British Columbia

ICBC's suspension of road tests during pandemic has aspiring trucker's career stalled

Rob Everest said he has spent about $5,000 on lessons and training and is ready to take his road test but ICBC has not offered any since March over COVID-19 fears.

Minister for ICBC says WorkSafeBC looking to make road tests safe for drivers and examiners

Nanaimo's Rob Everest, 42, holds his Class 1 learner's permit. Everest says the only thing he needs to do before being able to drive a semi-truck is take his road test, but since ICBC has not been doing road tests for over two months, his dream is on hold. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

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.

Rob Everest lives in his sister's Nanaimo home and formerly worked in property management. He says, these days, he spends a lot of time helping take care of his seven-year-old nephew, Nolan. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

"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.

Richmond-Queensborough MLA Jas Johal said many drivers, not just commercial truck drivers, are concerned they cannot get road tested. (Martin Diotte/CBC)

'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.

An ICBC licensing centre is just metres away from MLA Jas Johal's constituency office in Richmond. (Martin Diotte/CBC)

"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.

B.C. Attorney General David Eby, the minister responsible for ICBC, said appropriate safety precautions need to be made before road tests can resume. (Christian Amundson/ CBC)

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.

Signs posted outside the Richmond ICBC licensing centre in Richmond reflect the insurer's new reality during the pandemic. (Martin Diotte/CBC)

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."

If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at impact@cbc.ca

CBC Vancouver's Impact Team investigates and reports on stories that impact people in their local community and strives to hold individuals, institutions and organizations to account. If you have a story for us, email impact@cbc.ca.

 

About the Author

Liam Britten

Digital journalist

Liam Britten is an award-winning journalist for CBC Vancouver. You can contact him at liam.britten@cbc.ca or follow him on Twitter: @liam_britten. Liam contributes to CBC Vancouver's Impact Team, where he investigates and reports on stories that impact people in their local community.

With files from Belle Puri

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now