British Columbia

Backlog in road tests forces B.C. man to quit his job

Customers are facing six-month delays in attempting to book road test appointments in B.C.'s Interior.

Caleb Siemens, 19, is not yet licensed to drive alone — but says he can't book driving test till late November

19-year-old Caleb Siemens says he has had to quit his job because of his inability to get a driver's licence road test allowing him to commute from Armstrong, B.C., to nearby Salmon Arm. (Caleb Siemens)

A B.C. man says he's been forced to quit his job because long delays in booking ICBC road tests makes it impossible for him to drive to work on his own.

Caleb Siemens, 19, currently lives in Salmon Arm, in B.C.'s Interior but is moving to the nearby community of Armstrong to live with his girlfriend after his mother sells the family home where he currently lives. 

Right now, Siemens commutes from Salmon Arm to his job as a carpenter in the outlying community of Lee Creek by getting a ride with a neighbour but, with his upcoming move, he is no longer able to hitch a ride. Even though he owns a truck, Siemens is unable to drive without a fully licensed passenger of at least 25 years of age alongside him until he takes his road test — currently booked for November.

The passenger restriction is part of B.C.'s learner's licence program and can be lifted by passing an ICBC road test. Siemens says he is ready to take that step, but with the long wait to upgrade his licence he's given his employer two weeks notice because he can't guarantee he can get to work.  

"It's made it difficult to get my life in order," Siemens told CBC Daybreak South host Chris Walker.

LISTEN | 19-year-old Caleb Siemens explains the frustrations of not being able to book an ICBC road test

ICBC is testing peoples patience in the Shuswap, but not testing their driving skills. Would-be drivers can't book their road tests for months, which is putting a crimp in their summer plans. 7:06

Siemens is not alone. He posted his frustrations in a community Facebook group and discovered people are facing similar delays throughout the southern Interior, including Vernon, Kelowna and Revelstoke.

Some said they are booking tests in communities with more openings such as Quesnel and Smithers, which is a 12-hour drive from Salmon Arm.

"Not everyone has family and friends that are able to just drive them [that far]," Siemens said. "They're just on their own … it makes it tough."

ICBC spokesperson Brent Shearer said the delays are a result of pandemic restrictions put into place last year, when road tests were cancelled for five months leading to a backlog of more than 50,000 people wanting to get their licence.

Shearer said that in response, ICBC has hired 80 new driving examiners across the province and expanded the hours in which tests can be booked in high-demand locations. The result, he said, was a 36 per cent increase in the number of tests being administered compared to 2019, the last pre-pandemic year.

"People are working non-stop," he said.

LISTEN | ICBC spokesperson Brent Shearer says the corporation is working hard to clear out the backlog of driver's test demands

ICBC says it's trying to catch up after the pandemic caused a backlog of driving tests. 7:49

ICBC is also asking people to only book tests when they are confident they can pass.

"Nearly half of customers taking a road test fail on their first attempt, which puts further pressure on availability if customers are having to take multiple tests," said Shearer.

Shearer also said roughly 100 new appointments become available every day due to cancellations, and encouraged people who need a test more urgently to check the ICBC website frequently.

That's what Siemens is doing. He's set a daily alarm to log onto the website and see if he can get his test sometime before the Christmas season.

So far, he said, he's had no luck beating out everyone else eager for an appointment.

"It's a battle," he said.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this article gave Caleb Siemens' age as 18. In fact, he is 19.
    Jun 09, 2021 9:14 AM PT

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