Covid-19 restrictions affecting practical driver testing wait times


Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency is working hard with its contracted provider Vehicle Testing New Zealand (VTNZ) to shorten wait times for practical driver testing across New Zealand, to address the sharp increase in demand for testing as a result of multiple Covid-19 Alert Level changes.

During the national and greater Auckland region Alert Level 3 and 4 lockdowns in the past 12 months as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, VTNZ was unable to conduct practical tests because the social distancing requirements necessary to reduce the potential spread of Covid-19 could not be achieved between the tester and the driver within the vehicle. 

This initially created a backlog of about 42,000 practical tests nationwide that weren’t able to take place during the seven and a half week nationwide lockdown last year, creating a high demand for tests from those unable to take their tests during lockdowns and other aspiring drivers looking to book tests at the same time. 

Further moves to Alert Level 3 in Auckland during August, February and March have meant further bookings during Alert Level 3 have needed to be rescheduled.  While practical driver testing can take place under Alert Level 2, extra time is required to complete testing while ensuring the health and safety of applicants, support people and testing officers. 

To address the issue, Waka Kotahi and VTNZ have increased the availability for testing since the initial COVID-19 lockdown, and the average number of tests a month nationwide has subsequently increased from about 25,000 to approximately 27,000 since July. All practical tests are conducted by a nationwide team of VTNZ Driver Testing Officers. 

“While we are out of the peak season for driver testing, the impact of the Covid-19 restrictions continues to have a flow-on effect on demand, and with already long wait times, this is impacting on wait times to book a practical test,” Hayley Evans, Senior Manager Systems Integrity says. 

“The normal maximum wait time to book and sit a practical test is six weeks. The current wait times change day to day based on availability, but in some areas current wait times are eight weeks or longer. We know this situation is frustrating for those waiting to sit their tests, and are working hard with VTNZ to address the issue and clear the testing backlog. 

“Waka Kotahi is working closely with VTNZ to further increase the capacity of testing, by increasing their testing officers nationwide.  The requirements to be eligible to train as a Driving Testing Officer (DTO) and the comprehensive training required to qualify as a DTO, means that this process takes time before new testing officers can work to the same capacity as an existing testing officer. 

“We encourage those waiting for tests to continue practicing so they are well prepared. We also ask that if you’re taking a test, please ensure your correct mobile phone number is provided when you make your booking, and make sure you arrive for your test with time to spare. VTNZ will send reminders about your test to your registered mobile number.” 

Online bookings for practical driving tests are available through up to three to four months in advance.

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