'An absolute mess' - Shropshire learners waiting months for driving tests due to examiner shortage
Learner drivers are having to wait months and travel to up to 70 miles for tests in a situation an instructor has branded "an absolute mess".
A shortage of examiners is causing a frantic scramble for tests, with Shropshire learners having to wait as long as five months and take their tests as far away as Crewe or Newtown.
There has been a huge traffic jam of students trying to get tests since the Covid pandemic caused a lengthy backlog.
The uncertainty around Covid prompted many examiners to retire or change career.
The Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency says it is trying a range of measures to fight back against the driving test gridlock, including asking former examiners to come out of retirement.
Karen Jones, owner of Shrewsbury-based KS Driving School, believes the pay and lengthy training is putting people off becoming examiners, and does not see a solution on the horizon any time soon.
She said: "A lot of people retired or left because of Covid.
"Training an examiner isn't a five-minute job to get them ready. It takes a year. I think people are looking at it and wondering if it's worth it.
"I do feel for students. It's difficult for people training to be instructors as well. I've got six who are waiting to do their tests to become instructors. Everything's on hold for them because they can't start their career.
"Now when you take on new pupils you have to tell them at the start they could be waiting five or six months to take their test.
"We're having to adapt. If a pupil doesn't have a test for several months, we'll tell them to get out in their own car and practice if they can, and then come back to us a bit closer to the time so we can help them get test ready.
"We're going to Mid Wales for tests, Oswestry, Featherstone and Telford as well.
"It's an absolute mess. It's hard for the students. I can't see a solution any time soon. I just wish we knew when it is going to be sorted."
In 2021/2022, pass rates increased by between three per cent and eight per cent at centres across the county compared to 2019/20, the last pre-pandemic year for statistics. Although, given there were far fewer tests taken, the figures cannot be considered like for like.
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.”