Learner drivers are waiting up to SIX MONTHS for test after Covid lockdowns create backlog

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Learner drivers are waiting up to SIX MONTHS for their test after Covid lockdowns create backlog of more than half a million and waiting times are ‘not expected to improve until 2023’

  • DVSA boss told MPs there were more than 500,000 drivers waiting for their test
  • Average waiting time for a test is 14 weeks but some are waiting up to 24 weeks
  • Delays mean some learners are forking out extra cash for lessons or theory tests
  • DVSA told transport committee backlog is unlikely to return to normal until 2023


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Hundreds of thousands of learner drivers are waiting up to 24 weeks to take their test in some parts of the UK due to a backlog caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Driving tests were prohibited for 12 months as part of the Government’s response to prevent the spread of Covid and only resumed in April this year.

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As a result, thousands of drivers were left unable to take their test, creating a backlog which now means some learners are waiting months for a slot.

There are currently just more than 500,000 learners waiting to take a test with an average waiting time of 14 weeks, the DVSA said, but with some being handed a slot that is up to 24 weeks away.

The agency has said backlog is not expected to return to normal levels until 2023. 

Hundreds of thousands of learner drivers are waiting up to 24 weeks to take their practical driving test in some parts of the UK due to a backlog caused by the coronavirus pandemic

Hundreds of thousands of learner drivers are waiting up to 24 weeks to take their practical driving test in some parts of the UK due to a backlog caused by the coronavirus pandemic

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The delay means learners are having to fork out thousands of pounds for extra driving lessons as they are required to keep up their skills to ensure they are ready when their slot comes round.

Others who had taken their theory test – a requirement to sit the practical – were forced to pay for another as it had expired before they were able to take their practical exam. 

Figures from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency show that the number of tests conducted in Great Britain between April and June this year was 26 per cent lower when compared with the same period in 2019.

Critical workers, such as those in health and social care, were still able to book tests throughout the various lockdowns. 

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Peter Hearn, operations director at the DVSA, told the Commons Transport Committee: ‘The backlog on car testing at the moment is double what we would normally expect.

‘We normally expect a backlog of about 250,000 tests – we’re double that at the moment. 

DVSA said the backlog is currently double its usual size and will not return to normal until 2023

DVSA said the backlog is currently double its usual size and will not return to normal until 2023

‘We have had significant periods in which we have not been able to test drivers so we are now in a period in which we are trying to recover those services.’ 

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‘We’re doing lots of additional things right across the organisation with additional hours, we’re bringing people in that can test.’

Mr Hearn told the committee the agency was recruiting extra staff, including examiners and support staff, and said they had already hired 90 with plans to bring in up to 300.

New staff coming in will work five days out of seven, allowing them to offer tests at weekends in a bid to clear the backlog, Mr Hearn said.

He added that they were looking to the private sector and those who carry out other types of driving assessments to see if they can support the DVSA through clearing the backlog. 

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Describing the challenges faced during the pandemic, Mr Hearn said: ‘You are obviously elbow to elbow, sitting in a vehicle.

‘That is a really challenging one. We went into lockdown three times and obviously that had an impact on what we could do.’

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