L-test backlog as instructors forced to swap jobs

Almost a year of delays in driving tuition have left a backlog at L-test centres and calls for a recruitment drive for new instructors. 

A report released this month by learner driver insurance provider, Marmalade, details the scale of the UK backlog in driving tests. 

As of April 22, the backlog was estimated at 1,160,000 learners waiting to take their test. And Marmalade has calculated that the size of the backlog will take over eight months to clear, with instructors having to work around the clock as it continues to build.

This problem is further compounded when you consider the decline in the number of driving instructors available. 

They estimate that there were 38,778 Approved Driving Instructors last December, a 2.34 per cent drop on the previous year. But overall, since 2013, there has been a 13 per cent decline so numbers have been falling gradually. 

Testing time: driving exam backlog more than 1.1 million

It’s also estimated that instructors are currently working with 30.46 learners each. Latest data shows this places instructors over capacity by 55.81 per cent and incapable of tackling the backlog efficiently.

Lynne Barrie, chair of the Approved Driving Instructors National Joint Council said: “This has been extremely stressful for driving instructors during the past 12 months and also for learners as many of them have not taken any lessons since December and some have faced other lockdowns as well and no professional driver training taking place. Many provisional drivers have had practical test dates changed on six or seven occasions now and are eager to get underway as soon as possible.

The pressure of the backlog is leaving many struggling to fit their clients into their diaries but there are only so many hours a day that an instructor can safely train their clients

“Meanwhile, we know that many driving instructors have been forced to take up other work during the pandemic as they have been struggling financially and that some are now following other career paths.

“Once they return to work there are others who will need to dedicate time to more than one job and so will be unable to teach as many learners as they did before the pandemic.

“We are also aware that there are long-standing and well-respected instructors who have decided to retire early and will no longer be teaching once we start back to work. It’s highly likely we will need new ADIs to take the place of those who have left the industry.

“The pressure of the backlog is leaving many struggling to fit their clients into their diaries but there are only so many hours a day that an instructor can safely train their clients. I am concerned that there is a potential for unreasonable pressure from pupils and their families.”

Matt Stone, director at Let’s Instruct Driving Instructor Academy said: “We expect driving lesson prices to rise over the next six months and pupils to have to join a waiting list before starting driving lessons. 

“We hope the knock-on effect of this will be an increase in the income for driving instructors which in turn will attract not only more people into the industry but potentially people from professional backgrounds as well.”

A survey conducted by Marmalade of 1,700 learner drivers in March, it found from the learners which have had tests cancelled in the last year, 33 per cent have reported not having one rebooked until four months later, 22.5 per cent have seen them postponed for six months, 15 per cent by seven months or more, and 20.4 per cent haven’t had a rebooked test at all.

More on the research here