Ontario driving schools deal with backlogs as in-vehicle lessons resume

Ontario driving schools have resumed in-vehicle lessons since the province moved to Step 2 earlier this week.

But the backlog for appointments could take years to resolve according to local driving school owners who say they’re holding on by a thread.

“Our phone has been ringing off the hook since Wednesday,” says Jacob Hammoud who owns and operates idrive Driving School in Windsor.

He says classes are booked solid now through September, noting many people are booking driving tests before getting the chance to learn.

“In many cases the students are going for their road test before they get a chance to get in the vehicle with us here,” Hammoud says. “The driving schools should be the ones starting before the driving centre to resume and get the students ready for their test, so this way when they do open, they’re ready to pass the road test and on they go.”

The Ministry of Transportation said 421,827 road tests have been cancelled due to pandemic-related lockdowns since March 2020.

The ministry said it has invested $16 million to deal with the backlog. Last fall it said it would hire 84 temporary driver examiners for its DriveTest centres, and has so far filled 35 of those positions. It recently announced it would hire 167 additional driver examiners, and recruitment is underway with the goal to have everyone on board by September.

The ministry said it will also add six temporary locations and offer road testing seven days a week where demand is highest, namely the Toronto area.

Hammoud tells CTV News his school received a memo on Canada Day from the provincial government saying all in-person educational classes must be taught outdoors, which he says may result in the next class being cancelled if arrangements can’t be made quickly.

“We’re not sure what to do now,” he says.

Hammoud says he’s frustrated, noting there has been no financial assistance similar to that provided to test centres.

“What they did, it just does not have any logic behind it,” he says. “It doesn’t make any sense. I don’t want to say it’s a money grab but you’d be surprised how many students are showing up and not passing their road test now because they did not get the proper training.”

- With files from The Canadian Press