Driving lessons are now going ahead across England, and the resumption of practical testing is in sight. With this in mind, many of us have questions about how driving tuition will operate in the coming months. Who better to ask, then, than the body that oversees all lessons and tests: the DVSA?
A recent Q&A session arranged by NASP, an association representing three-quarters of Britain’s driving instructors, saw many of the most burning questions put to senior members of the DVSA team. We’ll share a few of our key takeaways from this session in this post.
Test and trace
The DVSA is cooperating with the NHS test and trace scheme, which aims to keep track of those who have been in contact with people who have contracted coronavirus. If an examiner tests positive, candidates and ADIs will be informed and will need to self-isolate.
Rebooking for ‘on hold’ candidates
As previously stated, those whose tests were cancelled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic will have priority for new test appointments. The DVSA has now clarified that candidates will be contacted in groups via email, with the first set of emails being sent out on July 13th. Tests for these candidates will begin on July 22nd.
The theory test booking system is now open for all members of the general public. However, there is no set date for the reopening of the practical test booking system. This is to ensure that those whose test was cancelled are able to secure suitable appointments before the commencement of broader testing.
Theory test expiry dates
Many learners have expressed exasperation that theory test validity dates have not been extended. The DVSA noted, however, that these dates are set by legislation. It is therefore not in the purview of the agency to extend dates, and would require action from the UK Government, which has not yet happened. There could, however, be a way to get an extension on your theory test.
A ‘phased return’ to testing
The DVSA states that they’ve always adopted a phased approach regarding the resumption of testing, starting with emergency testing for those working in critical sectors of the economy (also known as ‘key workers’). In the short term, new appointments will open up only to those who already had a test booking which was cancelled as a result of the lockdown measures. There is not yet a confirmed date on which the general public will be able to book tests.
In the past few months, key workers have been able to apply for emergency tests. During the Q&A session, the DVSA announced that they will continue to be able to do so. Additionally, the number of emergency tests carried out will increase in the coming weeks as more examiners return to work. This should in turn help to reduce the number of key workers on the waiting list for a test.
Test centres reopening
Prior to the resumption of testing, the DVSA has carried out inspections of all test centres to ensure that they comply with safety standards. However, it is not yet possible to reopen all test centres. A full list of those which will not yet be able to reopen will be provided in due course. Examiners across England returned to work from July 6th, except where health reasons or care responsibilities prevented this.
Each instructor will be able to choose the safety measures they’ll put in place. This means that candidates and instructors will be able to choose to use face shields, should they wish to do so. However, the DVSA does not recommend the use of face shields given the potential for increased risk to the wearer in the event that a collision occurs and an airbag is deployed. Driving test examiners will not be wearing face shields.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the DVSA is putting in place a number of new measures to ensure the safety of driving tests. Whilst we have covered many of these in a previous guide, we learned several pieces of new information:
- The DVSA has adopted a new standard operating procedure which has been reviewed by Public Health England (PHE), with key stakeholders contacted regularly, such as front-line staff and trade unions.
- Candidates will not be able to bring an accompanying driver with them during their test. The DVSA encourages ADIs to leave their ADI certificate in the car; this number will be passed onto the test and trace service if necessary.
- Examiners will be taking 5 tests per day, rather than the usual seven, and will work to staggered patterns. More time will be built in between tests to allow for proper hygiene and safety procedures to be carried out.
- Driving test centre waiting rooms will not be open, and candidates will only be able to use toilet facilities in exceptional circumstances.
- PPE, face coverings and wipes have been distributed across over 400 test centres in preparation for the resumption of testing.
There will, however, be no mandatory temperature checks for examiners, as PHE has deemed this a less effective method of detecting the virus. Seat covers are optional for car tests, but will not be allowed during LGV tests.
Test format remains largely ‘as-is’
We have previously posted about the curtailing of practical tests in situations where the candidate fails partway through. However, by and large, the format of the practical test will be as normal. This includes the asking of “show me, tell me” questions before the drive starts.
To help counter the spread of coronavirus, the DVSA announced that they will continue to allow candidates to cancel or reschedule their tests at short notice. This will apply if they (or a member of their household) show symptoms of COVID-19, if they are contacted by NHS test and trace, or if they are in quarantine.
Given that the coronavirus pandemic is ongoing, it is likely that some candidates’ tests will be cancelled by the DVSA at short notice due to examiners suffering COVID-19 symptoms. If this is the case, the DVSA will unfortunately not be able to pay out-of-pocket expenses. This is due to the possibility of a large number of cancellations at one time, as was the case in March. The DVSA will try to maintain existing appointments wherever possible to minimise disruption.
ADI testing and standards checks
At present, there is no date set for the resumption of ADI part 3 testing, or standards check tests. Control measures are being put into place, but have not yet been finalised.
Areas under local lockdown
In a week that saw the announcement of a local lockdown for Leicester, the DVSA announced their strategy for tuition in such areas. In areas under local lockdown, only emergency testing can go ahead. Similarly, it will only be possible for instructors to teach key workers with emergency test bookings.
Other UK nations
The DVSA covers England, Scotland and Wales. For the time being, however, the resumption of lessons and testing applies only to England. Any extension to the other nations of the UK will be decided by devolved governments, with updates provided in due course. When testing does resume in Scotland and Wales, the DVSA is looking to implement the same safety measures as in England.
The above information represents just a few of the key points discussed in the extensive Q&A session between NASP and the DVSA. If you’d like to learn more, watch the full video below.
For further information about how PassMeFast is responding to the current situation, please read our regularly updated post regarding the impact of coronavirus on our driving courses.