Tuesday, 29 May 2007

How can we sharpen the DSA's teeth?

The driver training industry is full of contradictions. (Just look on the forums, or as 3 driving instructors how to reverse park, or 3 ADI trainers whether you can pass a cyclist on the zigzag lines approaching a pedestrian crossing!)

One of the biggest of these is how Driving Instructors feel about the DSA.

On one hand we complain that they do nothing about Instructor Training companies who promise seemingly impossible rewards, but then complain that the part 3 exam has too low a pass rate!

So the question has to be asked - how can we help the DSA sharpen it's teeth, without having it bite us?

One suggestion could be to encourage the ORDIT scheme to become mandatory, not just for companies, but for every individual ADI who is paid to provide ADI training.

Another is to ensure that ADI's who break the Code of Practice can be check tested and put on probation until they prove that they are able to follow the code.

Another suggestion could be that all ADI's must follow a progressive CPD program which ensures that the public understand what level of experience an ADI has, and what they are paying for.

But when would those teeth start to draw blood? Would one complaint from a disgruntled customer put an ADI's career (and income, house and possibly marraige) at risk?

Would a new entrant to the business be able to gain work when competing with less enthusiastic or less ambitious ADI's who have simply been in the industry longer?

Would an ADI trainer be able to get through ORDIT without help from a potential competitor?

Where should the lines be drawn?

Personally I think there are far too many of us who complain about the DSA, without understanding why they exist. They exist in the main to ensure that those on the road are capable of driving safely - all the rest of it is simply politics.

All ADI trainers should be on ORDIT, but the regulations should be made simpler, with step by step assessment of their capabilities - for each assessment (and it's attendant cost) they should gain part of their accreditation.

All ADIs should have to accept and stick to the Code of Practice, but the complaints procedure must be made as open and accountable as possible allowing each party to put their view before action is taken.

All ADIs should have to follow a CPD program which follows a clear path (or paths) allowing (and enabling) instructors to work towards their own goals.

And don't even get me started on franchise agreements and their use and abuse - from both sides of the contract.

Thursday, 24 May 2007

How long does it take to earn £30k as a Driving Instructor?

Just a quick on here - if you're one of those who does actually want to earn the £30k I've done a quick straw poll.

Only 10% of driving instructors will ever reach that magical figure.

Bearing in mind that more than 60% of driving instructors are working 6 or 7 day weeks - it's going to be a long hard slog to get there - but it is possible!

Of the instructors I have spoken to - they reached the £30k figure after serious work for about 5 years.

In their first year 80% of them made a loss from driving instruction - once training fees had been figured in.

In their second year, they felt that they probably worked 60+ hours a week for less than the minimum wage.

In their third year the average seems to have been around £12k for a lot of work. These instructors all continued taking further qualifications. None of them sat back with their green badge.

In their fourth year they earnt over £20k, and worked hard on reducing their costs and increasing their business skills.

In the fifth year they hit the £30k. They reckon they worked about 65 hours/week including travelling between training sessions. An hourly wage of around £8.87.

Only one of them relies purely on training learners.

Just thought you might like to know.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Will all check tests soon be roleplay?

Going purely on rumour again guys - you know me, never let a lack of facts get in the way of a good story - but there's suggestions that the check test is moving towards a purely roleplay format.

Now I'm normally here defending the DSA, but on this one I won't be.

There are various reasons why the roleplay could be useful to both ourselves and the DSA. It introduces a set format with a simply examined structure, allowing for much more standardised gradings for instructors. It also reduces the problems with instructors "prepping" their check test pup.

However, many of the examiners have never been driving instructors, and at best their experience of how learners react is limited to their experience on tests. This means that the mistakes they make during check tests are often un-realistic and do not follow the pattern that we see on a day to day basis.

It also takes no account of the work we do with individual pups, with regards to problems and weaknesses outside the knowledge & skills area. Some attitude is tested, but in comparison to the amount of work some of us do with nervous or disabled customers it is woefully inadequate in assessing this, and often actually causes good specialist instructors to be graded lower than they deserve. The examiners often misunderstand how we work to teach people in the way that they learn, rather than in the way the DSA would rather we teach.

Unlike some instructors I feel that a great instructor would not fail a roleplay checktest, and a good one should at least be able to achieve a grade 4 - so no-one's livelihood is at risk. The problem occurs when we look to each other for help - we understand the gradings, and will often take them as read. Unfortunately this means that some of the finest specialist trainers are penalised within the industry because the DSA do not understand the complexities of their chosen speciality.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Driving Me Crazy - John Sargeant on 4x4's

Oh, I know that ITV can't do serious programming and that their target audience has an IQ of less than 83, but at least they tried!!

