A Driving Instructor's Blog

ADI

£20 notesPeople keep asking this. I’ve had two emails this week: how much do you earn as an instructor? When it is asked online, almost every time some dipstick somewhere tries to answer it by doing it all wrong, or by making it too complicated.

If you were in a salaried position where the stated wage was £30,000 per year, that would be before tax and National Insurance. Any comparison for being self-employed also has to be before tax and NI. That’s because tax and NI are different for everyone (single, married, disabled, and God knows what other things). You need to keep these out of it in order to compare with self-employed income.

In a salaried position, you get the stated wage no matter what you do. If it says you get £30,000 a year, then you get £30,000 a year – before tax and NI. If you change to another salaried job, if the stated wage of the new job is £32,000, then you will be earning £2,000 more – before tax and NI.

To compare a self-employed job, you need to get an equivalent figure before tax and NI.

Being self-employed is different to being salaried, because you are not guaranteed an income. It depends on how much work you do, and in the case of a driving instructor, that work could be anything from 0 hours up to 50+ hours in any given week. It would be utterly stupid to budget based on doing 50 hours every week, and what you need is the average for an entire year. Since you are trying to predict a career change, you need to assume a sensible average figure and not just a big number you like the sound of – and which you would not be able to achieve reliably, if at all.

If being an ADI is going to be your main source of income, you need to be thinking of around 30 hours as a safe and sensible average figure once you are established. In reality, work will fluctuate, and if you end up averaging 35 or 40 hours, that’s great. But don’t get carried away, because something might happen which brings the average down to 25 hours or even less, and it is much harder to sustain a higher average than it is a lower one. If you underestimate, anything more is a bonus. But if you overestimate, not achieving it could be disastrous if you’ve bet your house (or mortgage repayments) on it.

Then there is your hourly lesson rate. Not everyone can charge £40 an hour. Some ADIs live in areas where £25 might be at the top end of what people will pay. Find out what your area’s average is and use that. In Nottingham, for example, £30 an hour is a sensible and realistic hourly rate right now (elsewhere on the blog I have referred to figures of £25 and £27 from when those were typical rates).

Finally, how many weeks will you work? Let’s assume – sensible assumptions are important when you’re self-employed – that you work 48 weeks of the year.

The maths is now quite simple. 30 hours a week times by £30 an hour times by 48 weeks means you will be taking £43,200 from your pupils each year. That’s your turnover (total income).

But you also have business costs, or expenses. You have to pay for your car, fuel, insurance, and so on, and you use your turnover to pay for these. No matter what you see the feral monkeys on social media claiming, they do not run a car ‘for nothing’. One way or another there is a weekly business cost associated with even the most dilapidated and ancient jalopy you could find. The vast, vast majority of instructors will have weekly vehicle costs of at least £100 (for the whole 52 weeks of the year). Fuel is also around £100 for a 30 hour week (for the 48 weeks you work).

Combining these, your car costs will amount to £100 times by 52 weeks, totalling £5,200. Fuel usage is £100 times by 48 weeks, which totals £4,800. Together, that’s £10,000 of expenses.

Therefore, your actual income – your wage before tax and NI – based on an average of 30 hours per week at £30 per hour is £43,200 minus £10,000, which equals £33,200.

Before you drool all over your keyboard, it’s worth considering a few realistic and quite possible variations in this calculation. Firstly, what if you only average 25 hours a week instead of 30? In that case, your annual wage would drop to around £26,500.

Secondly, what if you do 30 hours, but can only charge £27? In this case, your wage would be around £29,000.

Thirdly, what if you average 25 hours and can only charge £27? Now, your wage would be around £23,000.

And finally, what if you don’t get anywhere near an average of 25 hours in your first year? Will it be enough to pay your bills?

It’s easy to put all this into a simple spreadsheet to compare the different scenarios and variables. But one look at what’s happened in the last year should be enough to hammer it home that there are never any guarantees, and any future-looking calculation is only an estimate. So if you are planning a new career, be almost pessimistic in your assumptions. If you work everything out based on 40 hour weeks and £35 an hour lessons, but end up with 20 hour weeks and £25 an hour lessons, you’re going to end up very disappointed indeed.

As soon as you try and discuss this with people, the first things they’ll say will be along the lines of ‘my car doesn’t cost me anything’ or ‘well I only spend £60 a week on fuel’. Or some other contrarian nonsense. I’ve explained the one about cars ‘not costing anything’ in the main Should I Become An Instructor article, and it is a nonsense claim as far as planning a career change is concerned. The amount of fuel you use is specific to you and the area you teach in. Someone in a big city, with all their pupils closely packed into a small area, might well have lower mileage (and lower fuel costs). Someone in the middle of the countryside will quite possibly have significantly higher fuel costs. In Nottingham, £100 a week is roughly what fuel costs are for me if I work for around 30 hours. And that’s a common ballpark figure for many instructors.

