Learner drivers are facing waits of up to six months to start lessons as instructors struggle to keep up with demand.
According to new research, more than 60% of driving instructors are fully booked for at least six weeks but in some cases, the waiting list stretches well into 2022.
A survey of driving schools and instructors by learner driver insurer Veygo found that among instructors who did have spaces, the average waiting time was just under two weeks.
Pressure on driving schools has increased in the wake of the Covid pandemic. A backlog of new learners has added to the hundreds of thousands of students who had to put lessons on hold during lockdown or who are continuing lessons while they wait for a driving test appointment.
Making matters worse, the number of qualified driving instructors in the UK has fallen by 3% in the last year, leading to a call from one driving school for more people to train in the role.
The Veygo research found that learners in Sheffield faced the toughest time getting lessons, with every driving school fully booked for at least six weeks. However, across the country, some instructors said they had no space for new students until March 2022.
David Roberts, principal product manager at Veygo, said: “Over five months after tests and lessons recommenced, learner drivers all over the country are still facing frustratingly long waits for driving lessons.
“With such long waits, it could take learner drivers much longer to pass their test. On top of this, many learners will be on the lookout for driving test cancellations to speed up their test date, so they have less control over the date they receive.”
Peter Brabin, head of training at Bill Plant Driving school said that more instructors were needed to address the current backlog.
He commented: “There are almost 40,000 approved driving instructors in the UK right now, but with the backlog that’s been established due to the pandemic, it would seem far more are needed.
“ After the last 18 months, we’re going to effectively be playing catch-up for a long time. It’s not simply a case of getting through the existing backlog of 420,000 cancelled driving tests either, as there are tons of UK residents turning 17 every day. In addition, huge numbers of people at every age are now considering learning to drive, as confidence in public transport falls.
“We’re calling on adults all over the UK who might be out of work or considering a career change to really think hard about becoming a driving instructor.”
Recent research found that as learners struggle to book lessons, the cost of learning is also increasing. A poll of more than 4,000 instructors earlier this year found that 40% had put up their prices since lockdown, with the average lesson now costing more than £30.