FOI request detail

How out-of-date the TfL ULEZ vehicle database is (misalignment with DVLA master data)

Request ID: FOI-1733-2122
Date published: 03 December 2021

You asked

Please let me know, for 2021: 1. How frequently vehicle details are updated on the TfL ULEZ vehicle database/ system (using the latest master data from the DVLA); 2. The time lag between getting the DVLA data and updating TfL systems; 3. How frequently you check (and if necessary update) the vehicle details held for each cherished numberplate; 4. What percentage, and how many, PCNs end up being cancelled each month because the vehicle details held by TFL are out of date (i.e. do not reflect the latest/correct DVLA master data). By way of background, it appears that your database of vehicle details is very out of date compared with DVLA master data. I bought a new vehicle in September (a fully ULEZ-compliant petrol car), and transferred my cherished numberplate on to it, from my old (diesel) car. The DVLA updated their records and issued a new V5C over a month ago. However your ULEZ “Check your Vehicle” webpage still (incorrectly) shows my old non-compliant diesel car against the numberplate. This webpage says that “ We get UK vehicle information from the DVLA - let the DVLA know if your vehicle details are wrong or need updating”. This is very misleading; in my case the TfL vehicle database is still incorrect, despite the fact that DVLA updated the vehicle details over 5 weeks ago! With the ULEZ expansion many people like me have gone to the trouble, and expense, of upgrading their vehicles to reduce emissions. However because the TfL vehicle database is very out-of-date they will, like me, face vexatious, invalid PCNs - which will waste everyone’s time. I look forward to an early response (and rectification of the aforementioned issues).

We answered

Our ref: FOI-1733-2122/GH
Thank you for your request received by Transport for London (TfL) on 5 November 2021 asking for information about the ULEZ vehicle database.
Your request has been considered under the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and our information access policy. I can confirm that we do hold some of the information you require.
In order to establish whether a vehicle meets the ULEZ emissions standards we predominantly use the vehicle data held by the DVLA. In the vast majority of cases this allows us to establish whether a vehicle is compliant and whether the charge is payable.
The online compliance checker links into information held by the DVLA and provides a result based on this information. We do not use a live link to the DVLA data, rather we take an extract of DVLA data every four weeks and update our database using that data. This ensures any updates to DVLA information are reflected in the compliance checker.
When a private registration is transferred from a non-compliant to a compliant vehicle there can be a short period in which our compliance checker can give the incorrect result. This is because after the motorist has updated the DVLA of the change it will not be updated on our compliance checker until the next four weekly update occurs. We acknowledge this and the compliance checker does clearly state that the result is based on the information we know about a vehicle at the specific time and that it could change.
If a motorist queries this we simply ask for evidence that the registration is now being displayed on a compliant vehicle and we update our records and mark the vehicle compliant. This can happen prior to the aforementioned DVLA update. If a penalty is issued, and it is shown the registration was being displayed on a compliant vehicle, the penalty will be cancelled and the vehicle record updated.
We do not record how many penalties we cancel due to the compliance checker information being out of date.
If you have been experiencing difficulties with your vehicle and need assistance, please contact our Road User Charging correspondence team at [email protected] and they will be happy to assist.
If you are not satisfied with this response please see the attached information sheet for details of your right to appeal.
Yours sincerely
Graham Hurt
FOI Case Officer
FOI Case Management Team
General Counsel
Transport for London

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