Play around with the calculations by all means, but don’t always look for the most attractive numbers. If you plug in a low fuel bill, low car costs, and top-end lesson prices, the result might seem wonderful, but at the end of the day you’re going to have to go out there and do it – and that’s where the hard work starts.

Just remember not to try and factor in tax, National Insurance, pensions, savings, bills, or anything else when trying to do a like-for-like comparison with salaried jobs. All that comes later when you have to deal with self-assessments and HMRC.

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DVSA LogoAn email alert from DVSA advises that they are introducing a limited theory and practical test service for emergency workers. The key details:

This will be available to:

  • NHS health and social care workers
  • the emergency services
  • local councils

Who need to both:

  • drive as part of their job
  • respond to ‘threats to life’ as part of their job

Because of the current COVID restrictions, we are not able to offer a mobile emergency worker test service in Scotland.

Teaching someone with a confirmed test booking

You can teach mobile emergency workers who have a confirmed test booking even if current local or national restrictions do not allow driving and riding tests.

You must not teach anyone who only has a routine driving test booked – even if they are an NHS health and social care worker, emergency service worker or local council worker.

They seem to have already tried to address the loopholes that certain instructors will immediately have looked for based on the last year. I’m now waiting to see what other complaints they come up with.

Read the full email, as there are a few other things you will need to be aware of – in particular, being able to prove that the pupil has an emergency test booked if you are stopped.

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Generic Credit CardI’ve mentioned this before in several articles. There was the one about buying fuel and groceries, and the one about how my Asda Credit Card – which is no longer available – being transferred to the original agent (Creation) and the rewards extended.

Basically, several years ago, Asda was offering a credit card with 2% cashback. You only got the cashback on items from Asda. but since I did all my grocery and fuel shopping there, it was a lucrative offer (as a driving instructor, I typically spend a lot on fuel). Cashback was paid via a voucher you printed off, and you could only use it in-store – not on fuel – but it all levelled out in the end. Depending on how much I’d allowed to build up, I could pay for a full £150 weekly groceries shopping spree by voucher.

Then, I learned that Asda was discontinuing its partnership with the provider – Creation. I expected to lose some or all of the cashback benefits. Much to my surprise, Creation subsequently informed me that from when their card kicked in, I would now gain 2% cashback on any purchase from anywhere! And the cashback would be effectively paid in cash monthly by being credited to my balance. The only tiny, tiny negative was that Asda cashback was immediate, but now it would be monthly.

I pay off my whole balance almost every month (unless I miscalculate), so I am not paying interest except for a few pence. Since the switch in summer, I’ve earned around £300. That’s £300 back on an overall spend of £15,000 – I direct everything I buy to the credit card, whether it’s a TV, an XBox, some new software, or a drone. Even bills.

I’ve noticed recently a small surge in people searching for ‘cashback cards’, so it was worth a bit of an update for them. I can fully understand why they would be asking in these times.

As I have said, you cannot get the Asda Cashback Card I had any longer. You also cannot get the same cashback deal from Creation that I currently have. But there are other deals out there.

Creation does have a couple of choices. But there are others shown on Money Saving Expert. I have been lucky – in the right place at the right time for once – and you won’t get anything like what I have been fortunate enough to find myself getting. Frankly, I can’t see me getting this indefinitely, but you never know. But depending on where you shop, there are still some decent cashback offers and other deals (Nectar points, airmiles, vouchers, and so on). But they are worth checking out,

And Asda says it is ‘working on a new credit card’, so that’s worth keeping an eye on.

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Originally posted in 2009. Updated annually, so here’s the 2020 version. It’s the end of December, we had a few flakes of snow in a few places, the papers are full of photographs of people’s dogs in snow, and children sledging on a combination of mud and 1mm of sleet, and dire warnings about the coldest winter since 10,000 BC (the last Ice Age). Same as every year.

Further to a post about cancelled lessons due to weather, I noticed on one forum a couple of years ago someone getting all excited about how there might be a market for specialised snow lessons at premium prices. As of October 2018 (and it hasn’t got even close to snowing yet), some instructors are already going on about not doing lessons.Snow on road scene 1

Let’s have a reality check here.

Until February 2009, it hadn’t snowed to any appreciable extent in the UK for around 26 years! We had two bad winters, but since then they have been relatively mild ones with almost no snow. Even when we get a little of the white stuff it is usually gone inside a week or two at most. Snow – and especially in the UK – is usually extremely localised. The media talks it up so it sounds like the whole country is blanketed in a metre of the stuff, especially if a few wet flakes fall in London. This  is enough to have people cutting down each others trees for their yuppie wood-fired stoves, and panic buying Evian at the local Waitrose. It can keep the BBC news bulletins going for days at a time.

