Some central Albertans are going online after midnight to try to claim a rare opening for driver testing.
Others are travelling to Wetaskiwin, Stettler and other outlying centres because they can’t nail down a testing time in Red Deer.
“It’s ridiculous,” said Susan Chauvet, of Red Deer, that people have to keep checking online day and night for a random spot to open up — rather than the government starting a wait list for driver testing.
Her 16-year-old son, Thomas, has been going on the website daily since the end of June in a vain attempt to find an available slot.
He’s stayed up past midnight in the hopes of landing an opening when there’s less competition to claim it.
Chauvet said, “Sometimes, I get on (the computer) for half an hour, hitting refresh,” to try to help her son.
But neither have had any luck, so far.
Chauvet understands there’s a backlog of people waiting for driving tests after the COVID-19 lockdown last spring.
But she doesn’t understand why the government can’t create an orderly waiting list, so that perspective drivers can at least be assured of getting a testing spot once their names reach the top of the list.
She has complained to Driver’s Examination Standards, as well as her MLA.
A representative from Alberta Transportation’s Driver’s Examination Standards responded, in an email, that wait times for driver tests grew after the former NDP government moved the examination system to a public delivery mode, losing many examiners.
The UCP government has since been doing more hiring and training, authorizing overtime, and contracting with private examiners. As a result, wait times fell to two weeks by last February, says the government.
But most road tests were suspended in March because of the pandemic. After the relaunch on June 30, vehicles have to be disinfected and health assessments conducted before road tests, reducing the number of tests that can be performed per day.
According to the email, Alberta Transportation has continued to recruit examiners and about 1,000 more test spaces have been made available on the online system. These are posted every Tuesday night for the following week.
“If it continues to show, ‘No available appointment slots found for the selected criteria,’ please go back and change your search to try again,” the Chauvets were advised.
“If there are no available dates at a specific location, you may also want to search for availability at other nearby locations.”
The email states there’s no waiting list as the booking platform is live and operates on a first come/first serve basis.
“All Albertans utilize the same platform, making it the fairest way to ensure that all Albertans have the same access to road testing services.”
But Chauvet doesn’t believe it’s fair when somebody who just started searching for a road test goes online and instantly get lucky — while another person, who has been trying for months, is unable to line up a testing time.
“I don’t have a beef with COVID causing the backup,” said Chauvet — she’s concerned about the “waste of time” the current system requires, and the randomness of landing a spot.
Alberta Transportation spokesman Mckenzie Kibler said, “We continue to explore all options around bringing down wait times and making it easier to book a test… we ask Albertans for their patience.”