CALGARY — It’s been several months since the Alberta government announced it was re-opening road tests for drivers, but admits some people may still be waiting a while to book one.
All road tests were closed to the public in Alberta on March 17 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision left thousands of drivers, young and old, without a way to complete their testing required to obtain a licence.
Officials reopened the testing procedures on June 30 and say they are being conducted with a number of health protocols in place to protect both drivers and testers.
“New health protocols required for road tests include conducting health screening questions, requiring drivers to sanitize their vehicles and requiring the wearing of PPE,” said McKenzie Kibler, press secretary for Transportation Minister Ric McIver.
She adds with over three months of no road tests, there is a considerable backlog that officials are working through. The added health procedures are also making the tests take more time to complete.
But those aren’t the only reasons it’s taking a lot longer to book a road test appointment here, Kibler says.
“Unfortunately the NDP nationalized the driver test system, creating chronic wait times for Albertans and chasing away 50 per cent of Alberta’s examiners,” she wrote. “We’re cleaning up their mess and ask Albertans for their patience as we review that decision.”
In the meantime, the UCP government says it has committed to extending the working hours of testers at registries, recruiting more examiners and adding approximately 1,000 new tests per week.
‘EVIDENCE OF CHRONIC ABUSES’
The Alberta NDP says the previous government installed change that were meant to address some of the problems in the road testing industry that were revealed as a result of the investigation into the Humboldt bus crash.
“In response to the Humboldt bus tragedy and evidence of chronic abuses within the private driver testing system, our government acted to protect Albertans. The 2018 program included bringing driver testing into the public sector and increasing the overall number of examiners,” said Rod Loyola, MLA for Edmonton-Ellerslie and the Opposition Critic for Transportation.
The opposition says Minister McIver’s office failed to properly address the surge that would come when the COVID-19 public health orders were eased.
WAITING IS ALMOST THE HARDEST PART
Some Alberta drivers say the waiting time to book a test is tough enough but even when you get your chance, the smallest detail could put you back to square one.
Trevor Ober said he replaced the entire windshield of his vehicle prior to his 16-year-old son’s booking to make sure that everything would go ahead as planned.
“My son went in to do his driver’s test yesterday on Oct. 1. This was his second time that he’s gone to do it. The first time he had a crack in the windshield. It was still operable and he could see through the windshield, but they said they couldn’t do the test.”
For the second test, Ober said he inspected the entire vehicle with the tester but found one of the lights at the back of the vehicle by the rear window was out.
“He says we can’t do the test again and we’ll need to reschedule.”
Ober says despite his protests to have the test go ahead as scheduled, he was told nothing could be done.
As a result, he says his son now has to wait another six to eight months for his test while all his friends have their licence already.
“There’s a hole in this whole system right now,” he says. “(It) needs to be overhauled.”
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Alberta Transportation said an average of 16,000 road tests were conducted in the province each month.
CTV News has reached out to see how much that figure has changed under the new system.
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