Every year, the incompetence and bureaucracy at local councils typically means that every time there is any bad weather, it’s like they’ve never experienced it before. This – and the media hyping it to death – makes things seem a lot worse than they really are. Having a ‘specialised snow Instructor, in the UK (especially in England) would be like having a fleet of icebreakers sailing the Mediterranean: bloody stupid!

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Back here on Planet Earth, I will carry on doing things the way I always have done: use whatever weather comes to hand as a teaching opportunity if it is appropriate, and charging normal lesson rates for it.

One bit of advice. Make sure you have the right mixture in your wash bottle, and a scraper for removing any frost or snow. A further bit of advice. Never, ever, ever be tempted to buy a metal-bladed ice scraper. Always plastic. Trust me, I’ve tested metal ones for you, and you are welcome. Don’t use metal.

Will my driving lessons be cancelled due to snow?

It depends on how much of it there is, how far advanced you are with your training, and your instructor’s attitude to teaching in snow. There is no rule that says you mustn’t have lessons in snow. In fact, it makes a lot of sense to do them if you can to get valuable experience. But beginners perhaps shouldn’t because it’s just too dangerous for them. It’s your instructor’s decision, even if you want to do it.Snow on road scene 2

Do driving lessons get cancelled when there is snow?

Yes. It depends on how much snow and how advanced you are as a learner driver. If your instructor cancels then you should not get charged. If you are, find another instructor quickly.

If the police are advising people not to travel unless it’s essential, having a driving lesson in those conditions is a bad idea. That’s when they’re likely to be cancelled.

Also bear in mind that it doesn’t matter if you’re learning with the AA, BSM, Bill Plant, or any other driving school. The decision is down to your instructor based on the weather in your area.

Will my instructor tell me if my lesson is cancelled?

Yes. If he or she doesn’t (or just doesn’t turn up without telling you), find another. But why take the chance? Just call or text him and ask.

My instructor says he isn’t insured for icy weather

Someone found the blog on that search term (February 2018). I’m telling you in the most absolute terms possible that this is utter nonsense. I have never heard of insurance which says you can’t drive in certain weather, and especially not driving instructor insurance. If anyone tells you this, find another instructor quickly.

Do [driving school name] cancel lessons due to bad weather?

Cancelling lessons due to bad weather is down to the instructor and not the driving school they represent. So it doesn’t matter which school you are with. But yes, lessons can be cancelled for bad weather.

Any decent instructor might cancel lessons due to too much snow – either falling, or on the ground – making driving dangerous. They might also cancel due to thick fog, strong winds, and heavy rain/flooding. The decision lies solely with the instructor. If you disagree with their decision, find another one.

Will I have to pay for my lesson if it’s cancelled due to snow?

There is no specific law which says your instructor can’t charge you, but if he or she does it goes against all the principles of Common Decency. You should not be charged for bad weather cancellations initiated by your instructor. If you are, find another instructor as soon as possible.

However, if it’s you who wants to cancel, but your instructor wants to go ahead with the lesson, it’s a little more tricky. You being nervous is not the same as it being genuinely too dangerous. I had someone once who would try to cancel for light rain, bright sun, mist, and wind when she didn’t feel like driving. You’ll need to sort this out yourself, but as in all other cases, if you’re not happy just find a different instructor – being aware that if the problem is you, the issues won’t go away.

I want to do the lesson, but my instructor said no

You need to be realistic about the conditions. Just because your test is coming up, for example, and you don’t want to have to move it doesn’t alter the fact that the weather might just be too dangerous to drive in on the day of the lesson. When I cancel lessons in snow it’s usually with my newer pupils who I know can panic and brake too hard. On the other hand, if the police are advising against travel, or if the roads are at a standstill, I will cancel a lesson no matter who it is.Snow on road scene 3

As an example, one day in 2016 it began snowing heavily about 30 minutes before I was due to pick someone up late one morning. The roads quickly got covered and traffic began to slow down. His house was on a slope, and it was clearly becoming difficult to drive without slipping. I made a choice there and then to cancel the lesson. The snow lasted for about as long as his lesson would have, but was gone by the afternoon. Cancelling was the right decision.

Do lessons in snow cost more?

No. If you’re charged extra for normal driving lessons in snow, find another instructor immediately.

I’m worried about driving lessons in snow

Don’t be. You’re going to have to do it when you’ve passed, and it makes sense to learn how to do it now while you have the chance. A lot of people never see snow until they’ve passed their tests, then they don’t know what to do and end up crashing, like the red car in the picture above.

You should never drive in snow

That’s total rubbish. Unless the advice is ‘not to travel unless it is absolutely necessary’, doing lessons on snow or ice is extremely useful for when you pass. Partially melted snow is ideal for doing ‘snow lessons’ if you have the right instructor. The one thing you do need is to make sure you are suitably equipped in case you get caught out. A scraper, de-icer, the right liquid in your wash bottle – and perhaps a pair of snow socks.

