Driving test backlog will rumble on until January 2024

With learners up and down the country agonising over when they may finally be able to book a driving test we thought we’d take a deep dive into the issue and recalculate when the backlog will clear.


Nick Pitman Marmalade

By Nick Pitman

Updated on Jan 20th, 2022

With the 2020/21 lockdowns causing carnage to the driving test booking system, we have seen a backlog rumbling on throughout the last 12 months. Learners have struggled to book tests, have spent more money, with some even forced to travel far and wide to secure a test.

Although back in March last year we predicted the backlog would clear by the end of this month, we’ve noticed the problem has compounded as demand outweighed supply. With learners up and down the country agonising over when they may finally be able to book a driving test we thought we’d take a deep dive into the issue and recalculate when the backlog will clear.

With this demand in mind, our research has found the DVSA only has the capacity to conduct an estimated 130,622 tests per month, according to an average taken from Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures of conducted driving tests in 2021***. This means there is a greater demand for tests than there are slots available in January. We can therefore predict there will be a backlog of 113,755 tests at the end of the month which can only be taken in February at the earliest.

By taking into account the excess tests rolled over from January, 113,755, the number of tests already booked in February, 108,104, and the estimated number of learners who will go on to try and book their test next month, 110,830, we can calculate there will be a demand for 332,689 tests in February. By forecasting the maximum of 130,622 tests which will be carried out in February, we can estimate the driving test backlog will grow to 202,067 by the end of next month.


With the demand for driving tests set to far outweigh the number of slots available at the start of this year, the driving test backlog will reach its peak in May when there’ll be more than half a million (520,581) learners wanting to book a test. 

Although the backlog will slowly begin to clear from June onwards, there will still be more than 250,000 learners waiting to book their test at the start of 2023 - a stark reminder of the depth of this issue. In fact, it won’t be until August next year when the backlog dips back below 100,000 people.

The finish line will however be in sight as winter approaches in 2023 and by the end of December the backlog will be down to less than 20,000 people.


January 2024 is the month learner drivers will be holding out for though as the demand for driving tests, 126,541, will finally fall below the availability of tests, 130,622.

 

2022

Estimated demand for tests

Max number of tests that can be carried out

Excess tests rolled over to following month

Jan

244377

130622

113755

Feb

332689

130622

202067

March

427539

130622

296917

April

476619

130622

345997

May

520581

130622

389959

June

502589

130622

371967

July

482797

130622

352175

Aug

463005

130622

332383

Sep

443213

130622

312591

Oct

423421

130622

292799

Nov

403629

130622

273007

Dec

383837

130622

253215

Jan '23

364045

130622

233423

Feb '23

344253

130622

213631

March '23

324461

130622

193839

April '23

304669

130622

174047

May '23

284877

130622

154255

June '23

265085

130622

134463

July '23

245293

130622

114671

Aug '23

225501

130622

94879

Sep '23

205709

130622

75087

Oct '23

185917

130622

55295

Nov '23

166125

130622

35503

Dec '23

146333

130622

15711

Jan '24

126541

130622

 

What has the DVSA done about the backlog?

In light of the backlog and the challenges faced by learners, the DVSA says it has introduced measures to increase car driving tests, including:

  • Offering overtime and annual leave buy back to our driving examiners  
  • Asking all those qualified to conduct tests, but who do not do so as part of their current day job, to return to conducting tests  
  • Inviting recently retired examiners to conduct tests  
  • Conducting out of hours testing such as at weekends and on public holidays  
  • A campaign to recruit up to an additional 300 examiners

How do learners feel about the backlog?

Our research in September found learners were paying on average £249.20 to cover the costs of extra lessons while they waited for a test slot, with 77% of learners citing the extra cost of more lessons as the biggest frustration in the delay for tests.

The top five frustrations for learners caused by the backlog include:

  • Having to pay for more driving lessons - 77% 
  • Having to rely on friends or family to drive  - 71%
  • Delaying independence and freedom - 68% 
  • Being unable to drive to work / college / training - 66% 
  • Being unable to drive for social / leisure purposes - 64%

What to do if you find yourself waiting for a driving test slot?

Get to know how a car works

Part of the driving test will check your ability to maintain a car, so start getting used to where the oil is and how to check it, how to gauge your tyre’s tread, where engine coolant and screenwash goes. Can you name what the warning lights mean on the dashboard?

Practise with a family member or friend if you can 

Getting extra experience on the road at different times of the day will prove invaluable when it comes to taking your test. The extra time will allow you to master the areas you have found challenging and also to keep your skills and knowledge fresh and test-ready. You will need to make sure your supervising driver is over the age of 21, they have the right learner driver insurance for you to drive their car and have held a full UK licence for at least three years.

Methodology

The Data

*Following an FOI request to the DVSA, we established all tests already booked in 2022 and when, as of 22/12/21.

**An FOI request in January 2022 revealed gross demand for driving tests across all of 2021. Using the data, Marmalade has established an average gross monthly demand for driving tests in 2022.

Both ‘*’ and ‘**’ come together to create ‘estimated demand for tests’.

***Marmalade sourced available data from the ONS around driving tests conducted throughout 2021 once lockdowns were lifted to establish an average monthly capacity for testing across the UK.

This data leads to the ‘max number of tests which can be carried out’.

Calculating the backlog

To establish the scale of the backlog, we took bookings already made in 2022 and plotted these by month, we then added these to the gross monthly average number taken from gross demand for tests in 2021. We then subtracted the ‘max capacity for testing’. Any excess tests were rolled over to the next month where these were taken into account in the same calculation as before. We then subtracted the ‘max capacity for testing’ again. The process continued until there were no excess tests.

All original data can be found here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1LDf--dPB-i0rqduHBOpHWwxVMMfEnPDCNquPNW1PlXg/edit#gid=0

 

 

 

 

 

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Nick Pitman Marmalade

By Nick Pitman

I’m a seasoned driver trying to get rid of my bad habits but I haven’t forgotten what it was like for me when I was learning and struggling to pass my test. I'm looking forward to playing the role of taxi driver for my daughter!


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