Category - ADI

Post-Pandemic Pupils

 Common Sense - Dilbert by Scott AdamsMost ADIs will be aware that there is a huge backlog of people wanting to learn to drive right now. So much so where I am that I’m turning them away – I simply do not want to end up working from 8am until 10pm again, which I often was before the pandemic.

An increasing number of email enquiries are coming via DVSA’s website. The unexpected advantage of this is that you get enough information to help you be selective and decide whether to reply ‘sorry, I’m full up right now and can’t take on new students’ or take things further. For example, I got this one the other day:

I work shift patterns but should usually have 3-4 full days off per week (sometimes midweek/sometimes weekends). I have driven before so we will not be starting from scratch, I hope to pass within 20 lessons if possible.

I just don’t want that hassle anymore. It’s bad enough when it turns up out of the blue, like the young chap several years ago who – after his tenth hour, having never driven previously – declared ‘I am ready for my test’.

I said ‘What? Are you telling me you’d only ever planned to take ten hours and then go for your test?’

‘Yes’, he replied.

I said ‘Well, you really should have told me that at the start. I’m sorry, but you are nowhere near test standard and I am not taking you in my car’. I explained how I could lose my licence if I take bad drivers to test, and told him ‘I think you need to find another instructor, but I wish you all the best’.

Other emails are so short and terse that they also get a polite rejection:

I found your name on the DVSA website and was wondering if you can take new students right now.

When you get one like this, there’s every likelihood they are not local, or want automatic lessons – I get that even with referrals sometimes. And in most cases with email enquiries, they will have sent the same question to a dozen other instructors and are really only looking for the cheapest price – which won’t be me, so I’m not going to waste my time entering into discussions over it. As I said, I don’t need to chase work.

And then there was this one:

I have my test next month and I need an instructor to take me.

Guess what I did with that one.

On a slightly different note, I’ve mentioned before that I offer a free lesson to anyone who refers someone to me who commences taking lessons. I don’t advertise it, but casually mention it. That has always worked, but it did bite me a bit recently.

I was teaching a young lad and told his mum about the offer. She told me his sister would soon be turning 17 and she’d use it then, which she did. But she then referred someone who had three kids, who all commenced lessons at the same time (their dad paid for 30 hours for each of them upfront), then someone else, then another one!

I honoured the arrangement, particularly as she had brought in so much extra work, but I think I’ll have to be a bit more careful about that in future.

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Driving Test Routes – Anywhere

Pro Pod - map history viewOriginally published in 2014, but updated due to numerous recent enquiries.

Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of people looking for test route information. Once upon a time, official test routes were published by DVSA (when it was still DSA) and available for download. They stopped publishing them in 2010, but that didn’t prevent people who had already downloaded them circulating them. In later years – even right now in 2021 – certain unscrupulous instructors and money-makers were even selling them at silly prices.

One major problem with test routes is that they change over time as DVSA adds new ones or removes others. They can even change on the day of the test for reasons such as roadworks or road closures. And unless they are being officially published you have no way of knowing if ones given to you are correct – or if someone has just cobbled together some old information into a crude list of road numbers and names and perhaps charged you a tenner for it. I can absolutely guarantee that many of those advertised on old-fashioned HTML websites are these original out-of-date lists. The other major problem is that deliberately trying to teach just test routes doesn’t get better pass results, but it does produce less able drivers.

You don’t really need to know the precise test routes used. All you need is a general awareness of key features where pupils might have problems.

It isn’t difficult to work out where the examiners go on driving tests, even without using technology. They’re never going to travel more than about 20 minutes away from the test centre in any direction, so all the roads leading to the test centre are going to be involved (minus motorways in most cases). If you know the examiners to look at, you’ll see them from time to time during your lessons, so you now know they use that road or location. You can also ask your pupils where they went after their tests, and although this can produce more confusion than it does answers, you might be able to extract a bit of useful information. The examiner will often give you some details in the debrief, especially where faults were committed. And finally, you can sit in on tests (when there isn’t a pandemic) and actually watch where they go. You can quickly work out which specific areas to concentrate on by putting all of this together into your lesson plans.