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Do YOU do lessons in snow?

Generally speaking, yes – as long as I feel it is safe to do so, and unless the advice is ‘not to travel unless it is absolutely necessary’. I do not do lessons in snow because I am desperate for the money – I will happily cancel if I believe it is too dangerous. And sometimes it is.

Why do YOU do lessons in snow?

Several years ago we had two winters where it snowed properly for the first time in around 26 years. I had not experienced it as an instructor before, and I cancelled a lot of lessons. After several weeks I realised I was being over-cautious. It was one of those head-slapping moments, and I recognised that I could actually use the snow as a teaching aid. Not with the beginners or nervous ones, but the more advanced ones definitely.

Snow - bad enough to cancel or not?Basically, if the snow is melting and main roads are clear, there’s no reason not to do lessons. We can dip into some quiet roads and look at how easy it is to skid. If the snow is still falling and main roads are affected by lying snow, then doing lessons carries a much greater risk. A bit of common sense tells you what you can and can’t get away with.

I can state with absolute certainty that every single pupil has benefitted from driving lessons on snow if the chance has arisen for them.

Will my driving test be cancelled due to snow?

It is very likely. You need to phone up the test centre on the day using the number on your email confirmation and check. Otherwise, you must turn up – even if they cancel it at the last minute. If you don’t, you’ll probably lose your test fee – or end up having a drawn-out argument over it. Make life simple and follow the guidelines.

At one time, tests wouldn’t go out if there was any snow at all in Nottingham. In February 2018 during the visitation by ‘The Beast from the East’ (aka the ‘Kitten in Britain’), I had an early morning test go out with substantial snow on the side roads, repeated snow showers, and a temperature of -4°C showing on my car display. My wiper blade rubbers were solid, and making that horrible sound when they bounce instead of glide. I was amazed (but the pupil passed anyway). You can never be certain, but be prepared.

If my test is cancelled, will I have to pay for another?

No. They will send you a new date within a few days (or you can phone them or look it up online). And it will not count as one of your six ‘lives’ for moving your test.

Can I claim for out of pocket expenses if my test is cancelled?

No. Neither you, nor your instructor, can claim any money back. And you shouldn’t be charged for your lesson or car hire that day.Snow on road scene 4

Will snow stop a driving test?

YES. Snow can easily stop a test, or prevent it from going ahead. It doesn’t matter how you phrase the question, or who you ask, if there is snow then the test could easily be affected. They tell you all this when you book it.

Driving tests cancelled due to snow 2015 (or 2016, or 2017, or 2018, etc.)

It doesn’t matter if it’s 1818, 1918, 2018, or any other date. If there is snow on the roads and/or it is icy then your test may well be cancelled. It doesn’t matter what you, your instructor, or your mum or dad says. It is up to the test centre to decide.

Why was my driving test cancelled because it snowed?

Driving in snow is potentially dangerous even for experienced drivers. The side streets will likely be covered in sheet ice and compacted snow and you will skid if you even drive carefully on them. You could easily lose control. That’s why there are so many accidents in snow and icy conditions. You are a new driver and you probably haven’t driven on snow before. DVSA cannot take the risk, and you have to accept it.

PHONE YOUR TEST CENTRE TO FIND OUT IF TESTS ARE CANCELLED AT THAT TEST CENTRE BEFORE YOU SET OFF – YOU WON’T FIND THE ANSWER GOOGLING FOR IT. DECISIONS ARE MADE MINUTE-TO-MINUTE AND YOU CAN ONLY FIND OUT BY CALLING THEM.

In the past, I have had 8.10am tests booked in the middle of winter and sometimes I know for a fact that when I pick the pupil up at 6.30am the conditions are so bad the test is going to be cancelled. But until the examiners get in just before 8am there is no way of checking. That’s why I advise against my pupils booking early tests in winter – cancellations are far more likely when it is cold and icy, and it is more likely to be cold and icy (and foggy) first thing in the morning before the sun has come up properly.

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DVSA logoSocial media has been in meltdown all day because of the usual idiots and their ‘can we work or can’t we work’ nonsense. The answer was obvious to anyone smarter than a chimp, but DVSA has now confirmed it in an email for those who weren’t.

Driving lessons

The Government has confirmed that driving lessons must not take place in areas in Tier 4 from 20 December until the restrictions are lifted.

Driving tests

The Government has also confirmed that all car driving tests will be suspended in areas in Tier 4 from 20 December until the restrictions are lifted. This includes ADI part 2 and 3 tests and standards checks.

There’s more detail, so click the link.

