ICBC's suspension of road tests during pandemic has aspiring trucker's career stalled
Minister for ICBC says WorkSafeBC looking to make road tests safe for drivers and examiners
Rob Everest of Nanaimo wants to become a truck driver but since the Insurance Corporation of B.C. has suspended road tests, it's put the brakes on his new career.
Everest said he has spent about $5,000 on truck driving lessons and training and is ready to take his road test, but ICBC has not done any tests since March 17 as a COVID-19-related precaution.
"My life's in limbo right now. My financial position is hurting, because I invested quite a bit of money in the lessons," Everest said.
"I find it very difficult that this morning, I can go out and get a haircut ... but I can't go out and do a road test. "I just want to go to work."
BC Liberal MLA Jas Johal, opposition critic for ICBC, said Everest is not alone.
"I get constant calls and emails on a daily basis from throughout this province," Johal said. "He has every right to be frustrated and perhaps angry at ICBC.
"This is absolutely critical for our economy to move forward, especially in area code 250 [areas of the province outside of the Lower Mainland]."
Other provinces have found ways to safely make road tests happen, he said, and it's time B.C. did the same.
'No question' there will be backlog, David Eby says
ICBC normally conducts 7,500 road tests each week, but all motorcycle, passenger and commercial road tests are cancelled.
David Eby, the minister responsible for ICBC, said WorkSafeBC is working with the insurance corporation to find a safe way to resume them.
"We want to make sure that when we reopen driver testing that our examiners feel and know that they are safe when they do this work on behalf of the public," Eby said.
He pointed out a road test means two people spending up to an hour together in an enclosed, confined space.
In the earlier stages of the pandemic, he added, an ICBC examiner was exposed to COVID-19 through a road test.
The major hurdle is getting enough personal protective equipment for examiners but he said he's hopeful tests will resume soon.
"There's no question we'll have a backlog on reopening so many services, whether it's barber shops or courts or driver testing," Eby said.
In a statement issued after this article's publication, ICBC said all knowledge tests are available by appointment but there is no timeline for the resumption of road tests.
Some provinces offering tests — with caveats
Some provinces have found ways to resume road tests in certain situations.
Alberta is allowing select road tests to go ahead for drivers who need to maintain supply chains.
In Saskatchewan, road tests for Class 1 and Class 3 licences — semi-trucks and trucks with more than two axles, like dump trucks — resumed April 20, with students driving the vehicle and an examiner watching them with a dashcam from a trailing vehicle and recording their actions.
Since May 11, a limited number of Class 2, 4 and 5 exams — to operate buses, ambulances and personal vehicles — have been available but only for drivers working in health care and agriculture.
Manitoba resumed Class 1 exams May 18. Manitoba Public Insurance said in a statement it will reschedule previously scheduled exams in the order they were booked.
Johal said many prospective drivers just want answers.
"This is about people's livelihoods and people are tremendously concerned," Johal said. "They want clarity from ICBC ... because without that road testing, they can't find work."
Everest said he may need to look for a different job for now but still wants to get his licence and own his own truck some day.
"I'm not going to give up on my dream and my goal," he said. "I'd just like to have that dream moving along sooner rather than later."
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With files from Belle Puri