The best way, though, is to use some sort of tracking device, which logs the precise route taken by the car. These days, most satnavs have a feature which allows you to do this. Personally, I don’t like that method because it tends to be tied in with the satnav software, be satnav-specific, and it can be a right pain trying to download it and manipulate it on standard mapping software. The other problem is that you’re unlikely to be able to leave it running while someone is out on test, because the examiner will be using theirs, and thinking back to my old satnav years ago, it didn’t always get a signal if it wasn’t stuck on the windscreen. I’m not saying they’re like that now, but they are designed to be used in that position – and not in the glove box. And the other weakness is that the satnav is the recorder, so you have to wait until the test is over and you can grab it before you know where it went.

Dashcams are another way. The better ones also record GPS data, though often – like satnavs – you can only manipulate this within the camera manufacturer’s specific software. And again, you only get to see it after the event.

A third option is to use one of any number of apps for smartphones. These log routes in a format that mapping software understands. I’ve tried them, and they do work – with a few limitations. Firstly, you would need to leave your phone in the car when it went out on a test, meaning you’d be phoneless for the duration. A spare phone would work, but obviously this feature uses data, so you’d need a separate phone account. And when I tried them, the free versions of apps tended to be restricted to sample rates of 20-30 seconds – and that could mean a route through a junction and roundabout system might show as a straight line across a field or lake. If you wanted a 5 second sampling rate, you had to subscribe.Pro Pod - Hybrid map and satellite history view

My solution was to use a dedicated tracker. I use a ProPod tracker from Trackershop. It’s a small device the size of a matchbox, which I keep in the car. The main feature for me, apart from logging accurate position and even postal locations, is that it broadcasts its location in real-time. This means that at the test centre, I can watch the car moving on a map overlay (either on my laptop or the Trackershop app on my phone). It also means that if a test were abandoned for some reason – and that hasn’t happened yet – I’d know exactly where to go to find my car and pupil.

The picture at the top of this article shows an old test route for Chilwell Test Centre (click on the image for a larger view). This is my tracker dashboard ‘history’ view, with a specific historical time period displayed (the duration of the test in question) on a map overlay. The picture just above (click it for a larger image) is the same route with the satellite view enabled. You can zoom in almost to the level where pedestrians would be visible.

The Trackershop cloud service keeps journey history permanently (as long as you have an active account), and you can download and edit data as necessary whenever you feel like it – you just need to to know the date and time of a past test, for example, then go and find that route in your dashboard. As I mentioned, you can view data in real time on whatever overlay you have chosen, and watch the pointer moving every 5 seconds while your pupil is out on test – I find this useful for knowing when they are due back.

Pro Pod - KML file in Google EarthThe cloud data can be easily exported and downloaded. As well as GPS coordinates it logs times, speeds, and postal addresses for every data point. The picture above (click it for a larger image) shows the same test route displayed as a KML file rendered in Google Earth (note that I had to physically extract the GPS data to create this, but it isn’t difficult if you know what you’re doing).

As I have already indicated, you should not be doing your lessons across such precise routes. But they do give you an idea of where tests go.

Where can I download test routes?

You can’t download them from DVSA. The sites that offer them are provided by people trying to earn money from something that is otherwise simple to do yourself. Given that test routes change over time, it is probably cheaper to record your own.

Why don’t you provide your test route data?

A point of principle. DVSA stopped publishing them because instructors were trying to teach only the test routes, and I know full well that that’s why people want the information now. My logged routes are for my own use – I don’t stick to test routes on lessons and never have, but I want to know where the routes are so I can deal with any weird stuff.

Should I pay for downloadable test routes?

My advice would be no. DVSA stopped publishing them for a reason, and if someone is trying to profit from selling them then he or she is going against that. There’s a good chance you’re being sold old routes, anyway, and you would never know if they changed unless you kept on buying them every month or so.