My only concern is that this should also apply to Tier 3 right now. I mean, let’s face facts here. We have the new variant spreading like wildfire, people who will ignore the restrictions in place over Christmas… we’re going to Tier 4 whether we like it or not.

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Silicone Nose BridgeYou have to laugh. Right from the start of the pandemic – with the requirement to wear a mask (unless you are a twat or genuinely exempt) – glasses steaming up has been a problem. If you go by social media, anything from washing up liquid, through squirrel pee, shaving foam, all the way up to 20ml bottles of over-priced chemicals is the way forward.

The bottom line is that your glasses – in my case, sunglasses – steam up because the mask directs warm and moist air up into the lenses.

Sometimes, the solution doesn’t lie with trying to stop basic physics (moisture condensing on glass). It lies with basic physics not being involved in the first place (keep the moisture away from the glass). And these things are the answer.

I bought some and they work perfectly. You just put one over your nose, put the mask on top, and the moist air goes out the side and not the top. The fact that they’re re-usable and cost as little as £5 for a pack of ten of them makes them a much better solution than bottles of Magic Liquid that you’re going to keep wiping off and use up in a week.

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Notts COVID Cases (EZGIF Creator)Well, we have a vaccine, but we’re not out of the woods yet. We’re close, but not in time to ‘save Christmas’.

Actually, people are pissing me off more and more all the time. There are still those who believe it is all a hoax, closely followed by those who believe we should ‘just get on with life’ as if the virus didn’t exist. Many refuse to wear masks, and many refuse to comply with any restrictions. And the media encourages them.

My local newspaper keeps publishing ‘updates’ on cases in the Nottinghamshire area, and these frequently contradict each other depending on whether they are reporting daily or weekly figures, or if they publish them just after a government announcement. The real problem – apart from the obvious fact the journalists who write the articles clearly don’t understand what they are saying – is the nutjobs who read it and then comment on it, because they mainly consist of the anti-vaxxers and deniers.

The animated GIF at the top of this article shows how cases have varied between the beginning of October and last week across Nottinghamshire. Each frame represents the one-week rolling average taken from the Government website interactive map, The white areas are labelled as ‘suppressed’ on the Government website – which could mean anything from ‘not measured’ to ‘deliberately withheld’ (and given that the white areas exist from as recently as December, and in some cases relate to areas desperate to get out of Tier 3, that latter possibility isn’t as unlikely as it might seem).

There is no pattern whatsoever. It’s like a kaleidoscope. And yet the aforementioned nutjobs immediately see any of the paler areas (including the white in some cases) as justification for opening up and carrying on as normal, egged on by the newspaper in question trumpeting loudly at any low figures after a period of high.

The simple fact is that you can be pale green one week and purple the next,

The other annoying detail is the vaccine rollout. I said we had one at the start, but I am suspicious. You see, my mum and dad are 84 and 92, respectively. Both have COPD, and they are therefore in the higher risk categories. I came across this Vaccine Queue Calculator today, and ran both my parents’ details through it. It suggests they will be vaccinated between 22 December and 18 January. I’d not have any major issue with that a) if it turns out to be accurate; and b) if it wasn’t for the fact that the BBC was trumpeting about how Prue Leith had been vaccinated earlier this week.

I have no issue with Ms Leith being vaccinated and wish her well, but I cannot understand how or why she has been done so soon. She’s ‘only’ 80 and she is working normally – which suggests no earth-shattering underlying health issues that no one knows about. She’s also pictured queuing and walking into the clinic normally, and I can assure you neither of my parents could do that – even if they’d been asked to do so. There are people who are considerably higher in the Priority Groups who haven’t been contacted yet – this 108 year-old lady only got it today (yes, she’s in Wales and not London, but it’s still odd).

Having my parents done is all the more important, since I’m not due until March next year – whether I have an underlying health condition or not!

Then there was a story which suggests we might be throwing vaccine away. The US has scrapped an order whereby one sixth of the vaccine was being discarded, saying it was a ‘labelling error’. From what I can gather, each vial contains a clear 5 injections-worth, plus a bit extra to make sure that can be achieved. It’s the ‘bits extra’ that are being discarded. The reasons why this was happening are quite complex if you’ve ever worked in the industry, but they are primarily bureaucratic in nature (unless you ask a pharmacist).

There is no reason whatsoever – other than bureaucracy – why the extra bits can’t be combined and used. That’s what this story is detailing. Fortunately it is pharmacists and GPs who are advocating it, so a lot of the potential bureaucracy is stripped away. But it raises the question of what the UK has been doing, and indeed it would appear that some vaccine has been wasted. It is likely it still is.

Pfizer has said:

At this time, we cannot provide a recommendation on the use of the remaining amount of vaccine from each vial; this is a matter for regulators to advise on. Excess vaccine from multiple vials must never be pooled.

