Why are driving tests at such odd times

Have you ever asked the question “Why are driving tests at such odd times?”.

You can book driving tests at odd times such as 0907 and 1116.

Why can’t the 1116 test start at 1115? The answer is nowhere near as simple as you might think. I’ll give you a quick answer to start with then you can read into it in more detail.

Why are driving tests at such odd times?

Driving tests are at such odd times because by starting them a few minutes earlier here and there they can fit in the new elements such as independent driving, do more tests each day and keep the examiners happy with their working hours.

That’s the quick answer but if you want to know the full story behind that quick answer then keep reading this page.

Lots of little things happened over the years which all play a part in why we now have odd times for tests.

The full story of why driving tests are at odd times

Until December 2017 the show me tell me part of the test involved the pupil answering two questions at the start of driving test.

One question would be to tell them something such as: “Tell me how you’d know if there was a problem with the power steering before starting a journey.”.

The other would be show me something such as: “Show me if how you’d check if the vehicle had sufficient brake fluid.”.

These new measures meant tests would be longer.

They tweaked the test times by two adding on two minutes for each test. In reality this was nowhere near enough time because it takes more than two minutes just to walk to the car from my local driving test centre!

At the same time something much bigger was happening in this industry. The number people working as driving instructors was about to explode.

The driving instructor training bubble

Shortly before the recession of 2008 there was a MASSIVE explosion in the number of people becoming driving instructors. From 2003 to 2008 the number of registered driving instructors rose by about 25%.

Companies were advertising on radio, TV and in the press. They were promising a huge income, a guaranteed job for life and everyone was jumping aboard.

At the same time there was also a huge increase in the number of people learning to drive. More instructors and more learners meant more people waiting for driving tests.

Driving test waiting times reached record highs around 2008. I can’t remember exactly when (I’ve been doing this a long time!) but I know it was around then.

In some parts of the UK you had to wait six months for a driving test. In other parts you couldn’t even get a driving test at all. The waiting times were so bad that something happened that had never happened before.

Bear with me, all of this helps to explain the answer to the question ” Why are driving tests at such odd times?”.

Charter Mark? What Charter Mark?

The Charter Mark is a prestigious award given out to companies meeting very high levels of customer service.

The DSA (Driving Standards Agency – the old name for the DVSA) was one of the first places to ever be given the award. They then became the first to ever lose it.

I remember going in driving test centres and seeing examiners scraping the Charter Mark stickers off the windows because they weren’t allowed to display it any more. Why did they lose it?

The reason they lost it was because waiting times had gotten so bad. Customers were understandably angry at having to wait so long.

It was awful for us driving instructors: we were having to book driving tests with pupils before we’d even met them! As soon as someone applied for lessons we had to tell them to book a test now because the wait was so long.

I’m pleased to say that the DVSA since regained the Charter Mark. One of the ways they did that was to introduce a 4-month cap on driving test waiting times.

Why you can’t book a driving test more than 4 months ahead

In order to not suffer the terribly long waiting times again, the DVSA introduced a 4-month cap on driving test bookings. Driving tests were not offered anything more than 4 months into the future so that the waiting times could never get as long as they had been.

This 4-month rule was relaxed late in 2020 to help out with the problems of delayed tests caused by Covid-19.

Driving tests during the recession of 2008

The DVSA were in a tough spot. They had increased the cost of the driving test many times year on year but now the recession was in full swing they were told they couldn’t.

Belts were being tightened. Companies were going under left right and centre. The only way to make more money was to do more driving tests.

In an effort to cut waiting times and make more money they decided to fit more driving tests in each day. Genuis! But that sparked off another problem.

I hope you’re sticking with me. We will soon answer your question “Why are driving tests at such odd times?”. All of this stuff is relevant because it all forms part of the answer.

Driving test examiners go on strike

Driving test examiners have been striking on and off since I started teaching in 2003. It got really bad though around 2008 to 2012.

One of the main reasons for the examiners striking was that the driving test times had changed. Some of them were now starting as early as 7 am or 0703 to be precise.

Driving tests were taking place at 1630 in what they laughingly called the “evening test”.

Driving test examiners were being told to work longer hours for no extra pay. How would you like that?

All of this reached a head when examiners, and many other members of the union they belong to, downed tools and refused to work.

It was awful. On several occasions I turned up for a test with a pupil to be told the examiners were on strike. The poor pupil had their big day ruined and some were in tears. I’m welling up just writing this but I’ll battle on.

Did school kids cause driving test strikes?

Many driving test examiners chose the job so they could have flexible working times. They’d be able to drop their kids off at school, go to work and them pick the kids up on the way home.

This was no longer possible with the new test times and the strikes began.

This went on for years. I mean years and years and years. I remember strikes happening as recently as 2015 but as I write this in 2018 it’s been quite calm for a while.

You can go your own way

In 2009 the DSA introduced independent driving. This involved remembering up to four directions at a time given to you by the examiner, or following traffic signs.

As well as this the number of manoeuvres you had to do on a driving test changed from two to one. These new elements slightly changed the test times here and there.

The driving test changed again on December 4th 2017. Since then you either follow traffic signs or use a sat nav. The test times didn’t change because of that but for reasons unknown they did change again in September 2018.

As I write this in October 2018 you can now book driving tests at times such as 11:11 and 11:58. Would it REALLY hurt them to start at 1110 and 1200?

So that’s why driving tests are at odd times

All of those things above meant the times were tweaked here and there.

Tests were moved forward a little bit here so the examiners could finish in time to pick up their kids from school and back a little bit there to allow more time for opening the bonnet.

To discover more answers like this visit the pages in the menu which are under Help>why?

You’ll find out the answers to questions including why do driving instructors wave at each other? and why driving instructors drive you home after you test?

If you want to watch some driving videos you can visit the 1stDrive YouTube channel.