One thing that did get me thinking though was the difference in the driving once they changed from their tanks into normal cars. I've noticed this before, especially with women (sorry guys, but....!) who drive 4x4's and actually feel very vulnerable when brought down to a normal level.

Now unless we are to have an arms race on car sizes, something is going to have to happen. Once it has happened (probably with taxation, because it's the only language that fashion victims understand, until we can convince them that smaller cars are less "thick" than 4x4's or any other gas guzzlers) there will be a huge demand for defensive driving courses in order to stop people feeling nervous in smaller cars!

So sign up for my new course:

Newly divorced from your 4x4?
Was it a painful split?
Left feeling nervous and unconfident about your new car relationship?
Let the Undercover ADI renew your driving confidence!
Regain the ability to be polite to other drivers, regain the ability to understand how other road users react, regain the ability to feel comfortable driving your car!

We guarantee that we will actually save you TEN TIMES the cost of your course within 1 year of taking it.
Fuel savings of up to £800/year based on changing from a petrol 4x4 to a diesel small car.
Tax savings of over £100/year, not including reduced parking and congestion charges for those based in London
Car savings of up to and over £20,000 on your new, smaller car!!!!

Who could resist?

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Stupid people - AGAIN!!!!

This is becoming a theme!

Just saw a link to this on one of the forums so I couldn't resist posting on it!


Unfortunately this shows the attitudes that we have to put up with.

More intensive driving course enquiries!

Yep. Even more.

I've run low on trainee instructors at the minute, and I keep getting enquiries for intensive driving courses, so I've started wondering - should I take some of them on?

There's a few who've got a straight no - the guy who started the phone conversation with:

"'ow much're ya lessons mate?"
"Cnaye ave a coupla lessons 'n do me test on tuesdy?"

and the young lady who informed me:

"ahv bin dryvin wiv me da, an 'e sez ahm ohkay"

but there have been another couple who've actually been able to string a coherent sentence together, like the lad who's off to join the army and wants to learn in the next 6 weeks but can only get one week off work.

Then there's the girl who has booked her test, and has given me a very sensible and reasonable account of her previously failed test (complete with emailed DL25), who wants about 10 hours before next tuesday.

And I'm in a quandary.

I HATE doing intensives, but there's loads of cash in them.

I find that people who do intensives tend to be terrible drivers because humans forget everything at a rate commensurate with the rate they learnt it (I think we all understand this one from cramming for exams, then 2 weeks into the summer hols we haven't got a clue what we did).

I find myself wondering why these people cannot organise their lives properly so that they don't need to do an intensive.

And finally, I don't like not having the flexibility to decide for myself when they will be ready. I know this is selfish, I know this is a failing in my confidence, I know this is a failing in my conviction.

But I bet those of you who do intensives have the same feelings sometimes.

And still the main question remains - do I take the cash and work, or do I sit here and lurk in the forums?!!!

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

The demise of intelligence!

I keep getting phone calls at the moment asking how much my lessons are.

No real problem until I ask where they found out about me, at which point they tell me that they got my number off my website. The funny thing is - my prices are on every page of my website.

Then there's the ones who presume that I'll be able to fit them in immediately, whenever they want, forgetting that I have other customers and a life to accomodate. Then they go all quiet as they realise that it's not quite as easy as they presumed it would be.

It is at this point that I wonder whether I actually want to take on someone whose life so obviously revolves around themselves.

A good driving instructor will try to accomodate customers as well as is possible, but there are limits, and the ones who get a bit annoyed that you can't fit them in will be the same ones who will cancel when they want, and expect you to put them in for test before they are ready.

Anything for a quiet life - I leave them well alone.

Friday, 4 May 2007


I've just been speaking to yet another trainee instructor who's been let down by their training company. I won't mention this one because they are a bit litigious apparently, but at least 2 of the "good guys" have worked for them at 1 point or another and left because of the way the company treated their trainees.

This one apparently isn't going to receive any more training because they are now costing the company money. The training was offered as a set fee with a guarantee to pass. Now this trainee doesn't lack get up and go - they're proactive (sorry, I'll make up a buzzword bingo card one of these days, but it's the best word to describe them) and well informed, but because of a combination of nerves and frickin awful training they haven't passed their part 3 yet.

And now they're getting the run around from their company who haven't actually said they can't give them more training, but serious hints have been dropped.

Now should this trainee go back to the company and just bully them into providing what has been paid for, or should they run and get some decent training?

You decide.