DV and DP Plates have become part and parcel of the vehicle identification, which we see on our roads. There exist a lot of questions as to the exact way of using this plate, who qualifies to use it, how many passengers it can take, what time of the day to use it, among others. In this article, I wish to kindly indulge you in a discussion of how to use your DV plate legally, to avoid confrontations with our hardworking police men and women and also to avoid possible legal battles.
LEGAL BACKING OF THE DV AND DP PLATES
The use of DV and DP plates is governed by law. The Athority that sells it is the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) which was established in 1999 by the DVLA (Act 569) to replace the then Vehicle Examination and Licensing Division (VELD). Again the use of the DP and DV plate is regulated by The Road Traffic (Act 683/04) as amended by (Act 761/08) and the Road Traffic Regulations (2012) (L I 2180).
There is a rigorous procedure that is used to acquire the plates from the DVLA. According to the DVLA website, the requirements for a company to acquire the DP or DV plate are: An application letter, Business Registration Certificate, Current Tax Clearance Certificate, Business Location Contact Details, Passport Picture and Identification of the owner, Renewal of Business Registration, and Payment Receipt emanating from the payment of the prescribed fee. Once these requirements are met, the DVLA will issue the plates to the buyer accordingly.
The term DV stands for Defective Vehicle, while DP stands for Drive from Port. These plates are not meant to be used forever, but temporarily, especially before the vehicle is duly registered and issued with a more permanent vehicle registration number. The DP plate is used from the time the car is leaving the port, with a life span of 14 days, while the DV plate has one calendar year as its life span begins on 1st January and ends on 31st December each year.
Both the DP and DV plates come with a log book; that of the DP is the blue card (or any colour based on the DVLA's discretion) in which entries must be made at all times. The DV plate also comes with a 50 paged log book with embedded carbon copies and serial numbers; first for the book and also for each page of the book. The driver of a vehicle using the DV or DP plate is supposed to ensure the booking of details for the journey; the details of which include the date, reason for the journey, time of leaving the garage, return time, route taken, description of vehicle, chassis number and make of the vehicle, the drivers name, and signature of the person making the entry. This must be done every time the vehicle is moving out.
AVOIDANCE OF WRONGFUL BOOKING
It is illegal to provide misleading information or false information on the log book. Users are therefore encouraged by the law to ensure that booking is always done right. For instance, a driver who is driving from the National Theatre to the University of Ghana using the Liberation road should not be seen using another route either than the one stipulated on the log book. If the person is found using an alternative route, it will be said that he/she has made a false entry, which is punishable by law. Same is the case whenever the entry in the book does not correspond with the route taken.
QUALIFICATION CRITERIA AND SANCTIONS
Regulation 45 of the Road Traffic Act, outlines the following as the reasons why the DP and DV plates may be used.
A. Manufacturer of motor vehicles.
B. A tester of motor vehicles.
C. A motor vehicle trader.
D. A person who intends to commence business as a motor vehicle trader.
E. A person authorised by the DVLA to trade in trade plates.
F. For the purpose of conducting research and development in the course of the trader's business.
This is very important and must be respected by all users of DP and DV plates because section 50(b) of Act 683 says that a person who holds a trade licence and uses a motor vehicle on a road for a purpose other than a purpose which has been prescribed by the regulations commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of not less than 500 penalty units and not exceeding 1000 penalty units or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years or to both. A penalty unit is GHS 12.00 and so it implies that the penalty ranges from GHS6,000.00 to GHS12,000.00.
NUMBER OF PERSONS TO USE A TRADE PLATE
The limit to which a DV number plate can take is the number of passengers which the vehicle has been insured to take. So for instance, if it is a saloon car, then it can take a maximum of 5 passengers. However, because it is a trade plate, everybody in the vehicle must have a role being played in the sale of the vehicle.
For instance, if the owner of the vehicle has booked in the log book that he is going to meet a buyer for the car, but he cannot drive so he allows his friend who is a licensed driver to drive the car, (note that a person who does not have a valid driver license cannot drive a vehicle with DV or DP plate on it); then upon meeting the prospective buyer, he also comes with his mechanic and auto sprayer to evaluate the vehicle, even though there are five people in the car, because they all have specific roles in the sale of the vehicle, they have not offended. So contrary to the myth that only two people can use a vehicle with DP or DV number plate, the law does not necessarily support that assertion.
WRONGFUL USE OF THE PLATE
Unlike in the case where the car is being sold, the DP or DV number plate should not be used for commercial purposes, should not be used to convey people to or from parties and funerals, and should not be used to pick any person either than one who has a specific role to play in an ongoing sale transaction. Anyone seen using the plate in such a manner breaks the law, and may be found in the jaws of the law.
USING DP OR DV PLATE AT NIGHT
Even though the law does not restrict the time period for which a DP or DV plate may be used, unfortunately, sometimes officers of the law may stop a DP or DV vehicle in the night for several reasons not necessarily because of the plate. Users are therefore adviced to corporate with officers in this regard.
ADVICE TO GARAGES AND PLATE DEALERS
Even though it may not be a requirement for the acquisition of plates, it is highly recommended that garages that issue DV plates to their customers as well as dealers of the DV plate should endeavour to keep records of every individual to whom they issue a plate to. This is because, should there be any investigation for which the plate involved is in, the dealer will be required to produce the last person the plate was given to, and failure to do so may meet the displeasure of the law.
AVOID FAKE DP DV PLATES
Inasmuch as there are credible sources to obtain a DP or DV plate, there are also fictitious characters who may sell fake plates to unsuspecting people, sometimes including a fake insurance cover. Buyers should therefore be sure to obtain DV plates only from credible sources to avoid being found in the firm grips of the law.
The DP and DV plates are a quintessential stopgap measure between when a vehicle is brought into the country and when it is sold or registered. It is not a plate for thieves and robbers, neither is it a plate for fraudsters; it is a plate for responsible well-meaning people to conduct serious business. It is the hope of the writer that even as the Ghana Police Service educate its officers on how to attend to people using the DP and DV plates, users should also strive to abide by the rules and regulations which govern the use of the plates, for the avoidance of confrontations.
Disclaimer: The writer of this article is neither a police officer nor a lawyer and as such, my interpretation and or presentation of the law should not be taken hook-line-and-sinker without further studies. Again, I do not write this article for or on behalf of any organisation. The opinions expressed here are personal, emanating from critical observation and learning.