Independence and the freedom of the open road may be taken for granted by long-since qualified drivers but for young, aspiring motorists such liberties are likely to feel out of reach. The Driver and Vehicle Standards agency (DVSA) is scrambling to find examiners as delays for licence test bookings stretch into next year.
Backlogs owing to COVID-19 mean that it can take as long as five-and-a-half months to sit a driving test. Learners in England, Scotland and Wales are affected – but five cities in England are the worst affected – Bristol, Birmingham, London, Manchester and Nottingham, reported METRO.
AA President, Edmund King, told the paper: “The backlog does not appear to be improving. It’s incredibly difficult for young people to plan their future.”
The DVSA began a recruitment drive in May to get more people teaching and examining new drivers, as well as creating more test slots on evenings, weekends and public holidays. The Agency also claimed that allowing examiners to buy back leave has created 13,000 more test appointments (year-on-year) than were available last April. Many newly qualified examiners are also replacing those who have retired, though some of those winding down came back, freeing up an estimated 4000 slots.
Despite its efforts, it hasn’t been enough – at least according to figures published recently by The Times. While numbers of applicants have fallen, 524,000 people are still waiting to take a test, down from 530,387 in May. The newspaper reported that the average waiting time was 13.8 weeks, while The Telegraph found that shortages of slots were so acute in London that people were having to travel as far afield as Peterborough and Ipswich to take tests at the weekend.
There’s also been widespread reports of people “gaming” the one-booking-at-a-time test appointment system in the capital and in other areas hit by shortages; specialised software can “jump” on a slot as soon as it appears, before selling it off for as much as £120 on social media – though that includes the £62 needed to take a test during the week and £75 at the weekend.
Our commiserations to anyone trying to book a test; sit tight, and don’t pay the booking slot touts. Good things come to those who wait.