Driving instructors

Birmingham driving instructors face ruin as pandemic keeps them off the roads

Driving instructors are driven to despair – because they can’t drive.

Now they face an agonizing choice thanks to the global Covid-19 pandemic.

Do they keep teaching when the UK lockdown lifts – or do they turn their careers around at the next crossroads and try to find another job?

One of the leaders of the West Midlands industry association said it would be up to the self-employed to make that call.

But whatever happens, Lynne Barrie thinks it will be harder for all instructors to keep going with the same volume of learners because of the time it will take to get their vehicles ready for the next lesson.

Lynne chairs the National Joint Council of the Association of Driving Instructors from her base in Lichfield and says most instructors should have been out of work since March 23.



Anna Riley pictured taking a driving test again in 2019 – ten years after passing the first time

“The only ones who should be absent are those teaching key workers who already have a test booked,” says Lynne.

“To be honest, some seem to be flouting the guidelines, but everyone else should be off the road or risk losing their registration and being fined by the police.

“But that means they don’t win anything – and no one ever saw that coming.”

The cars learners use tend to be smaller vehicles, which adds to the feeling of closeness to their instructor.

“Like hairdressers and people working in beauty salons, we can’t maintain two-metre social distancing,” says Lynne.



What future for driving instructors after the easing of confinement restrictions linked to Covid-19?  In March 2018, young drivers aged 17-24 were estimated to be paying nearly £2,400 a year for running costs and insurance - with the cost of the car and driving lessons on top.
What future for driving instructors after the easing of confinement restrictions linked to Covid-19? In March 2018, young drivers aged 17-24 were estimated to be paying nearly £2,400 a year for running costs and insurance – with the cost of the car and driving lessons on top.

The future

Lynne says she has been in negotiations with the national council and the government about where the industry will go from here.

But much will depend on the government’s announcement on Sunday on how, where and when the lockdown will be lifted.

“The World Health Organization says one meter, but that’s not necessarily the advice that’s going to come from our government (for lifting the lockdown),” Lynne explains.

“We will have to share ideas for best practices.

“It could be driving with the windows open, wearing masks and gloves and facing forward at all times.

“Normally, when I teach, I will first sit closer to a beginner to reassure them that I can take the wheel.



Anna Riley pictured taking a driving test again with instructor Mike Mooney in 2019 - before anyone had heard of two meter social distancing
Anna Riley pictured taking a driving test again with instructor Mike Mooney in 2019 – before anyone had heard of Covid-19 and two meter social distancing

money worries

Lynne says many instructors are at risk of going to the wall for all the wrong reasons – whether they own their own car or hire one – and it remains to be seen whether the government’s promised aid will keep them all afloat.

“Some instructors are struggling financially right now, especially those who started most recently and haven’t done it for a year or more – they can’t get any grants, so they’re struggling the most,” says Lynne .

“Some leasing companies have been helpful, some have not, so I know which ones I will recommend.

“Some instructors are like, ‘Do I really want to go back to work?’ – while some have already moved on to other jobs such as delivery people.

“There are 39,000 instructors across the country and I think some people are going to leave.”

Some instructors are full-time, some are part-time with other jobs, others move into teaching after taking early retirement.

Lynne says: “Some people just can’t get by without making money, so the last few weeks have been really tough for them.”



It was announced in 2017 that learner drivers would have to safely use satellite navigation systems to pass their driving test as part of a major assessment overhaul.
It was announced in 2017 that learner drivers would have to safely use satellite navigation systems to pass their driving test as part of a major assessment overhaul.

Learners

Lynne also has sympathy for learner drivers, as well as her own members.

“In addition to instructors, the lockdown means learners might not earn either,” she said.

“So will they have money left to continue learning or to start learning once the lockdown is lifted?

“A learner might have been almost ready to take their test before the lockdown, but they might now have to pay for extra lessons to pass because they won’t have been able to go outside to practice – unless they were driving a family car to go. to buy food .

“I know a learner whose father had an organ transplant. Will he want to keep learning?

“Being a driving instructor is not as easy as working from home and some might not want to return to work until they know it is safe to do so.

“I used to sit closer to a new learner to give them confidence, but now I think I’ll sit on the other side and look ahead – I don’t like masks .

“I think the instructors will have to do less testing in a day, so it’s going to be really tough.

“I also don’t think you can work as an instructor continuously from 7am to 7pm – you need to take breaks.

“I don’t do more than six lessons a day because you don’t have to do them in a row.

“You will also now have to clean your car and spread the lessons.”



Maureen Rees, star of BBC Driving School - one of Britain's first reality TV shows in 1997
Maureen Rees, star of BBC Driving School – one of Britain’s first reality TV shows in 1997

Course cost

Lynne runs Lynne Barrie Driver Training and primarily teaches instructors rather than learners.

She charges £28 per hour and says a typical person needs 45-48 hours of expert tuition as well as private practice.

Lynne says anyone offering a deal like ‘the first ten lessons for £10 each’ cannot make a decent living given the overhead of using a dual drive car.

“Learning to drive is now much more complicated than it used to be, with lessons now including the use of a GPS, for example.

“The more lessons you have, the better prepared you are for the road – around one in six new drivers will have an accident in the first six months and the figure is worse for men.”

For the latest government information on finding driving schools, courses and instructors and obtaining a provisional licence, click on the gov.uk website here

To apply to become a driving school instructor, click on the partner site here

For more details on the Approved Driving Instructor (ADI) Registry guide, click here

Official letter

On April 22, Gareth Llewellyn, chief executive of the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, wrote a letter “to approved driving instructors regarding the coronavirus (Covid-19).

Mr Llewellyn said: “The Chancellor of the Exchequer has set out plans which will see the self-employed receive up to £2,500 a month in grants for at least 3 months.

“If you are eligible for the new scheme, HMRC will contact you and invite you to apply using a simple online form, with the money paid directly into your bank account.

“HMRC aims to contact you by mid-May 2020 and will make payments by early June 2020.

“The government is supporting businesses through a range of other measures during this time.”

The letter can be read in full here and for more assistance, advice and information on government business support, click here

Have you learned to drive and failed multiple times, or are you just getting started? Are you a teacher wondering if you will have the same number of students? What measures would you like to see implemented as lockdown lifts in order to be confident about the health and safety issues associated with Covid-19? Email us at [email protected] and put Learner Driver – or Driving Instructor – in the subject line.