Driving instructors

Driving instructors speak out after testing suspended across UK

Some driving instructors are struggling.

Bosses at the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) halted testing this week after responding to government advice – with testing centers closing.

Chiefs say they will automatically book the test, free of charge, as soon as possible – but have not confirmed whether testing will be suspended from next week.

Satinder Sandhu, who runs the Sandhu Driving School in Tipton, said he was waiting for more guidance from authorities.

He said: “We will still continue our driving lessons but the tests have all been canceled this week.

“It’s a one-on-one in the car so it’s not a big gathering, as long as people take the right precautions it should be fine.

“I got an email saying the tests were canceled – they didn’t tell us what they wanted us to do, so I’m doing the normal thing that I usually do.

“I’m still waiting a few days to see what happens with everyone and what will happen.”

Another driving instructor, who works in the Black Country and wished to remain anonymous, said: “It’s definitely had an impact – everyone worries about everything, really, but to be fair they offered testing free and compensation to anyone out of pocket.

“And you can’t complain about that.

“It’s a bit worrying being self-employed – we get to a point where we don’t know how we’re going to pay the next mortgage payment.

“I think I will go to the bank to ask for the suspension of the mortgage, but everyone is in the same boat.

“It’s worrying but you can understand why people are the way they are.”

Ian Haycock, who runs Safe4Life Driver Training with his wife in Dudley, said: “One of our instructors was at the Dudley test center yesterday and at the time it was a possibility.

“We have all received their email.

“I have a test booked on Monday and an instructor test on Tuesday and both don’t seem to be moving forward.

“We haven’t heard of that, but I think it’s unlikely they will go ahead.”

But despite the coronavirus, Mr Haycock said business was still going strong – with cars cleaned, instructors checked and anti-bacterial wipes used.

He added: “It’s been pretty good – we’ve had very few cancellations, but we’re taking it day by day.

“We are following precautions and the majority of our students are happy to continue.

“We have a loyal base of students and instructors and we will continue to operate for as long as we can – that is uncertain and something that can affect small businesses, particularly when test centers close. .

“It can be very off-putting to people and we kind of hope the DVSA doesn’t order a complete shutdown, but we’ll see.”

Karen Jones, owner of KS Driving covering Shrewsbury and Telford, said there was a lack of clarity which could leave her 15 instructors out of pocket.

“All of my instructors are self-employed, which means if we lock down there is no income for any of the instructors or myself,” she said.

“We all have mortgages, we all have bills to pay.

“I’ve been to all the government sites to see what help we can get. There’s absolutely nothing there. It’s going to be really difficult.

“I would like our deputies to come and start talking to people like us, to show us how we can start getting our hands on things for our instructors.”

As students call to cancel and tests are postponed, Karen and her drivers find themselves getting whatever job they can while they can.

“We have a good reputation, which will hold us in good stead. I have to make sure that when we come out of this we have work to do, which means I still have things like running the website and Facebook pages.

“For us, we have to continue because when we stop, our income disappears.

“The likes of Red and big business have more financial backing. Small businesses like me – I’m the biggest freelancer in Shrewsbury – how can we get by then? I think my stubbornness and willpower. I know how hard my instructors work and i will do anything i can for them.

Karen said she feared there could be a year of trouble now, caused by a lockdown.

“It will be difficult. It will take us a year to get over all of this. It’s just to get back on our feet and on top of the mortgages and everything else.

“Instructors who work alone, I feel sorry for them. I don’t know if they will come out the other side.”

Graham Holland, who runs Graham Holland’s School of Motoring in Telford, said his hours had currently fallen from an average of 35 a week to around five.

He thinks testing will be canceled for about 12 weeks, leaving instructors chasing revenue for nearly three months.

“We still have bills to pay, a car to keep going,” he said. “We have normal business expenses.

“We have a variation of students of all ages. Learning to drive isn’t the biggest priority. It’s family, rightly so, and the first thing is us.

“But it’s a business, and we have family to take care of. It’s going to be a little thin.”

Graham has gone out of her way to ensure hygiene standards are kept high between lessons, wiping down all departments with antibacterial wipes, providing hand sanitizer and requiring learners to wash their hands before leaving the classroom. car.

But with fewer students, he has to watch what happens next.

“I’m going to kind of shut it down for a while, see how things go,” he said. “We are looking at 12 weeks of very reduced income, if anything at all. I won the car, a lot of instructors are renting or renting. But the maintenance of the car still has to be paid.

“Being self-employed means there is no statutory sick pay. We take it day by day, week by week. It’s going to affect a lot of different people in different ways.”