How do I know the routes I’ve bought are correct and up to date?

You don’t, and they’re probably not. In fact, unless a local group of ADIs is giving you daily copies, they couldn’t possibly be reliable. In the worst case, they could be totally imaginary and simply cobbled together to be reasonably close to actual routes. Judging by some of the ancient-looking sites that list them, they’re quite likely to be the original ones that they stopped publishing in 2010. As I said above, routes change with time.

Is it possible to record test routes?

Yes. There are free and paid for apps available for both Android and iPhone which use GPS to record journeys. Similarly, there are numerous GPS tracker devices available which do the same (I use a Pro Pod tracker). If you use a phone app as a logger, you have to leave a phone in the car.

You can also record routes using dashcams. As well as using my tracker, I also have a dashcam recording all the time. On more than one occasion I have been able to show a pupil exactly where and why they failed, even though they had no idea what the examiner was talking about in the debrief.

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I would strongly recommend the ProPod range of trackers from TrackerShop, but others are available. Due to a very poor experience some years ago I would strongly advise against any tracker by Rewire Security (they sold me the device on lifetime subscription, then cut that service off and made it repeated subscription – they cannot be trusted, and I will never forget it). 

Do I need to know the test routes for my test?

Absolutely not. The examiner will give you directions as necessary, or ask you to follow the satnav or road signs. However, if there are one or two awkward features – big roundabouts, steep hills, or so on – your instructor should know about them and make sure you know how to handle them well before your test.

How many test routes are there?

It varies from test centre to test centre, but there could be 10, 20, or more. When they were still published by DVSA (while it was still DSA), one Nottingham test centre had 38 if I remember correctly. You couldn’t possibly memorise all of them even if you knew them all. Being brutally honest, many learners on test might not recognise their own streets when out on test, so how can they be expected to ‘remember’ multiple routes?

Can I use my tablet to log routes?

Potentially, yes. If it has a GPS chip inside, it doesn’t necessarily need to be connected to the internet or a phone network to log GPS positional data, though it would if you wanted to use it as a satnav or monitor it in real-time. However, you’d need some software that could make use of the chip. It would also depend on your device’s specification as to how accurate the data were, but you’d still be able to get decent route maps – they just wouldn’t always be necessarily precisely lined up with the roads on maps you laid them on to. I understand they are accurate to around 6 metres or better.

From what I know of Apple iPads, only the more expensive ones with phone connectivity have GPS chips in them. The WiFi only ones don’t.

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Police and Dashcam Footage

Example of dashcam footage nothing to do with anywhere in NottinghamWell, at long last Nottinghamshire Police have begun to accept online submissions. If you have an example of bad driving and you caught it on dashcam, you can submit it here. Use the link for the Online Form (I stress that this is for Nottinghamshire – your own force will have its own system for submitting footage).

Make no mistake. If I catch someone behaving like a twat on my dashcam, they will get reported. I’ve been waiting for this for years!

I’ve submitted several so far over the last couple of months, and the police have responded by telling me they will take further action on all but one. They tell you what possible actions could be involved, but due to data protection they cannot tell you what that ends up being. But that’s no big deal.

I was rear-ended over the weekend. My pupil stopped at a Zebra for a pedestrian, and some twat rammed into us in a heavy 4×4. And she had a very young kid in the car – no more than a baby in the front passenger seat – and was obviously distracted. She’d not have stopped for the pedestrian, that’s for sure.

That one’s going through the insurance, but anything I see from behind that is even close to what happened will go to the Police. And if people get points or bans (or worse), so much the better.

Trust me on this. You need a dashcam. I know from experience – my own, and that of former pupils who have sought my advice – that if any halfwit ploughs into you they will try to make out it was your fault, even to the point of lying through their teeth. Even this one at the weekend is already trying to argue that we’d stopped short of the Zebra. Yeah, we did. About one and half car lengths short. And she still f**king smashed into us at full speed with a pedestrian about to walk out. With her kid in front with her.

Get. A. Dashcam. And then report these twats.

