The operators of many Munich driving schools are quite frustrated: Hundreds of learner drivers are waiting for their practical tests, but only a fraction can take them promptly. There are various reasons for the delay, and there is no early end to the exam backlog.
More than 50 learner drivers from the Tavini driving school are currently waiting for an exam. They could send 60 students a month for exams, but currently there are only ten appointments. If you fail the exam, you may have to wait four months for the second exam. “Normally you only had to wait four weeks for an appointment,” says Tamara Krajina. For her as the exam coordinator at the Tavini driving school, the situation is “an absolute disaster”.
Her father Mario has been running the driving school since March 2019. But during the entire time the situation was not as bad as it is at the moment, says Krajina. While the number of new registrations before the first lockdown was between 30 and 40, it exploded the following summer. “We had 85 new registrations in June and July,” says Krajina. Too many for the still young driving school with its two branches in Munich and Freising. In the meantime, the number of new registrations has leveled off at 50 per month. But the demand has not decreased since Corona. “Many of our students no longer want to use public transport,” says Krajina. One of her students works in nursing. She usually takes the bus to work, but since Corona, the risk of infection there is too high for her.
Driving schools were not considered systemically relevant during the lockdowns and had to remain closed. The entire operation was idle, except for truck inspections. Pupils whose apprenticeship fell into one of the lockdowns had to wait for their driving tests, says Krajina. The waiting lists of the driving school became longer, when the students will finally get their driver’s license is not foreseeable. While the number of waiting test subjects increased, so did the number of new registrations. A difficult situation for both driving instructors and students. “The whole thing is not only expensive, it also costs strength and motivation,” says Krajina.
Christian Krieger is also struggling with the exam backlog. One day before the driving schools had to close for the first time, he and his business partner Markus Häge founded the Drive X driving school. Both had taken over their fathers’ businesses and joined forces. The two now operate six branches, five of them in Munich. For Krieger, the current situation is dangerous to business: “We haven’t been able to accept any new customers for a few months.” First of all, the learner drivers they have already trained have to finish, but the teachers are slowly becoming less motivated when there is no exam in sight, he says.
In addition to the pent-up tests, there is also the extended test time. As of January 1, 2021, the period was extended from 45 to 55 minutes. While ten exams were previously possible in one day, only nine can now take place. “But the real problem lies with the TÜV,” says Krieger. The test center could not do anything for the extended test periods, but the lack of testers was enormous. “More and more examiners are retiring and fewer are coming. So there are fewer appointments,” he says.
This phenomenon does not exist in the Freising branch of the Tavini driving school, says Tamara Krajina. “There is more likely to be a test date.” Learner drivers from Munich are not allowed to simply take the practical test in another district. Those who fail the test have to wait and continue taking driving lessons. “The Corona driving license is simply more expensive, takes longer and is more demanding,” says Krajina. For Peter Kopeczek, the problem had been foreseeable for a long time. Corona, like so many other things, simply accelerated it, he says. “There was a shortage of auditors even before the pandemic, now only one thing led to another.” For him, the growing population of Munich is one of the main reasons for the boom in driving licenses; on the other hand, the outdated requirements for driving examiners led to a shortage of staff. “Anyone who wants to become an examiner has to be an engineer,” explains Kopeczek, “but who just wants to take driving tests after completing their studies?” For him, these requirements are not proportionate: “That comes from an old time when only engineers could repair cars.” A TÜV spokesman says that the first two lockdowns are primarily to blame for the exam backlog. During this time, no students were trained and therefore not tested. Therefore, new auditors have been hired and additional appointments have been set up on Saturdays.
The situation is still grueling, complains Kopeczek. “If someone fails the motorcycle test today, the new date cannot take place until next year.