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Driving instructor Gavin Buchanan is “ecstatic” that wait times to sit driving tests in Thames have been reduced. Photo: KELLEY TANTAU

Driving test wait times slashed in Thames

A local driving instructor is “ecstatic” that wait times to sit driving tests in Thames have been reduced from three months to a maximum of two weeks.
Gavin Buchanan, owner of Thames Driver Training, said long wait times caused by staffing shortages and the Covid-19 pandemic had not only been unfair on learners, but costly, too.
“It’s brilliant because students now book a test and say a week, two weeks later, they’ll go out and pass it. Before, they’d have to come back to me for a lesson,” he said.
“Sure, I was making money, but it wasn’t money I wanted to make because I’d have to squeeze them in after hours or on the weekends. But now they’re going to sit their test and they’re passing.”
Back in August, 2021, VTNZ told The Profile that time spent in alert levels 3 and 4 across the country during the Covid-19 lockdown had resulted in a backlog of more than 42,000 driver tests nationwide.
In January this year, they again reiterated the “surge in demand” after each lockdown period throughout 2020 and 2021. In addition, the provider was also experiencing a summer peak in demand.
But since the appointment of a second driving testing officer (DTO) in Thames earlier this year, Gavin said students were now getting what they’d been missing out on.
He also had a hunch that the pass rate among test takers had improved.
“My gut feeling is that the pass rate has gone up because students can book their test when they’re ready and don’t have to wait,” he said.
“When they do have to wait two-three months, their driving goes backwards, and that’s why they were coming back to get an extra lesson or two. So, this has made it easier for everyone. I’m really delighted that something’s been done about it.”
VTNZ’s national technical manager Craig Basher also said he was delighted that the introduction of a second DTO in Thames was making a positive impact on the community.
He said the wait times during and post-Covid peaked at 90 days, and now the wait for someone to sit their practical restricted or full class 1 licence was measured in days rather than months.
This also had a positive impact on wait times for those sitting their heavy vehicle licence.
However, statistics for pass and fail rates in the Thames Valley area since the appointment of the second testing officer could not be obtained by The Profile. VTNZ said the statistics were held by Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, which did not respond to VTNZ before deadline.