If you’re hoping to license up and drive on two wheels instead of four this summer, you could be stuck in first gear with your driver exams. But the province says help is on the way.
Since last March, all driver exams have been conducted by government employees. The former NDP government policy ended the privatization of the driving exam system – in place since 1993.
Motorcyclists say the change has led to a series of issues for those wishing to obtain their Class 6 license, which allows you to drive a motorcycle or moped. One of the issues, according to Lanchi Dech, Operations Manager for Too Cool Motorcycle School, is being able to even book a test.
“I’ve already heard of people from Edmonton coming down to Calgary because they don’t have testing spots available in Edmonton,” Dech said.
Challenge for motorcyclists to get to drivers examination
Booking an actual test isn’t the only problem. Dech said, for many, the challenge is getting to the driver exams. Riders need to have a motorcycle to conduct the test, but without a valid license they can’t get there without help.
In the past, some motorcycle schools would have drivers examiners come straight to the classes themselves to test students for their Class 6. There, students could have a bike provided for them and take the test all in the same location. Due to the changes, examiners are no longer allowed to conduct tests outside of registries.
To qualify for your Class 6 license, riders must have a motorcycle learner’s license. For that, you must have either a full Class 5 drivers license or be at least 16 years old and have had a Class 7 learner’s license for a year.
With only your learners, the law says you must always be with someone that has their Class 6 license. Dech said due to the exam changes, some with only their motorcycle learner’s license and have a bike are riding to registries to take their test without a Class 6 license holder.
For those without a motorcycle, a few registries in the province do have a motorcycle to rent to take the Class 6 test.
“Now there’s an extra added cost to that, and then if they don’t have a person who has their full Class 6 to escort them down, now they have to find somebody,” said Dech.
“Just financially it’s adding up.”
Finding someone who has their Class 6 has led some to turn to the online motorcycle community for help. There are several Facebook groups dedicated to motorcycles in Calgary where on any given day you’re likely to see at least one post asking other members of the group for an escort to a registry.
Dech said that’s a good idea if you have no other options. She said she’s even heard of motorcycle shops in the city renting bikes and escorting riders to their driver exams. Some people with only their learners are renting a truck and trailer and hauling their bike down to the registry.
“People are now holding off on training because they want to know if they’re going to be able to get tested and how,” said Dech.
“Some of them don’t have friends who know how to ride. They just want to do this for themselves and they don’t have anybody.”
Review of driver exams system coming, province says
The province said Friday they will review the public takeover of drivers examinations after “the previous NDP government rushed implementation of the system, causing months of delays for road test appointments.”
“We will be following through on the commitments we made to Albertans, including a review of the public takeover of the driver’s license examinations. We will be speaking with driver examiners, registries, and other stakeholders to look at next steps,” the statement read.
“In the meantime, our focus is on clearing the backlog and ensuring that Albertans have timely access to the current road test system.”
The province said they hired more examiners and added evening and Saturday bookings in some areas to address backlogs. As of May 22, 155 driver examiners had been hired throughout Alberta with 111 in the field right now and the remainder being trained, ready by the end of June.
Dech said she’d like to see the system revert to a privatized system and then look at that system for changes. She says she can speak for most of the motorcycle community: On-site testing at schools made for better riders on the streets.
“When you’re taking a course, you’re taking more steps to be safer out there. What’s a better way to reward that person by making it easier for you to go through the process of testing,” she said.