Salmon Arm ICBC Service centre. Lachlan Labere/ Salmon Arm Observer

Backlog: New drivers travel from as far as Prince Rupert for road test in Salmon Arm

Salmon Arm man unable to get his road test until late November in Kelowna

The high demand for road tests in B.C. has resulted in people travelling to Salmon Arm from as far as Prince Rupert to earn their driver’s licence.

Paul Keam of Paul’s Professional Driver Training Services in the Shuswap, said he’s had parents calling from Surrey, Prince Rupert, Fort Nelson and Cranbrook, wanting to book driving time with him for a son or daughter who was able to take advantage of a road test cancellation in Salmon Arm.

“They’re hoping there’s an instructor car available… they’re coming down to do the road test, having never driven in Salmon Arm before. If they pass, it’s a big bonus. If they don’t, they’ve wasted a lot of time and money.”

Keam said with COVID-19 and related safety restrictions, last summer there was a backlog of about 80,000 people awaiting road tests in British Columbia. While ICBC has been endeavouring to bring that number down, demand for road tests remains high due, in part, to last year’s temporary suspension of testing. On top of that, ICBC normally experiences an increased demand each summer for road tests. This year, however, ICBC said there’s been a surge in the number of people wanting to obtain their driver’s licence compared to previous years.

Keam said all of this is having consequences on young people in need of their driver’s licence for work.

“They have a full-time job coming up and they need their licence for it,” said Keam. “If they don’t pass the road test, they’re looking at four or five months to get back in again.”

'N' magnet on car. Lachlan Labere/ Salmon Arm Observer

It’s a situation Caleb Siemens understands all too well. The Salmon Arm resident said he had to quit his job and will be moving to Armstrong for work due, in part, to his inability to book his road test in town.

“My mom sold her house, she’s moving in with my grandmother, there’s no room there for me to live so I’m moving in with my girlfriend,” said Siemens. “If I had a licence, I’m sure I could find a place locally and drive myself to work, but that’s not the case.”

Keam noted those cancellation bookings from out of town were done at midnight when ICBC posts them for every driver testing place in the province.

“So if a student has all their information and is ready to hit enter when it comes up, they may not get the road test where they want, but there may be one closer and within a couple of days.”

Siemens said he does this nightly. So far, the earliest he’s been able to book his road test is Nov. 26 – in Kelowna.

“That’s the only real solution I see, is to hire more examiners to do the test,” said Siemens.

ICBC said it has done just that, having hired 80 additional driver examiners across the province, with many driver examiners working overtime in impacted areas as needed.

“For the Southern Interior, we’ve recently increased the number of driver examiners in Cranbrook, Vernon and Kamloops, which will help increase appointment availability in these areas,” said ICBC, adding they are actively recruiting.

As a result, ICBC said this year, 42 per cent of customers taking a class 5 and 7 road test in the Southern Interior have waited less than 60 days for their appointment.

“We’ve also completed 36 per cent more class 5 and 7 road tests so far this year compared to 2019 across the province,” stated ICBC in an email to the Observer.

To help things go more smoothly, ICBC encourages those awaiting a road test to arrive at their appointment fully prepared.

“Nearly half of our customers taking their road test fail on their first attempt, which puts further pressure on our appointment availability as customers are taking multiple attempts,” said ICBC, adding resources are available on ICBC’s website to help.

“A class 7 learner’s licence is valid for two years and a motorcycle learner’s licence is valid for one year so we encourage customers to book their road test in advance.

“If there isn’t availability, please visit our online booking site frequently as on average, 100 appointments are made available daily due to cancellations and resourcing availability. Most of these appointments are within the upcoming 10 days.”

Keam said the onus is on himself and his fellow instructors to make sure new drivers are at a place where they can pass their road tests on the first go.


lachlan@saobserver.net
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