Express & Star

'It is ridiculous' - Black Country learners unable to book driving tests this side of Christmas

Learner drivers in the Black Country are unable to book driving tests this side of Christmas due to countless issues facing the industry.

Driving instructors protesting in Shropshire earlier this year over difficulties in the industry

Tests have been hard to come by since the pandemic halted testing, resulting in a lengthy backlog which is still being worked through to this day.

It is also being impacted by a shortage of examiners. The uncertainty around Covid prompted many examiners to retire or change career.

Currently, those looking for tests at centres in Wolverhampton, Wednesbury, Lichfield, Wednesbury and Dudley for any date this side of 2023 will be met with the message "no tests found on any date".

This wait time has left some desperate, seeing some people paying up to £200 for tests booked by automated software.

Add onto this the sky-rocketing price of fuel causing lesson prices to jump, and the landscape for learners is increasingly bleak.

The DVSA says it hopes waiting times will be brought down to under 10 weeks by the end of the year and that a recruitment drive is in full force to achieve this.

Mick Singh, an independent driving instructor who has helped people across the Black Country prepare for their tests for more than 20 years, has seen people pay £200 out of desperation.

He said: "It is ridiculous, you only get two years on your theory, it's taking you six months to get a test, then if you fail, what do you do, you are stuck.

"There are no tests anywhere anymore, and everyone is suffering.

"I have heard people paying £200 to get one, which is a lot of profit for the people in the middle.

"A lot of it has happened because people book tests through these sites that stockpile dates.

"Sometimes they are booking the tests but they aren't turning up because these sites have an auto booking feature, where it gives you the nearest possible date unless you change the setting.

"The learner will get a test on short notice, then they can't get an instructor to take them.

"This has made the waiting times worse, I think a lot of it is the people in the middle, not the DVSA."

This comes after it was found that Wolverhampton is the place where learner drivers are least likely to pass their test.

Research by Bill Plant Driving School ranked the city as the place with the worst pass rate between April 2021 and March this year with a pass rate of 37.2 per cent.

On the wait times, a DVSA spokesperson said: "Following the suspension and further disruption of driver testing over much of the Covid pandemic, we are doing all we can to provide learners with as many practical driving tests as possible and bring average waiting times down to less than 10 weeks by the end of the year.

"To tackle the high demand for practical tests we have introduced a number of measures including recruiting an additional 300 examiners, conducting out-of-hours testing such as at weekends and on public holidays and asking qualified staff that no longer work as driving examiners to conduct tests."