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ADI Annual Mileage

long_routeThis article was written over ten years ago! But it’s had a run of hits, so I’ve updated and expanded it.

Someone found the blog (during the last recession) on the search term “adi drive miles per year”. I was surprised that anyone should think that there is somehow a fixed figure, and that any sort of definite answer could be provided.

At one time, I would cover as many as almost 50,000 miles year on lessons (including travelling between them). During Covid, of course, it was close to zero. Your mileage is a combination of where you live, how wide an area you cover, and what you do on your lessons. For example, yesterday I took someone (qualified Ukrainian refugee) down the M1 to Leicester, back up the M1 and through Loughborough, then down some single-track roads and country lanes. Two hours of solid driving, and we covered about 60 miles. Other times, if we are simply brushing up on manoeuvres near someone’s test, we might only cover 5 miles. On average, though, I tend to do about 10-20 miles on lessons.

I knew for a fact – certainly when I wrote the original article – that some ADIs do a lot less than that all the time. I was also aware of some (far fewer) who did more. Using my figures, above, if every lesson was like yesterday, I’d rack up around 45,000 miles in a typical year. However, if I averaged 15 miles a lesson, it would be more like 22,000 miles.

As both an aside and an example, one of mine passed her test first time recently. She’d been referred to me by her friend, who is also one of my pupils. Both of them had been having issues with their previous instructor, and they felt ‘something was missing’.

The first thing wrong was that neither of them had driven in any of the areas the driving test could cover, and had simply remained very local in each case. Both had tests booked in the short term, and both had done at least 30 hours of lessons. They also had other issues – the one who passed was accustomed to finding the bite with the foot brake on, not using gas to move off, and checking her mirrors far too often.

After the second lesson, when I had to grab the wheel to avoid oncoming vehicles on a bend as she did the head-waggling routine across all three mirrors without actually seeing anything, I questioned her. She’d been told to check all her mirrors every three seconds! I pointed out she was looking in the mirrors almost as much as she was looking ahead, and if your eyes can’t see something in front of you, your brain isn’t going to tell you to avoid it. I explained that checking the mirrors according to an artificial and arbitrary schedule is a stupid thing to teach people, and you simply need to check your mirrors periodically (to remain aware) or when you want to genuinely see what is around you before you do something. Otherwise you mainly concentrate on what is happening in front of you. She agreed after seeing what had nearly happened.

I made it clear before the first lesson that if I didn’t think she could pass the test by the booked time we’d change it, which she also agreed to. Ironically, both she and her friend had chosen their original instructor because she was female (they are both Muslim). I made it clear to both of them I am Muslim-friendly, and that since Ramadan was approaching, if they had any issues with fasting and concentration then I was happy to arrange lessons accordingly.

She did about ten hours with me, and at least seven of those involved 15-20 mile journeys to experience some of the trickier features likely on the Colwick test (Marshall Hill, West Bridgford town centre, Stoke Bardolph and Burton Joyce, the City Centre, and so on), with occasional stops to fix the various issues (the bite/foot brake thing was due to being previously taught in a diesel, whereas mine is a petrol car and easily stalls if you find too much bite with the brake on, as do most petrol cars).

OK. End of digression.

A typical driving test covers between 8-20 miles based on accurate measurements I have taken. It follows that at least some driving lessons should cover that much – and more, particularly if you are covering motorways.

The bottom line is that the annual number of miles covered by ADIs is based on location, lesson quality and instructor competence, part time or full time, areas covered (or prepared to be covered), the current economic climate, and so on.

There is no set answer to this question. You do what is necessary for the pupil, and not what saves you the most money.

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Renewing Your ADI Badge – 2022

This is (eventually) a complete rewrite of the original article, which I will leave below under the dotted line until this latest saga is completed. Apologies for the bad language, but you’ll probably see why.

Day 1 – As of 4 April 2022, I have received notification that my ADI badge is due for renewal in 6 months time. The email from DVSA tells me what I need to  do.