If it’s from the same batch there is no solid reason why it cannot be pooled. Even if it’s different batches there’s still not much reason (unless you speak to a GP or pharmacist before they thought of it first).

As a result of the aforementioned nutjobs, we need the vaccine quickly. No wastage, and no f***ing about giving it to celebrities first. Just get it out so we are safe from the idiots. Christ, I’ve got until March to have to dodge them. Then, you won’t have stories like this.

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Double white linesThis article is from 2015, but it’s had a run of hits lately and is therefore due an update.

I saw a discussion on a forum where someone had crossed or straddled a solid white line to pass a jogger and was now fretting that he’d broken the Law. I also noted that none of the replies gave a definitive answer.

The Highway Code (HC) only says this about crossing solid white lines (it’s in Rule 129):

129

Double white lines where the line nearest you is solid. This means you MUST NOT cross or straddle it unless it is safe and you need to enter adjoining premises or a side road. You may cross the line if necessary, provided the road is clear, to pass a stationary vehicle, or overtake a pedal cycle, horse or road maintenance vehicle, if they are travelling at 10 mph (16 km/h) or less.
Laws RTA 1988 sect 36 & TSRGD regs 10 & 26

It is this rule that most people focus on. But what they usually don’t do is take into account the reference at the bottom. You see, whenever the HC refers to a MUST NOT rule (which is in RED in the paper version of the HC), the actual law you would be breaking is always given in the reference underneath. In this case, Section 36 of the Road Traffic Act (1988), and the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions Regulations 10 and 26. These are abbreviated to RTA and TSRGD.

TSRGD, which is the one we really need to look at, has a handy web app now. Reg 26 of TSRGD, Paragraph 6, says:

(6) Nothing in paragraph (2)(b) shall be taken to prohibit a vehicle from being driven across, or so as to straddle, the continuous line referred to in that paragraph, if it is safe to do so and if necessary to do so

(a) to enable the vehicle to enter, from the side of the road on which it is proceeding, land or premises adjacent to the length of road on which the line is placed, or another road joining that road;

(b) in order to pass a stationary vehicle;

(c) owing to circumstances outside the control of the driver;

(d) in order to avoid an accident;

(e) in order to pass a road maintenance vehicle which is in use, is moving at a speed not exceeding 10 mph, and is displaying to the rear the sign shown in diagram 610 or 7403;

(f) in order to pass a pedal cycle moving at a speed not exceeding 10 mph;

(g) in order to pass a horse that is being ridden or led at a speed not exceeding 10 mph; or

(h) for the purposes of complying with any direction of a constable in uniform, traffic officer in uniform or a traffic warden.

When it comes to what you can pass there are a lot of things that aren’t specifically mentioned here – what if it’s a cow, or a sheep, or even a dog that’s being led… but not a horse? What if it’s someone pushing a broken down vehicle (i.e. a motorcycle)? Does the Law therefore expect you to stop dead, possibly on a NSL road, just because it isn’t a horse instead of passing it carefully? I think not.

Passing a jogger is perfectly acceptable as long as you do it safely and correctly. Those white lines are there for a reason, after all, and although they will extend beyond the actual hazard they’re safeguarding you have to make sure you choose the best place to cross them.

Unfortunately, this is where learners – whether they are learner drivers or trainee/new instructors – can get it badly wrong. The HC also says (Rule 163):

…give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car…

It doesn’t mention joggers, but anyone with an ounce of common sense will realise that it means them, too. I remember from my days training to become an instructor that there was this idiotic idea hanging around that you MUST give cyclists TWICE as much space as you would a car. That would mean driving almost on the pavement on the opposite side of the road! I’m not making that up – it was common at one time to advise twice the amount of clearance as for a car.

I actually like the HC wording, because sometimes you might have to overtake a something allowing less than a metre’s breathing space (i.e. on a country lane or other narrow road) – though you’d aim for at least a car door’s width in most situations. And like it or not, sometimes you have to do the same with cyclists and pedestrians (probably more so in summer, as they begin to use narrow country lanes). Even horse riders will occasionally stop and wave you through on a bend when they can see ahead – though they really ought not to – and you may have to pass much closer than you would normally as a result.

In order to pass a jogger (or a slow-moving cyclist) properly and safely – in the real world – your wheels would barely have to cross the solid white line in most cases. Solid white lines are there for a reason, and just because you have a reason to cross one doesn’t mean overdoing it and creating unnecessary danger. You need to pick your place, make your move, and be careful.

It goes without saying that you shouldn’t cross the white line if you are just trying to gain advantage as a priority, if the obstacle is moving at more than 10mph, or if you can’t see that it is safe to do so. Conversely, I am not suggesting that you should aim to whack every cyclist or runner with your wing mirror as you pass – try to give them 1.5m clearance, go slower if you have to get any closer, and don’t try to get past at all if there’s a risk of hitting them – just wait until you can do so safely.

