‘Chaos in the industry’: Complaints mount over new Alberta driver exam system

New Alberta driver test system causing delays
The province's new drivers' exam system has led to chaos and delays, according to one industry group representing examiners. Alberta took over all driver examinations March 1. Fletcher Kent explains.

Editor’s note: Some information in this story has been removed due to privacy concerns.

If you want to take a road test in Alberta, prepare to wait — and not just at the yield signs.

Registries, students and some driver examiners are reporting lengthy waits to book driver exams.

“The introduction of the new model for road testing began with both poor planning, and (its) execution has led to chaos in the industry,” said Peter Llewellyn, president of the Certified Drivers Examiners Association.

READ MORE: Alberta examiners stop conducting driving tests over disagreement on industry deprivatization

Several registries report three-week wait times for a Class 5 road test.

Multiple registries tell Global News anyone looking to book a Class 4 test to operate a taxi or ambulance can’t book one anywhere in Alberta.

Story continues below advertisement

On March 1, the province took over all driver tests in Alberta. Before that, certified examiners operated as private contractors. Drivers booked tests with a registry, which called in an examiner.

Last year, Transportation Minister Brian Mason described the process as a “wild west” system that needed reform. He said the province received about seven complaints per day about examiners.

READ MORE: Alberta government taking back driver’s licence road testing from private industry

Under the new system, many complaints are over delays and the number of examiners.

Naomi Hill is with Callingwood Registries.

“The wait times have changed, obviously. We used to run on Saturdays. We had four examiners working so we could run up to 40 exams on a Saturday. Now we’re down to seven.”

Hours for provincial examiners have also changed.

“They’re only available between the hours of 9 and 5 Monday to Friday and we were offering tests from 8-7 Monday to Friday and Saturdays,” says Hill.

The new system does allow registries to be able to book road tests all over the province. Testing-time shortages mean Hill’s students have gone to great lengths for a licence. She says one customer travelled to Fort McMurray for a road test.

Story continues below advertisement

Advanced tests are even more challenging. Anyone who wants to get rid of limitations from a graduated driver’s licence must pass the Class 5 advanced test. Hill says one customer agreed to go to Red Deer this week to do the test because it was the last one available anywhere in April.

She says the province told her more examiners and times would be coming.

Other registries tell Global News they worry about what’s going to happen this summer. Typically, the May long weekend ushers in a busy summer road-test season.

“If the government continues upon its present course, the Albertans might be facing up to three months waiting time for their road test by August 2019,” the Certified Drivers Examiners Association (CDEA) said.

The CDEA wants the the Auditor General to review the new testing model.

When the province announced changes to driver testing, officials said they would be hiring 161 examiners. Prior to March 1, 153 private operators handled the duties.

Global News has asked provincial representatives about the how many examiners have been hired. That answer was not provided.

However, officials have said there are road test appointments available for all licence classes however, some individual registries are fully booked. Additional road tests for the month of May will soon be available.

Story continues below advertisement

At a news conference Monday morning, NDP Leader Rachel Notley defended the plan, saying it was required.

“If there are any unintended consequences or delays, we will dig in right away after the election and fix it. But we know the overall model is the right one.”

The province also recently introduced new training requirements for commercial truckers, which means all drivers who want those licences must take their test through an accredited school.

The Alberta Motor Transport Association says the changes have led to some hiccups but overall, its members are not sounding the alarm in the same way as the CDEA is.

“There’s a little bit of a capacity issue,” said AMTA president Chris Nash. “As they do that, as the new systems go into place, it’s a changeover time. Nothing goes smoothly in the beginning.”