Essentially, I first have to apply for a Criminal Record Disclosure using an online link. I won’t detail the next steps just yet, since the fu*king link in the email to the website which issues the disclosures returns a 404 error (which means ‘Page not found’). And it does that from the GOV.UK website, too.

So at the moment, the first stage of renewing my licence is impossible to complete because First Advantage – the people issuing criminal disclosures this time around – have a ballsed up website.

I have emailed both DVSA and First Advantage to try and get it sorted. But hey, it’s not an important thing, is it? So why rush?

Day 2 – I got a reply from DVSA this morning (5 April) telling me First Advantage’s ‘systems were down’ yesterday. They gave me a phone number to ‘request an application pack’. A little later, First Advantage emailed me my PIN number, Org Name, and secret word with a link to begin registration. It worked this time, so no farting about with the Royal Mail and ‘application packs’ after all.

I’m going with my Passport, Driving Licence, and probably a bank statement (which I will have to go and get from my bank because I am paper free) as my verification documents. When I can find my passport, of course.

Remember what happened last time? My ‘valid from’ date on my licence had to be the date of my original test and not the start date of my current photocard. And my bank statement has to be less than three months old, but in the past, so I have to get it, then commence the application the next day.

Day 10-ish – I went to my bank a week ago and… they were shut early for ‘staff training’. When I got home, after spitting feathers for a while, I phoned the bank to request a paper copy of my statement. That arrived yesterday, and I applied for my ID check today at my local Post Office. Note that I said local Post Office.

Yes, unlike last time where there was only one office in Nottingham that did verification (the main one in the city centre that you can’t easily get to, and which is filled with people who look like rough sleepers with pushchairs), many smaller Post Offices now provide the service. And it turns out that unlike the main office, they are not intent on trying to reject your application for minor details such as a slightly faded printer line or anything. I used my pass date for my driving licence and explained what happened last time, and the whole process was completed in less time than it took each of the people in the queue before me (who still looked like rough sleepers, so I guess it’s a Post Office thing) to each post a small package.

Day 20-ish – I got an email from First Advantage telling me my application has now gone to the ‘next stage of processing’, which I think means the next stage after my initial application (indicating the ID check has been accepted).

Day 20-ish (a bit later) – I got an email from DVSA on 24 April advising me that my criminal record certificate has been accepted by the Registrar and I can remain on the Register until my current badge expires. I can apply for a new badge in the month the current one expires. So 1 October 2022 is in the diary and alarms are set.

I haven’t received my copy yet, but DVSA indicates it ‘may arrive after this email’.

Day 24-ish – My copy of my disclosure arrived this morning (28 April). So just to summarise: I have successfully completed my criminal record check application, and the result has been accepted by DVSA. All that remains is to do the renewal of my badge in October.

Watch this space – updates of the process to follow later in the year.

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Note that I have updated the main renewal article for 2018 following my own recent renewal of my badge. The article below was written in 2016.

An email from DVSA points out that from 14 January 2016, when renewing your badge (or starting the qualification process) online you will need your CRB/DBS* certificate number.CRB/DBS check logo

The certificate must be less than 6 months old, have been generated by GB Group, and be specifically for the purposes of DVSA registration. You cannot use a CRB/DBS* check generated by anyone else, or one that has been generated for a different purpose.

DVSA advises that you get your CRB/DBS* sorted as soon as you get the letter (which is 6 months before your badge runs out) as it can take up to 4 months for the police to finish their checks.

I’m sure that the usual crowd will find fault with this. But for the record, when I renewed about a year ago the process was easy and quick (with a minor photo glitch that DVSA bent over backwards to sort out for me). All I am interested in is renewing my badge – not trying to build some sort of early 20th century political career against DVSA. Quite simply, if you do what you’re supposed to do, WHEN your supposed to, everything is fine. But if you’re an idiot who insists on delaying, then whining about time scales… it serves you bloody well right!

* The Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) is now the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). I tend to use the term CRB when I’m talking to people, but it’s strictly a DBS check these days.

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