What can we say about 2020 except COVID-19. It took over every aspect of our lives, stopped us working, kept us at home and affected everyone in many difficult ways, both physically and emotionally.
As the year draws to an end with the vaccine being rolled out, it’s possible to be a bit more hopeful about 2021.
In the meantime, let’s have a look at everything that happened in 2020 – in the world, in the driver and rider training industry and at the DIA.
In January we relaunched the magazine, with a new name and a new look. Driving Instructor became Driver Trainer to reflect the modern face of the profession.
January was also a time BC – before coronavirus. Though we heard about it in China, we had no idea how much it would affect our lives this year. The top story of the month was that car sales were at a seven-year low yet emissions had increased. Little did we know that car sales would drop even more drastically as the year went on, but emissions would decrease enormously as we all stayed at home and off the roads.
Our CEO Carly Brookfield began our DIA casebook series this month. The casebook looks at real-life cases experienced by our members. This month’s looked at the issue of malicious complaints and what you can do to reduce the risk of this happening.
Elsewhere, Brake laid out its safety report for the year, Karen Bransgrove tried out some electric and hybrid cars and we heard from BAS’s Helen Dolphin about how she learned to drive again after losing her limbs.
Our top story this month was about changes to theory test – moving from written case studies to video clips. This was due to be introduced in April, but eventually happened in September. The petrol and diesel ban was brought forward to 2035 (more on that later).
DVSA also published new versions of the driver’s record this month. It was hoped the changes would help encourage learners to broaden their experience before taking their test, particularly in regards to driving in the dark. The DIA’s Howard Redwood went into more depth about these and their merits, while DVSA explained the thinking behind the driving in the dark campaign.
The standards check is always top of the list of concerns for our members. Diamond chief examiner Karen Bransgrove had hers at the beginning of the year and I was her pupil! We talked about what we learned from the experience.
This was also the month where the government announced no more dynamic smart motorways. It was reported in the news that near misses had increased on smart motorways and Road Safety GB and Highways England discussed the problems with these types of roads.
March was when we started to realise that COVID was going to have a huge impact on all of our lives. Just as the magazine was going to print DVSA cancelled theory tests for four weeks. Then on 23 March we were all told to stay at home and life was put on hold for an indefinite amount of time.
As the magazine was produced earlier in the month, there was very little COVID content. Our top news story was that the number of motorists taking driver awareness courses had tripled since 2010. The Budget that month was full of incentives for drivers to go electric and the government also planned to invest hugely in roads.
March’s magazine was a training special, focusing on driving at night, independent driving and motorway driving. Howard Redwood began his fleet series, taking us through the basics of fleet training and the skills needed. Carly’s casebook discussed CCJs and I found out about the transport systems of the future at Move 2020, an
in-person busy exhibition which seems like an impossible dream now!
April was the month when coronavirus really hit. It was also the month when we developed our key worker training register. We’d had reports from members that they’d been harassed for on-road key worker training even though it was permitted. Our register was designed to verify trainers so they could have peace of mind when working on the road.
NASP urged driver trainers to stop training to help stop the spread of coronavirus, driving tests were suspended for three months and the government started putting financial measures in place as it was becoming clear just how much of an impact this virus was going to have on businesses. Driving mileage was down 60% and Tfl suspended road user charging schemes.
We put together a guide to all the financial assistance available at the time, NASP released a guide to training critical/key workers and DVSA provided answers to the COVID-19 FAQs. Jim Whalen debunked a few coronavirus myths (of which there continue to be many) and Nick Heath talked about ways to minimise business risk.
We knew how important it was to keep your business going in any way possible so Olivia Baldock-Ward had some suggestions for keeping your pupils engaged as they couldn’t have in-car driving lessons.
Our May issue was more optimistic – it was all about preparing to get back on the road.
In the news, the government launched a new emergency driving test service, as well as a self-employed income support grant to try and ease some of the financial strain of the pandemic. Unsurprisingly new car sales were down 97.3% as no one could visit car showrooms to purchase vehicles.
This month was also when DVSA temporarily changed the driving test – if the candidate has a serious or dangerous fault the test is terminated and the driver and examiner return to the test centre. This amendment is still in place.
Recognising that the most pressing issue for our members was finances, our CEO Carly wrote an in-depth article around the relevant loans, government support and payment deferral schemes. We also produced a guide to safe in-car training for those training key workers and for when everyone else was able to return to the roads. As well as this, Liam Greaney looked at common reasons why pupils choke during their driving test.
Nick Heath told us about how he’d been using his suddenly free time to volunteer for charity. Finally, we heard about the experiences both in the hospital and on the road of Anthony Fuller’s pupil Maria, an ICU nurse learning to drive.
Rebuilding your business was the theme for June. Having been battered by the year so far, Carly looked at ways to stabilise your finances and cheaply market your business as well as providing an overview of risk management.
It’s always useful to put yourself in your learners’ shoes to understand how they feel. Liam Greaney did this by learning to drive a powerboat (pre-lockdown). He talked about his experience and what it taught him about driving instruction. We also learned about the process of becoming an LGV trainer from John Hutchings.
In the news, DVSA had to cancel theory and practical driving tests again and some drivers took advantage of the empty roads to drive at shockingly dangerous speeds. The pandemic took a toll on people’s mental health with young people seeking solace in their cars for a bit of time away from people in their household. Driving lessons restarted on the Isle of Man. In good news, Maria the ICU nurse passed her driving test!
