Does the road ahead of you lead to driving instruction? It’s a career that offers varied opportunities and flexible employment to those of the right disposition. So, mirror, signal manoeuvre … read on!
Driving instructors offer guidance to their students on how to drive all kinds of vehicles safely on the roads, enabling the learner drivers in their charge to gain a full understanding of all aspects of driving in order to gain a full driving licence or improve their skills in a particular area (take a look at the box titled ‘The day job’, for more info). The bulk of the average driving instructor’s workload, though, will involve learner drivers seeking to pass their driving test in a car.
This sector is becoming increasingly competitive as more and more people find they are attracted to the idea of working for themselves – this might apply to you too. Remember, though, that the hours can be long and demanding, and driving instructors often work alone, on a self-employed basis, even if they are working as part of a franchise for a larger driving school. This means that payment is received only for those hours when instruction is actually taking place and any time between lessons is unpaid. For this reason, some instructors work part-time, fitting their driving instruction work around another job.
If you want to work as a driving instructor, your biggest outlay will be for your car; as well as the initial purchase price, fuel and maintenance can be expensive. However, if you choose to work for a franchise, you may be provided with a car as part of the deal, particularly if the franchise fee is high.
First stop: register as an ADI
Step one to becoming an instructor is to register with the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) to train as an approved driving instructor (ADI). To do so, you will need to meet the following conditions:
- be aged 21 or over
- have held a driving licence for at least three years
- complete and pass enhanced CRB and motoring conviction checks.
Before you can apply to join the ADI Register, as a Potential Driving Instructor you must pass three qualifying tests (see below, under ‘Get qualified!’). An ADI is someone who has passed all three parts and is currently registered with the DVSA. You will need to apply to the DVSA before you start the qualifying tests. Once you have passed the second part of the qualifying examination – the driving ability assessment – you can apply for the trainee’s ‘licence to give instruction’. Although this allows you to be legally paid for giving driving instruction, it is not an alternative to registering as an ADI.
Once registered, an ADI may work for a driving school or become self-employed. Some ADIs choose to take additional qualifications so that they can train drivers of large goods vehicles (LGVs), say, or fleet drivers. An ADI must also pass special ‘check tests’ at certain intervals. These are to satisfy the Registrar that they still meet the DVSA’s standards for ability and fitness to give instruction.
Skill up while serving
Each Service has its own driving instructors based at the Defence School of Transport, its satellite establishments, single-Service bases and with units – all of them trained and qualified to DVSA standards. Some will be on the appropriate register, others may not be. However, virtually every motor transport pool is able to instruct people to drive the vehicles it manages. Thanks to the vast range of vehicles in use in the Armed Forces, there are Service people holding every conceivable licence, not to mention those who have trained them.
The three tests that you have to take to become an ADI are:
- computer-based test in two parts, theory test and hazard perception test
- practical test of driving skills
- practical test of teaching ability.
You must pass each part before taking the next. You can take the theory test (part 1) as many times as you need to, but you have only three attempts to pass parts 2 and 3. You must pass these within two years of passing part 1. The qualifying process usually takes many months.
Part 1, the theory test, comprises two parts: a multiple-choice section and a hazard perception section; it takes around 1 hour and 45 minutes altogether. You must pass both parts at the same time to pass the test. There’s no limit to how many times you can take the test, which currently costs £81.
The second part is the driving ability assessment test. It takes around an hour, currently costs £111, and consists of an eyesight test, vehicle safety questions and a test of your ability to drive to a very high standard. It will prove whether or not you have a thorough understanding of good, safe driving techniques, and that you can also demonstrate them.
Part 3 is the test of instructional ability, which measures your ability to instruct pupils and is generally considered the most difficult of the three qualifying tests. You must pass part 2 before you book part 3. The test, which currently costs £111, takes around an hour and includes an assessment of core competencies, instructional techniques and instructor characteristics. During the test, the examiner will assess these by playing the role of two different pupils. Once you have passed this test, you can apply for your first ADI badge and join the ADI register.
