Why learner drivers in Germany are facing long waits for practical tests

Why learner drivers in Germany are facing long waits for practical tests
Archive photo shows a learner driver and instructor in Straubing, Bavaria. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Armin Weigel
Driving tests have been cancelled across Germany in the pandemic. Now learners are struggling to find dates to sit their practical exam - and having to shell out more money to keep their skills.

Germany shut down much of public life during previous Covid waves – resulting in many budding drivers having to cancel or postpone their driving tests. 

They focused on passing their theory tests instead. But there’s a host of learner drivers who can’t get to the last hurdle of their journey – an appointment for the practical exam. 

To work through the backlog, driving examiners are postponing their holidays, while the Technical Inspection Association (TÜV) is asking instructors to come out of retirement to help out. 

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Tests backed up until 2022

Novice drivers who are dreaming of cruising down the Autobahn currently have to reckon with unusually long waiting times for a practical driving test appointment.

On average, they face a waiting time of between three and five weeks – sometimes more, managing director of the TÜV association, Joachim Bühler, told German broadcaster N-TV. He attributes the delays mainly to the restrictions in the Covid pandemic.

“If testing operations continue as they are at the moment, we expect to have worked through the high demand for driving tests in the period from the fourth quarter of 2021 to the end of the first quarter of 2022, depending on the region,” he said.

According to Bühler, the pandemic restrictions imposed by the government brought training and examination operations to a temporary standstill. At the same time, he said, theory lessons and tests continued in most states.

“The result: after the lockdowns ended, the demand for dates for the practical examination skyrocketed. This has never happened before in this form,” said Bühler.

Adding to the chaos, examiners fell ill with Covid or had to go into quarantine. “There was also an increase in applicants and driving instructors cancelling appointments due to illness,” he said.

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Delay costs money for learners

The delays in the testing process are likely to be felt financially by learner drivers.

“Because of the waiting times, learner drivers are taking extra lessons before the test to avoid getting out of practice,” said driving instructor Peter Hörnle from Ochsenhausen in Baden-Württemberg. He said they take two to four extra hours on average.

This makes getting a driving licence – already a very pricey business – even more expensive.

Learning to drive in Germany can cost anywhere between €1,000 and €2,000 – or even more. That’s because you have to complete a compulsory amount of theoretical and practical training hours in a driving school with an official instructor (your aunt or dad can’t teach you).

There are also various extra hurdles like first aid courses and sight exams that foreigners in Germany may not be used to. 

In order to get a grip on the waiting times problem, TÜV, together with driving instructors’ associations, are trying to get more staff on board.

“The driving examiners are working extra hours and postponing their holidays in consultation with the works council,” said Bühler. Some inspectors are even being brought back from retirement.

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Vocabulary 

Learner drivers – (die) Fahrschüler 

Driving test – (die) Führerscheinprüfung

Unusual/unusually – ungewöhnlich 

Get to grips with/get a grip on – in den Griff bekommen

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.


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