July was all about the new normal. Driver and rider trainers were back at work if they chose to be (except for those in Scotland) but we all had to be very careful. Masks were mandatory in shops and during driving tests and recommended during driving lessons. ADIs had to follow a strict in-car cleaning regime, as well as keep in regular contact with their pupils to make sure no one had any coronavirus symptoms.
In the news, theory tests were not extended for people whose certificates had expired during the lockdown. This meant these pupils were delayed even further as they’d have to retake their theory test before rebooking a practical test. The ongoing issue around closed waiting rooms at test centres rumbled on, but at least the toilets were finally open.
The enforced hiatus from work meant many in the profession had to earn more money than before. Carly Brookfield talked about the importance of charging what you’re worth in her feature about how to price your services.
We also answered your most common questions about PPE, COVID-19 and the return to testing and training. Olivia Baldock-Ward looked at easy-to-make mistakes that could invalidate your car insurance and Jim Whalen discussed the importance of setting learning goals for your pupils.
With finances tight this year, it was important to think of new ways to promote and expand your business for little or no money. A great website is vital and this month I took you through the basics of creating your own. If you know nothing about building a website, this is the guide for you – I even included a glossary of terms as it’s often assumed that people understand website jargon when they don’t.
Carly opened the DIA casebook again to discuss a case where we helped a member resolve a dispute with a car finance company. Our training feature from Jim Whalen was again about goal setting for your pupils. He looked at the theory behind it and the best way to set goals to help your pupils learn.
In the news, the Scottish government finally announced that driving lessons could restart on 24 August. Standards checks and part 3 tests restarted in England and Wales with extra precautions in place. The emergency driving test application service was closed and the green light was given for potential 60mph speed limits through roadworks, instead of the previous 50mph.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from this year, it’s that we need to be prepared for the unexpected. In September we looked at risk, with a comprehensive guide to creating your own risk assessment from Nick Heath. Howard Redwood also spoke about risk in his fleet feature; he defines the phrase ‘as far as is reasonably practicable’ in the context of a company reducing risk by spending money on fleet training.
This month’s DIA casebook was all about two ADIs that took the risk of using their phones while in the car – one behind the wheel and one while supervising. We also took a look at mindfulness with ADI Sandra Harper, a technique which could help us with all the uncertainty in our lives this year due to the pandemic.
In the news, after weeks of difficulty booking driving tests, DVSA increased the number of slots available so people could book 18 weeks ahead. This eased the problem, at least for the time being. The government announced that it would bring forward legislation to introduce life sentences for drivers who kill people on the road. It was revealed that speeding incidents had tripled during lockdown and that accidents in 20mph zones had increased 150% in three years, mainly because the majority of people do not stick to the speed limit.
This was the month when the talk of tiers began. The government announced three tiers of COVID restrictions, with only Liverpool in tier three – very high alert. Throughout the year, a huge problem for driver and rider trainers was the lack of communication from DVSA and the government about what the COVID restrictions meant for them, whether they could work or not, if they could teach key workers, rebooking cancelled tests and the rules in the different tiers.
Another issue for the industry since driving tests restarted was the lack of waiting rooms and in October they still weren’t open. NASP urged action on this problem as ADIs had been forced to wait outside in the cold and rain while their students took their tests.
In October driver trainers were still on the road, so Paul Moignard contributed his thorough standard operating procedure for lessons. His experience as a former scrub nurse meant that he understood PPE more than most so he offered a useful perspective.
Lockdown saw a huge issue with speeding drivers, but slow drivers can also be a hazard, so Tom Harrington looked into this issue in depth. And we also found out where the angriest drivers in the UK are (Belfast, according to the survey)!
Lockdown 2.0 dominated November for our English members. Both Wales and Northern Ireland had introduced ‘firebreak’ lockdowns to prevent the spread of COVID. England went into full lockdown and, once again, it was a month of confusion and worry for driver and rider trainers.
Driving tests were cancelled and DVSA said driving lessons should cease. However with no mention of driving lessons in legislation some in the industry decided to keep working. This became an extremely contentious issue.
November also had good news – a vaccine. Though it will take quite a long time to roll out the vaccine, it was nice to have some hope. This year has taken a toll financially but also emotionally as we have been unable to visit and hug our loved ones, particularly if they are old and/or vulnerable.
As we were all confined to our homes once more, I thought it would be a good time to write part two of my website article, focusing on writing for the web and SEO. We also took a look at PR. The magazine was focused on marketing on a budget, much like a webinar Carly and I hosted a few months before. The DIA hosted weekly webinars throughout the COVID crisis and they’re all still available to view for free on the DIA Academy website.
On the road again. After a tense week or so it was finally announced on 1 December that driving lessons could restart on the 2 December in all tiers. Driving tests also restarted on that day in tiers one and two and on 3 December in tier three. Routine standards checks were cancelled to free up examiners to try and clear some of the backlog of driving tests.
There was more good news as DVSA announced it was to open 93 more test centre waiting rooms. The agency had opened a handful in England and Scotland just before lockdown and subsequently some in Wales. With approximately 380 test centres in the UK there’s still a way to go, but it’s a start.
The government announced that it would ban petrol and diesel new car sales by 2030, but hybrids would still be permitted.
The vaccine was rolled out to the oldest and most vulnerable people in our society. With Christmas approaching and the rules relaxed to allow for larger bubbles, hopefully the end of the year will be a joyful time. Here’s to 2021!
Source: ADI News
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