Right now, giving ‘at least 1.5m clearance’ is advice and not Law. If you can do it, then do so. Otherwise, be very careful.

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It isn't rocket scienceMy article, Should I Become A Driving Instructor, is very popular. If you’re thinking of moving into this industry as a result of losing your job during the last 9 months, you might want to read it. Yes, it’s a long article, and if you don’t have the attention span to get through it then maybe you ought to reconsider this career path. But it contains information about the realities of the job.

One thing that crops up time and time again on social media (it used to be certain web forums, but time affects all things) is the issue of how much it costs to become an instructor, and therefore raises the second issue of avoiding franchise companies at all costs. Let’s take a look at things properly.

When you’re an ADI you will often get new learners whose first question is ‘how many hours will it take me to learn?’ Roughly translated, they mean ‘how much will it cost me?’ It’s the one question that has no absolute answer, and which immediately puts you in an awkward situation. Do you tell them the truth based on official figures, or do you tell them what they want to hear and show yourself up if they don’t achieve what you told them later?

When I first meet them, I try to rationalise the concept of ‘average’, and point out that DVSA statistics say that the average new driver takes around 45 hours of lessons with an instructor along with 20 or more hours of private practice with a family member or friend. I then point out that I have had people do it from scratch in as little as 14 hours (with lots of private practice), and others take as long as 160 hours (with and without private practice). The vast majority take between 25-50 hours (with or without private practice). Some initially lead you to believe they’ll never learn, and yet do it in less than 40 hours, and others who you’d bet money on passing keep screwing up and end up taking 80. So the average comes out somewhere in the middle, with some individuals being at either end of the whole range.

The problem is that many will listen to all this, and only hear ‘blah-blah-blah-14-hours-blah-blah’. They’re not uncommon – I had one a couple of years ago who’d never driven except for going out once or twice with his mum, and triumphantly announced after his tenth one-hour lesson: ‘that’s it, I’m ready for my test’ (he wasn’t). And I’ve lost count of those who have budgeted based on a fixed amount of money that they want to spend, and then go white when you explain the realities. Basically, for a new learner, learning to drive could take anywhere from 14 hours (in my experience) to almost 200 hours, with the average being somewhere around 30-40. And you can’t pick which one you like best and just do that. All things considered, it means that if their lessons cost £27 an hour, they are likely to end up paying out nearer £1,000 plus the cost of their test(s). It’s just how it is.

When it comes to training to be a driving instructor, far too many people only hear ‘blah-blah-blah-earn-£30,000-blah-blah-hours-to-suit-yourself-blah-blah’. But the same variables are involved. After all, a trainee instructor is identical to a learner driver in many respects – they have to pass a test. Three tests in the case of instructors.

First of all, you have to get through the theory (Part 1 of ADI training). Every time I do it using an app, I score 99%-100% (and I kick myself if it’s the 99% one) against the 85% pass mark. But the real pass rate for Part 1 the last time I looked is only around 50%, which is worth thinking about. You don’t need to pay anyone to train you for it. Next comes the ADI driving test (Part 2). It’s harder than a normal learner test in that you’re allowed fewer faults, need to complete more manoeuvres, drive for longer and further, and are generally expected to be of a higher standard than a new driver. Finally, there is how well you can teach others (the Part 3 test), which is probably the hardest of all because it will involve new material for most people.

You can take Part 1 as many times as you like (you could take it once every few weeks for the rest of your life if you wanted), but once you pass it you then have two years in which to complete the Part 2 and 3 tests. You are only allowed a maximum of three tries at each of these within that two-year window, and if you fail one of them more than that – or if you don’t pass Part 3 within the two-year window – you go straight to jail, do not pass ‘GO’, and have to start the entire process again once the two years are up. It is quite possible for this to happen, and it is even more possible that you will take at least one of the tests more than once.

When a learner driver fails their driving test they almost always need further remedial lessons before their next try. The same applies to someone trying to become a driving instructor, compounded by the fact that they will likely have invested more money and even planned their future around succeeding than a learner driver will have.

So how many hours are involved? In the article, Should I Become A Driving Instructor, I detail the exam costs and likely training costs. Let’s cover them again here. You can think of Part 1 as 0 hours if you do it yourself. For Part2, around 10 hours of lessons is average for a decent driver. For Part 3, let’s just say 40 hours for now. And the hourly rate for those lessons is likely to be in the range £30-£40 (let’s stick with £30 for the purposes of this discussion).

The Part 1 test costs £81 at the time of writing. Parts 2 and 3 cost £111 each. That’s a total of £303 just for doing each of the tests once.

