle registration document at all times. We know this. With the increasingly popular trend to lease the family car however, drivers don’t have the V5C registration document because they don’t own the motor.
Under this circumstance, a Vehicle On Hire Certificate must be carried. All EU countries require that a foreign driver (Yes that’s you. Anywhere but here and you are the foreigner with your weird habits and all) travelling in a leased or rented vehicle must carry a VE103 document.
The VE103 contains details of the vehicle taken from the V5, along with the name and address of the lessor or hirer. This is the only acceptable substitute for the V5C, and enables the authorities to verify that the person driving the vehicle has permission to do so. Photocopies of the V5C, letters of authority or a note scrawled on the back of an old VAT receipt are not accepted. You have been warned.
Drivers caught without the correct documentation can face long delays which can be time-consuming and costly. This is especially true in France where the cops have it in for hapless tourists. The consequences will vary according to the country of course, but a driver may be fined and the vehicle could be impounded.
Motoring organisations know of drivers being stuck at border controls for four days while the VE103 document is sent through to them. You try finding something to do for four days in Calais. Apparently, even as close to home as Dublin drivers have encountered issues following minor parking infringements.
It seems likely that, to quote Michael Caine, not a lot of people know this. If they do and decide to take the risk and travel abroad in a leased vehicle without the correct VE103 documentation then they are asking for trouble given that the European penchant for driving on the wrong side of the road can lead to innocent error. If you do make a mistake you can guarantee that an eagle-eyed flic will spot it.
It’s not just company cars and private lease cars; there are a significant number of leased or hired commercial vehicles that leave the UK without a VE103 too. It is essential that businesses understand their responsibilities and educate drivers to avoid significant disruption.
Remember that foreign lands have strange, unknowable customs. We should all be clear by now that we need to carry variously or fully, breathalysers, reflective jackets, warning triangles plus photographs of Angela Merkel and the like depending upon destination. There’s a comprehensive travel list here. Fail to observe the rules and you could be stuck for days. Imagine – Calais! Maybe you should go via Amsterdam; you can have a high old time there while you’re waiting. Geoff Maxted