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The Crash The DVLA Could Have Avoided

1 October 2014 by Jenn Granger

Always be prepared for heavy traffic; a phrase as true for car drivers as it is for anyone with a website. As of today tax discs are becoming electronic – another great technological advancement – but as a result the DVLA site crashed early this morning and caused uproar on social media with disgruntled motorists looking to stay within the law. As more things move online, other organisations could end up paying the same price; unless they prepare properly…


Continuing the GDS’s drive to move as many services as possible to digital, physical car tax disks are no more, and all car tax renewals from now will take place in the magical cyber sphere. Obviously just because you don’t have a physical disc doesn’t mean you don’t need to tax your car (lest you try and point the police to our blog when they ask why you haven’t renewed yours) – patrol cars will have cameras attached to scan your license plate and make sure you’re up to date instead. The DVLA expects to save around £10m a year by not printing tax disks (and a heck tonne of trees too).

But it’s looking like it might be a bumpy ride. The AA is saying that the treasury will end up getting ‘double money’ in some cases, as tax paid will be assigned to the person, not the car; so if a car is sold, the new person will have to tax it themselves, rather than being able to use any tax still left on the car. This is good in some ways, as previous owners can claim tax back, but not if the month’s already begun; so if they sold the car at the start of the month they’d lose that money, and both the seller and the buyer would have paid tax for that month.

On the other hand, the RAC said it thinks it could actually cost millions of pounds, as going digital would mean more people would try and dodge paying, but the DVLA says that’s rubbish. And actually, there’s a more sinister reason for people not paying their tax…

It’s because they couldn’t. Well, not until about an hour ago at least. The problem is – as with most things like this – the DVLA’s website wasn’t prepared to handle all the people who would be taking advantage of the system, and their site crashed this morning. Last night it was getting about 6,000 hits a minute, but limped on until this morning when it gave up the ghost. It’s worrying, as a service like this – which motorists legally need to be able to access – need to be reliable if it’s going to be available online. Having your server crash because you don’t have the infrastructure in place to handle loads of people suddenly going “OK, you’ve told me to go online and renew my car tax so I will” and then not supporting them is pretty awkward.

At the time of publishing, the DVLA had just started to resume normal service – about 18 hours after the initial problems started. Luckily for them they’ve kinda got that part of the market covered, otherwise they’d basically be doing their competitors’ work for them.

If you’re worried about how your site will handle seasonal spikes then check out our website or give us a call on 0208 045 4945 to find the solution that best suits you.