Please note that all three parts of the ADI test work differently in Northern Ireland (see www.gov.uk/browse/driving/teaching-people-to-drive for further information).
The ADI qualification lasts four years. You will have to apply to renew your registration before the end of your current registration period, and have another CRB check.
Motorcycle instructors may be trained directly by Approved Training Bodies (the only organisations that can teach Compulsory Basic Training, CBT) and/ or complete a two-day assessment by examiners at a specified DVSA centre. Further qualification is required to teach Direct Access courses.
LGV instructors who wish to be on the DVSA’s voluntary register take a similar series of exams to those for ADIs. They can be certified for four years, after which time they will need to re-register.
Lift truck instructors should pass a course with a trainer accredited by the Health & Safety Executive.
Blue light vehicles (police, fire, ambulance and MoD) are now recognised as a specialist category for the training of drivers who are competent in emergency situations. The three core competencies are:
- assessing the need for an emergency response
- driving the vehicle safely to emergencies
- demonstrating the correct attitude when responding to emergencies.
Fleet driver training also has a voluntary registration scheme for trainers. Fleet driver trainers, qualified to a higher level, teach more advanced driving, usually in the corporate market; the register was introduced to set standards for those who specialise in providing this type of training, and to help raise the profile of the training on offer to fleet drivers and their employers. ADIs can qualify for the register through a threepart exam comprising a touchscreen-based theory test, a practical driving test and a practical instructional test, or they can complete and pass an accredited course.
THE DAY JOB
Driving lessons usually follow a similar pattern. As an instructor, you will be teaching your clients:
- to use vehicle controls with confidence
- to manoeuvre, turn, reverse and park safely
- the correct approach to road safety
- about driving laws and the Highway Code
- how to do basic vehicle checks
- how to deal with emergency situations.
DO YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES?
Driving instructors need to be accomplished drivers; they also need flexibility, imagination and commitment. A Service background, with its social interaction and self-discipline, offers very good preparation. The ability to teach is vital, as are a high level of driving skills, a knowledge of how people learn, an ability to assess the performance of others, and communication and interpersonal skills.
FINDING A TRAINING PROVIDER
As a potential instructor, you should ensure that the training provider you choose is reputable. The Official Register of Driving Instructor Training (ORDIT) lists suitably qualified and inspected trainers and establishments, and anyone seeking ADI training can approach them knowing that they have achieved the required standards. Training costs vary, so you should contact several providers to compare fees before deciding which course offers the best value for your personal circumstances. Be aware that many companies advertise in the press, and there is no requirement to be registered with the ORDIT.
Once qualified, there are several options: l move into the profession gradually by fitting instruction around another employment l launch immediately as a sole trader l become a franchisee with a local or national driving school l enter a partnership with other instructors and pool efforts.
Working for a franchise
If you decide to work as a driving instructor through a franchise, the fees you’ll have to pay are likely to vary considerably, depending on what’s included. (Clearly, this may account for a significant proportion of your earnings, so you will need to give it careful consideration.) Working through a franchise, you would usually pay a weekly fee of between £200 and £300, but be provided with a car. You would also pay for your own fuel. If a fee seems on the high side, check the sorts of benefits it includes. For example, will you get:
- a car included in the cost (although not fuel expenses)
- brand recognition
- a guaranteed supply of students
- a higher hourly rate?
What can you earn?
The marketplace is diverse and offers many different earning opportunities. As well as training learner drivers to pass both the theory and practical elements of the test, there is the Pass Plus scheme, the Driver Improvement Scheme and retraining people who have fallen foul of motoring laws.
According to the National Careers Service, full-time driving instructors can earn around £18,000 to £20,000 in their first year. Established instructors can earn around £25,000 a year, and experienced or specialist skills instructors £30,000 or more. Income is based on the cost of the driving lesson and the number of hours worked. Lessons usually cost between £18 and £30 an hour. Car maintenance and other expenses, such as fuel, have to be paid for too, so don’t forget to factor in these essential expenses.