The cost of training for Part 2 would come £300. For Part 3 it would amount to £1,200. So assuming you passed all the tests first time, and only did the average number of training hours mentioned above, your total outlay if you were paying by the hour would be £1,800. And if you did pass, you’d need to spend another £300 on your green badge before you could teach.

If you failed Part 2 the first time, you’d need to pay another £111 for a test, and any additional training – let’s say 4 hours, so £120. If you then passed Part 3 on your first attempt, you’d now have spent over £2,000. It would be your choice, but not doing any additional training would be unwise if there were issues to resolve. But as with what I said above, some people only hear ‘blah-blah-blah-pass-first-time-blah-blah’.

Now, although we said 40 hours for Part 3 training, some people might find this part a struggle and would need maybe 50 hours – sometimes even more. That additional 10 hours would add another £300 on to the overall cost, plus any additional tests if they had failed the first. Now they’d have spent over £2,300 – more if we include tests. And even if someone took only the average number of hours, but three attempts at each of Parts 2 and 3, their total outlay would be £2,250.

And just like any learner, you cannot pick in advance how much it ends up costing. Because what eventually happens is what it is. All you can say is that if you pay £30 an hour, and if you take the bare minimum amount of training, and if you pass each test first time, you will be paying at least £1,800. This is the pay-as-you-go (PAYG) approach that social media will tell you is the cheapest way.

Now let’s look at some packages available – the pay-up-front approach. I’m not going to mention any by name because I am not recommending any one of them above the rest.

One is currently advertising a Black Friday discount of £888 for a full course, including 52 hours of in-car training. The normal price is £1,000. Others come in at anywhere from £1,000-£2,000, and include up to 80 hours of training. At least one offers a money-back guarantee (there are conditions attached), and another offers a full refund of the course cost if you qualify and go into a franchise with them (conditions also attached, such as minimum term of contract). All of them offer inclusive remedial training (conditions attached, of course, such as there comes a time when enough is enough). But the important detail is the remedial training if you need more than the average number of hours – it’s inclusive up to a point, whereas on PAYG you just pay more for it no matter what.

During the lockdown I’ve had a lot of people asking me about training to become ADIs. One told me that a PAYG trainer had insisted on a minimum of 30 hours for Part 2 and 50 hours for Part 3 – that would amount to £2,700 even if you passed everything first time, and if the hourly rate was only £30 (it wasn’t specified). I would imagine that this isn’t a unique situation, either.

In all these examples – PAYG or package – the instructors are ORDIT-registered trainers. A trainer doesn’t automatically become bad simply because he is working for a company, or even if the company is one you’ve been conditioned to dislike because of what you’ve read on social media. You will be getting a similar standard of training however you do it and – as the example I just gave perhaps shows – any slightly bad apples might not necessarily be in the barrel you assumed they’d be in.

How you choose to train is up to you. But don’t be misled into thinking one way is either better or cheaper than another simply because of what you read in social media.

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DVSA logoUpdated again: A further DVSA email in mid-November ‘clarified’ the restart date. Another update today (see the end of this article) clarified it back to where it was the first time. I can’t be arsed to rewrite the whole article, so let’s leave it as a testament to how well the COVID pandemic is being managed.

DVSA has just sent out an email, which I suspect is intended to clarify things for those in this industry who find things more difficult to understand than most. I can’t see any other reason for it, since there’s nothing new in it.

In summary, it says:

The Government has announced new national restrictions will be in place in England from Thursday 5 November until Wednesday 2 December (inclusive) to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

Driving lessons in England

The Government has announced that during these dates, driving lessons should not take place in England.

What this means for driving tests

Further to the announcement from the Government, all driving tests in England will be suspended from Thursday 5 November and restart on Wednesday 2 December Thursday 3 December.

Critical workers tests and lessons

Given the short period of time the new restrictions will be in place, we will not be offering a critical worker priority service. We will keep this under review.

Waiting rooms in England

During the national restrictions in England we will also be pausing our plans to open up other waiting rooms in England until after 2 December.

There’s more words in the email, and a bit more information, so read the full message in the link at the start of this article. But this is the crux of it here. The strikethrough is the ‘clarification’ in the first update email.

Now let’s see what social media manages to pick out of this one to argue with. My money will be on that last one.

Update 1 December 2020: OK, I give up on this one. Another email has come through and apparently lessons CAN start again from 2nd December, unless you’re in Tier 3, where it is still the 3rd. Unlike most ADIs, I’m not blaming DVSA for this confusion. They originally said 2nd December, but the government ‘clarified’ it and it became 3rd December. Then we got the ‘tiers’ just to ‘clarify the situation even more’. Now we’re back to the 2nd. Or the 3rd.

It doesn’t affect me, anyway. I’m still holding out for either/both of a) the vaccine or b) infection rates similar to what we had during summer. With infections as they are right now, going out into the thick of it is only going to have one result – likely to end in another lockdown.

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