Driving examiners could be asked to carry out more tests each day as the body in charge of driving tests struggles to meet demand.
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is holding trials to examine the impact of asking examiners to carry out one additional test per day.
The agency currently faces a major backlog of tests as the impact of the Covid pandemic and lockdowns continue to be felt. Lockdown led to hundreds of thousands of tests being cancelled or rescheduled and efforts to protect examiners and students led to fewer tests being carried out each day.
In June, the DVSA announced that testing levels were returning to pre-pandemic levels, with examiners carrying out seven tests per day.
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However, it estimates that by increasing the number of tests an examiner can carry out to eight per day it could offer between 15,000 and 20,000 additional tests every month.
In an announcement to driving instructors the agency said: “Reducing the current waiting times for a driving test is a matter of national importance and DVSA, driving examiners, you and your pupils all have a crucial role to play in this.
“Increasing the number of tests examiners can offer during their normal working day is one of a range of measures we are taking to reduce driving test waiting times as quickly and safely as possible.”
The move has been welcomed by driving schools and instructors, who said that without it learners could face another two years of disruption.
Ian McIntosh, CEO at RED Driving School commented: “With such long periods of time during 2020 and 2021 with no testing taking place, the backlog of tests is now considerable.
“Given the current capacity within the DVSA and the difficulty in recruiting and training new examiners, we feel that it could be as long as two years before the waiting times are down to a reasonable level.
“Extending the number of tests each examiner carries out per day makes a lot of sense provided driving tests are still carried out to the same rigorous standard. It will also of course be important to consider the strain this may place on the examiner, so it is good to see that this is being trialled first before being more widely rolled out.
“So many people need driving licences to go about their working or private lives. A licence is not something just nice to have, it is for many essential.”
Driving instructor Dave Dunsford said the initiative was a positive move during a difficult time.
“COVID restrictions have undoubtedly created challenges for the driving school, so finding solutions to reduce the current wait time for driving tests is vital,” he said.
“I was recently at an examination centre for one of my learners, who was part of this trial. While the test centre was crowded, it did show the high level of demand for learners to do their tests.
“Whilst it means a busier diary for examiners, putting in new measures to end test waiting times will support learners who are ready to take the exam and in turn help easing the driving lesson backlog that is currently being felt across the country.”
More than 450,000 driving tests were cancelled during lockdown and learners are facing waiting times of up to three months to secure an appointment.
As well as considering scheduling more tests for existing examiners, the DVSA is trying to recruit more than 100 extra driving examiners to address the backlog.