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The effect of Coronavirus and how it affected driving instructors and pupils
- The effect of Coronavirus and how it affected driving instructors and pupils
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has hit, and we have lived with its effects now for over 10 months. It has brought bad health, death, loneliness, implications to people`s mental health. It has closed businesses and built-up debt; the list really does go on. This blog is not about bringing up all these negative aspects of how it has affected me or Find Your Instructor but to help people understand what has happened in the `driving instructor world` over this period.
Let us rewind 10 months, the cold month of February, the uncertain month, the month where we are really starting to realise coronavirus IS deadly, it IS a real thing, and WE need to start taking this seriously. Nevertheless, the worry built up in our (every) instructor`s mind, 1 month on, the 23rd March 2020 lockdown 1 began. Everything halted, no lessons, no teaching, everyone safely in their home not allowed out but for 1 hour a day to exercise and to go and buy essential food/scour the land for toilet roll. We were all in the same boat, we were all in it together, we saw unity, from people dancing on the balcony of their apartment blocks to clapping on a Thursday night for the undeniably amazing NHS, but what happened to driving instructors?
Driving instructors, like most, were lost and unsure of what the future holds. `Will work start back up in a month? 2 months? 3? No idea`. This area of uncertainty brought up different pathways for instructors, some managed to get hold of the government grant, some had earnt and saved up enough to just about get by, some managed to get part time jobs and some have quit the industry all together. It is not nice knowing that some people had spent the money training to become a driving instructor, put the hours in and then it is all ruined in a few months, it happened to a lot of people that just simply haven`t been able to afford to continue. One thing that is certain is that we ALL struggled with this and were all eager to get back on the road and start teaching again.
I have held conversations with many instructors over the months to understand more and more about what the effects have been from an instructor`s view. Steve Casey from Steve`s School of Motoring who teaches pupils in Tamworth and Sutton Coldfield admits `at the start it was a worry financially, luckily my wife could still work. I had to keep myself busy spending time in my home gym. I thought about temporary work, luckily I didn`t need too.`
Driving Instructors welcomed back to work and PPE requirements
Fast forward to 4th July 2020. We were back! Boris had announced, as we all know, on 4th July that lockdown had ended but with some strict guidelines, driving instructors for example had to scatter their diary to clean their car between lessons, always wear a face mask during lessons, have hand sanitizer, wash hands, and generally follow the government guidelines. Steve from Steve`s School of Motoring explained when he started back up again on July 4th, he found cleaning his car no a hassle at all `my car is kept clean all the time anyway, if you don`t have a clean car it`s not a good service and bad for business, I supply sanitary wipes and hand gel before anyone enters the car to be sure, and face masks must be worn.` Driving instructors must follow strict government guidelines to ensure the safety of everyone in the vehicle, all vehicles must be clear of any unnecessary items, and all dashboard and car controls must be thoroughly wiped down and you must wear a face covering unless government guidelines allow you. Find all specific guideline details here. ( https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-driving-tests-and-theory-tests )
It was great, everyone working again, then the struggles began with booking a test.
First day back after what felt like a lifetime of gardening, fixing up the house, working those part time jobs; lessons had resumed. It was a breath of fresh air, refresher lessons started straight back up, some lucky people had managed to get their test booked for straight after lockdown, but many, did not.
The DVSA re-opened. Their phone lines were accepting calls and you could once again log onto their website to arrange your driving test. Chaos is how I would describe it, Chaos in the form of over 7million website visits and well over 265,000 phone calls in day 1. Let us take those numbers and show you how huge that is. 55 members of staff, need I go on? They had 55 members of staff to answer 265,000 phone calls ON DAY 1, crazy, right? That means one member of staff would have had to answer the phone 4,800+ times. Understandably they had wait times of over 3 hours. Welcome back to work guys...
Test wait times reached up to 30 weeks amid a backlog of over 80,000 applications. By October they had narrowed it down, still with a huge backlog. Then came lockdown 2, (5th November - 2nd December) this time not as bad as everyone knew it would only be 1 month. With uncertainty and no confirmation, the backlog rebuilt up, a month behind again, rebooked tests, the lot!
A spokesman for RSA said they were working hard in difficult conditions to get through the backlog but accepted `anyone applying this week will have to wait 25-30 weeks`.
6,264 driving tests were taken between April and June (key workers) this figure usually shows at about 393,000, that`s a 98% reduction.
Are Driving Instructors that busy?
The arrival of the January full lockdown brings yet again another period where no lessons and no tests are taking place, meaning the backlog has now been extended. We predict this backlog to now extend past July, as the vaccine this will most likely help the country get back to where we once were (all fingers crossed). This being said after August 2021 is where we predict the ease off for instructors and lessons for new pupils become more available.
The backlog of tests brings the backlog of lessons, driving instructors are so busy some are booked until March (now needing to re-arrange so add 1 month and a half onto this). This means people like us (Find Your Instructor) have people contacting us constantly looking for an instructor and in all honesty, in some areas we are struggling to give these leads out! Believe it or not we need more instructors to give this work to, anybody know a driving instructor that wants more work? Send them my way.
If you are looking for a driving instructor we do have many areas we have instructors available, take a look at our directory, locate your area and get in touch with your local driver, if you can`t find your area call our direct number as we are adding instructors and areas daily.
Times have changed, it is a pupil rich market and expect it to be that way until February. When does this start to dilute? When do we have to be realistic and protect ourselves and our businesses to ensure we will still have work once we get to February or March? Simple answer, you do not. There is no guarantee that the waterfall of leads will continue past the end of this year, let alone forever and if you think it will, you are in dreamland. You must prepare yourself and your business now for when the inevitable happens. Now I am not trying to pitch to you, there are many things you can do.
Find Your Instructor offer free listings as well as paid listings. You need to ensure you are on google, social media and other marketing tools to ensure you are protecting your brand, your lead generation, and your income stream. If you want to know more, we offer a FREE (no catch) digital marketing review of your current advertising of which we guide and offer tips about what you are doing well and where you have gaps, feel free to get in contact.
Samuel Raworth (Head of Business Development, Find Your Instructor)
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