Why are young drivers struggling to find a driving instructor?

Hi all, it’s Kate again, back with another edition of tips for newbie drivers. In the news the other day, I stumbled on this article that said there was a national shortage of driving instructors. So what’s going on and what can you do?

What’s happening with driving instructors?

The shortage has got so bad that people are being forced to wait up to six weeks to even start their lessons. Now, Tory MP Sir David Amess has promised to raise the issue at a meeting in parliament in the near future – he found out about the shortage when the owner of a driving school in his constituency asked for help. Amess plans to tell Parliament:

“[The lack of instructors] is stopping many young adults in their careers… This is a common issue across the country. The driving instructor industry is at the moment losing driving instructors due to many factors and to go through the process of qualifying can be a long one due to the waiting times for tests, which has meant that we have a real shortage of driving instructors in the UK.”

Amess has promised to request that the government take steps make it cheaper and easier for instructors to register or re-register. At present, the three exams it takes to become a driving instructor (test theory, driving ability and teaching skills) cost a total of £750, with a renewal cost of £300 every four years. Instructors that take time out might eventually need to sit all three exams again from scratch.

The MP suggests that a system that allows qualified instructors to renew their registration with just a “standards check” would tempt more instructors to stay in the industry.

Meanwhile, to get ahead of the queues, provisional drivers will want to make sure that you’re clued up on what kind of instructor and vehicle would be right for you. Here’s some things to consider:

Choosing a driving instructor that’s right for you

Qualification

In terms of qualifications, there are two main types to choose from if you’re just starting out. An Approved Driving Instructor (ADI) is fully qualified and should display a green ADI in the window of their vehicle. ADIs are re-tested every few years and graded as follows:

• A grade (85% or over): an overall high standard of instruction
• B grade (60% or over): a sufficient level of competence
• Fail (less than 60%): an unsatisfactory performance

The second level of qualification is for potential driving instructors (PDIs). These are people who have met the basic criteria, been CRB checked and have received a trainee licence (which should be visible in the window as a pink badge). PDIs are permitted to work at franchised driving schools, however you should be made aware and can expect some money off your lessons.

In any case, every instructor should be registered with the Driving Standards Agency (DSA).

Reputation

Reputation is especially important if you’re intending to choose an independent instructor. Word-of-mouth can be a good barometer, as can bodies like ‘Which?’ and ‘Buy With Confidence’ who display user reviews or recognise approval by Trading Standards.

Car type

Make sure the instructor has a car with dual controls, to intervene if an accident could be on the cards. Think about the size of the vehicle too (small cars like the Vauxhall Astra or Renault Clio tend to be easier to learn in and are popular with driving schools) and whether you want to learn to drive an automatic or manual transmission. And, beware: flashy cars don’t always equal a good instructor. Some just use it to sucker you in!

Instructor specialism

Some more seasoned instructors may specialise in one specific group of people, for example slightly nervous young drivers (boy, wouldn’t that come in handy), older drivers who haven’t been able to pass previously, or drivers who are about to move up to a more advanced level.

Discounts

If an instructor is offering a rate far below their competitors, find out whether this is a reflection of their service standards or whether it is some kind of introductory offer.

Avoid block booking

Many driving schools offer discounts for booking a ‘block’ of lessons in advance. However, when you’re first starting out, you’ll want to find out whether your instructor is:

  • Punctual
  • Responsible
  • Personable
  • Educational

So, maybe start at a school where block booking is an option, but begin with a couple of full-price sessions as this could save you money in the long run if you have to change later.

But, what can you do if you’re now stuck on a waiting list and want to start learning straight away? Here’s my top tips:

How to get started

  • Register well in advance of the time that you hope to start your lessons
  • Make sure to check both the larger providers (BSM, AA etc.) and small local firms
  • Start learning with a friend or relative (they must be over 21, have held a driving license for at least three years and be qualified to drive the vehicle you’re learning in)
  • Swot up on driving test theory

So, I hope this helps if you’re planning on learning to drive. All I can say is, the rewards are well worth it in the end!

If you’re on the lookout for more expert driver tips or are ready to purchase your first new car, why not call on the experts at your local Perrys dealership today?