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Driver Trainers – getting ready for Return to Work

Whether you are resuming teaching existing learners, or new customers that have been waiting … welcome to a brave new world, not turned upside down, but certainly different.

Covid-19 secure

Social distancing is not possible for driving schools.

As a driving school proprietor, we have ownership for putting measures in place to ensure that our driving lessons are Covid-19 secure.  The virus has not disappeared, yet some people are taking the risk too lightly and we must keep safe.

This has to begin with our own risk assessment.  The point is to address the risks of Covid-19, building trust and confidence that all reasonably practicable steps are being taken to reduce risks of coronavirus, so we start giving driving lessons again:

  1. Beginning with ourselves, we may be in the “shielded” or “vulnerable category”
  2. Are we, or is anyone in our household exhibiting symptoms of the virus?
  3. We need to gather relevant information (in line with the two points above) about the learner driver before the lesson with pre-lesson health checks – asking questions confirming no symptoms of COVID-19. Use text message or phone call.
  4. Decide whether we can teach and if we can, to accept or reject the lesson

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):

There is nothing mandatory about PPE.  It is an option that may make you and/or the learner feel safer:

  • Face masks: Voices will be muffled unless you both speak clearly and there’s the risk, if you wear glasses, of them misting up
  • Disposable gloves.  Not a substitute for washing your hands and cleaning down surfaces and controls.

Both pieces of PPE will need to be discarded responsibly after each lesson.

Consensus about additions inside the vehicle, such as Perspex screening is that they should NOT be installed. Besides the legal aspects including the Construction and Use Regulations and the need to inform your insurance company; a divider would prevent you safely reaching all the controls when required. It may also restrict or distort the learners view to the left.  The dangers of a screen outweigh perceived benefits.

From the 6th July 2020, the “new normal” for driver training is very much to do with cleanliness and hygiene within the vehicle:

  • Prepare your car with the usual checks and clean throughout
  • Learners must wash their hands before entering the car
  • Meet at the car, not the front door. No hand shaking
  • As an option, have a supply of both disposable gloves and masks.  Offer to your learner before entering the car
  • All touch points must be cleaned between lessons.  Use antibacterial wipes and dispose of carefully using rubbish bags
  • Training routes should allow opportunity to wash or sanitise hands
  • Nobody can sit in on the lesson. No piggy backing; always drop off one learner before picking up the next
  • Vehicles need to be well-ventilated to increase the flow of air, for example, by opening sunroof or window where possible.  Beware that this will cause more noise.
  • Learners should wear suitable clothing that covers as much of them as possible, including arms and legs (car maybe cooler/hotter due to open windows)
  • Keep physical contact minimal. Do not share printed materials, visual aids, pens or devices.  Don’t touch or take the driving licence from them.  You might want to check new clients licences electronically with DVLA
  • Try to avoid directly facing each other when discussing scenarios
  • If you give a practical demonstration, remember to wipe down the controls before and afterwards
  • If you need to touch the controls during the lesson, pull over at the earliest convenience to wipe these down.
  • Send any brief lesson notes or learning materials digitally
  • Take lesson payments electronically by card or bank transfer
  • Use your vehicle solely for work purposes.  Minimise family use

The teaching

We can plan each lesson as usual, taking into account the different circumstances. Each learner will be different and will have individual concerns or anxieties; or maybe not, as the case might be.  Work with them to put them at ease. Aim to raise their confidence and look forward to begin achieving again.  As with any lesson plan, there will always need to be some flexibility.

It’s been a while

Staying at home a long time can feel disorientating. During lockdown all the days can all seem the same, so maybe text the learner the day before to remind them of the date and time of the scheduled lesson.

When meeting your learner, agree what the reality is.  Will the learner have “forgotten” everything, or maybe they’ve had opportunity for private practice?

  • To maximise lesson learning time, the time spent covering the new safety procedures should be kept to the minimum needed. Just a few minutes
  • Assuming that they most probably won’t have driven for a while, the initial training route should start easy
  • What will be the options? – Topics to revise and re-practice? New topics yet to cover? Estimated date for test-readiness?  Schedule of future driving lessons – how many? Any modifications or adaptions to existing lesson plans?
  • A helpful way to decide the way forward together is to use the popular coaching  “GROW” model.  (Goal, Reality, Options, Way) – Customise for each learner
  • The availability of driving tests will most probably feature as part of a discussion on “reality”

All these measures are in place to make the learning environment as safe as possible.

Terms and Conditions during COVID-19:

Your existing T&Cs will need an update.  Late cancellation policy: Where you; or your learner or anyone in the respective households becomes unwell and has symptoms of the virus. There will be a need to communicate and reschedule the lessons at no extra cost.

Driving Tests

There will be an inevitable backlog of driving tests and some examiners won’t be able to return to work straight away.  There may also be some delay re-opening driving test centres.

The tests themselves will be a little different. They are being shortened where a serious mistake, or where 16 or more driving faults have been committed. Examiners  have been given guidance on the PPE they can wear, greeting candidates and cleaning equipment such as Sat Navs and tablets.  They are also making sure that driving test centres are safe and ready to be reopened (Hot and cold water systems need to be free from legionella bacteria, which causes Legionnaires’ disease.  Their contractors who would do this work still have their services put on hold.

Last, but not least, mitigating the financials

When you restart lessons, you may well be working fewer paid hours. Extra time will be spent sanitising your car between lessons.  You also face an increase in costs for safety related sundries, these being gloves, masks and sanitiser.  You can do your own arithmetic, but an increase in the hourly rate may be a necessity.

Safety has its price – you might say?

Managing COVID-19

Resources for driver trainers: www.adinjc.org

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DVSA Instructor Directory

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