New research has revealed a harsh reality for learners ahead of driving tests recommencing on the 22nd April, with data showing a backlog of almost 1.2 million tests and an unprecedented time for driving instructors, which are over capacity by 56%.

The report released this month by learner driver insurance provider, Marmalade, details the scale of the UK backlog in driving tests as the DVSA prepares for tests to restart.

The data in the report estimates there will be a backlog of 1,160,000 learners waiting to take their test on the 22nd April. That’s enough people to fill Wembley Stadium 13 times over or a queue that would cover the length of the M1 twice.

Marmalade has calculated that the size of the backlog will take over eight months to clear, leaving learners facing some of the biggest delays ever seen.

This problem is further compounded when you consider the decline in the number of driving instructors on the nation’s roads, with analysis suggesting there were 38,778 ADIs as of December 2020 – down by 2.34% on the previous year.

Based on these figures, this works out that each UK driving instructor is currently working with 30.46 learners each. The data shows this places instructors over-capacity by 55.81% and incapable of tackling the backlog efficiently.

Commenting on the research and what this means for both learners and instructors, Lynne Barrie chair of the Approved Driving Instructors National Joint Council:

“Learners should be aware that the number of instructors has declined. The pressure of the backlog is leaving many under pressure to fit their clients into their diaries but there are only so many hours a day that an instructor can safely train their clients. I am concerned that there is a potential for unreasonable pressure from pupils and their families.

“Most instructors I have spoken to say they will need to prioritise their clients so that anyone with imminent practical tests can be helped and then they will organise their diaries for clients they were training before the lockdown came and then any new clients wanting to start to learn to drive. A lot have full diaries and are turning people away so finding an instructor with availability could well be challenging currently.”

In a survey conducted by Marmalade to 1,700 learner drivers in March 2021, it found from the learners which have had tests cancelled in the last year, 33% have reported not having one rebooked until four months later, 22.5% have seen them postponed for 6 months, 15% by 7 months or more, and 20.4% haven’t had a rebooked test at all.

Crispin Moger, CEO of Marmalade which compiled the data and analysis said:

“The ongoing lockdown restrictions over the past year has hit so many learners, many of whom are young people which have felt a considerable impact from the pandemic. An inability to book driving tests and learn, for some has led to isolation, a loss of opportunities in work, education and a huge blow to finances.

“This backlog and lack of capacity in the industry indicates ongoing challenges to get learners on the road to freedom. My hope is that many learners can find ways around the challenges and the industry can recruit more well-needed instructors!”

Three tips to keep learning if you can’t find an instructor with capacity

Get to know how a car works

Part of the driving test will check your ability to maintain a car, so start getting used to where the oil is and how to check it, how to gauge your tyre’s tread, where engine coolant and screen-wash goes. Can you name what the warning lights mean on the dashboard?

YouTube your way to success

Opt for some advice videos on YouTube which talk around parts of driving you struggle with the most. This might be roundabouts, junctions or dual carriageways for example.

Practise with a family member or friend if you can 

Getting extra experience on the road at different times of the day will prove invaluable when it comes to taking your test. The extra time will allow you to master the areas you have found challenging and also to keep your skills and knowledge fresh and test-ready. You will need to make sure your supervising driver is over the age of 21, they have the right learner driver insurance for you to drive their car and have held a full UK licence for at least three years.