The corona pandemic is one reason why learner drivers currently have to wait a long time for dates for the practical exam. But there are other causes that are deeply rooted in the system. Therefore, the driving test monopoly of TÜV and Dekra falls in the long term.
Driving students and instructors don't have an easy life at the moment. Not only that in large parts of Germany they currently have to wear protective masks during their training and work. In addition, they usually wait a particularly long time for a test date – regardless of the class. Of course, this has primarily to do with the corona pandemic. But the long waiting times have not only been a reality since the lockdowns. Of course, COVID-19 has not helped to ease the situation, but even in previous years, driving schools throughout Germany had problems getting a sufficient number of timely appointments for their test subjects.
Extended test restricts flexibility in terms of time
Since the beginning of 2021, the practical driving tests in all classes have been ten minutes longer (car: 55 minutes, motorcycle: 70 minutes, truck and bus: 85 minutes). In category B, where most driving tests take place, the extension means that an examiner can no longer examine eleven candidates on a normal working day, but only nine. That's 20 percent fewer tests, which has a noticeable effect when extrapolated. In 2020, the driving instructor associations tried to get the federal government to postpone or suspend the new regulation, which in turn prompted the federal government to ask the TÜV association about the capacities. The capacities would also be sufficient for the new scope of testing, according to the information from the testing organization. However, the result seems to be even longer waiting times.
The background of the "optimized practical driving test" is of course a good one: So far, no information has been digitally recorded as to why examinees fail, which tasks were set in the exam and which mistakes were made. Bundled information in digital form can of course help to ensure uniform test standards across Germany and to prepare the examinees more optimally for the test. For the digital recording and the feedback discussion, the time was extended by five minutes. The travel time has been extended to the same extent.
Dekra recognizes a higher failure rate
"We were prepared for the extended examination times and have aligned our personnel capacities accordingly," Dekra assures in a statement. However, the success rate for the practical driving test has fallen significantly in recent months, which is why there are also noticeably more repeat tests.Here, the testing organization appeals to the driving schools "only present those applicants for the test who are actually ready for the test and only arrange test dates that are actually needed."
The TÜV sees another reason for the long waiting times in the fact that practical training and testing operations came to a standstill during the Corona lockdowns, but theory lessons and theoretical exams continued in most federal states. "The result: After the end of the lockdown, the demand for dates for the practical test skyrocketed. In addition, there were staff shortages because examiners fell ill with Corona or had to go into quarantine. Applicants and driving instructors also had to there are more and more cancellations of appointments," says Dr. Joachim Bühler, Managing Director of the TÜV Association.
The driving test monopoly can also be seen as a reason for the long waiting times for the driver's license test. Section 10 of the Motor Vehicle Experts Act (KfSachvG) currently regulates nationwide that a federal state may only commission one technical test center (TP) at a time. So far, two organizations have shared the orders – depending on the federal state, either the TÜV or Dekra carries out the order.
Driving tests are currently also on Saturdays
Opening up the motor vehicle expert law could lead to shorter waiting times in the long term, but not bring any relaxation in the short term, because the training to become a driving examiner takes two years, according to the assessment of the Baden-Württemberg Driving Instructors Association.
The Society for Technical Monitoring (GTÜ) sees it differently. Technical test engineers who have already been trained only need additional training, which can be completed in around six weeks. GTÜ Managing Director Robert Köstler proposes to temporarily relax the Driving License Ordinance (FeV) so that not only officially recognized experts are allowed to conduct the tests, but also technical test engineers with a comparable training. In the long term, however, the motor vehicle expert law would also have to be amended, because the monopoly of the technical test centers has become obsolete, according to Köstler.
For the driving instructors it is clear that there is only one possibility for a short-term solution: TÜV and Dekra could concentrate more on driving tests with their authorized testing staff. According to a statement by the TÜV association, this is already happening, as Dr. Joachim Bühler, Managing Director of the TÜV Association describes: "We have put together a joint package of measures with the driving instructor associations, which we are now implementing. This primarily affects the staff. The driving examiners do overtime and postpone their holidays in consultation with the works councils.As far as possible, officially recognized experts from other areas of work are hired out, for example from the main inspection of vehicles. We are also reactivating driving license examiners who have retired. The most important organizational change is the introduction of Saturday as the sixth examination day in order to be able to offer additional dates. The driving schools make their contribution by planning better and canceling in good time in order to make the best use of the test times."
Monopoly regulation no longer up to date
The motor vehicle expert law mentioned dates from 1971. Although there were some adjustments and changes - paragraph 10 KfSachvG was not touched on. The first paragraph states: "A technical test center for motor vehicle traffic is maintained by the body that commissions the state government or the authority designated by it to do this. (...). Several technical test centers may not be set up and maintained for the same area."
When we asked why the law was formulated in this way, a spokeswoman for the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) replied: "The result of this historically grown regulation is a lack of competition between the technical test centers of TÜV and Dekra, which has not been wanted so far." At the time, that may have made sense. But since there are now more than just these two testing organizations, such an agreement no longer seems to be a contemporary basis for a law The question also arises as to whether the desire of individual companies should serve as a motivation for the legislator to pass a law.
Furthermore, the response to our inquiry about the background of § 10 KfSachvG says: "To be included in the current discussion thereby also that a competition among the providers concerns the traffic safety, and such is the acceptance of the driver's license test and the associated possibility of driving motor vehicles." Competition in the field of testing organizations could therefore endanger road safety - to put it simply. The Baden-Württemberg Driving Instructors Association also says that opening up to competitors should not, of course, promote a development in which driving schools prefer to work with organizations that have a particularly low failure rate.
But what if the federal government provided the states with a system in which all recognized and commissioned testing organizations could store their capacities without names or testing organizations being displayed? The driving schools could book their test appointments in such a system without being informed about which examiner is scheduled for this appointment or which testing organization he belongs to.Quotas agreed in advance are also conceivable, depending on how many driving examiners an organization can provide. However, it is always managed and booked via a system that only shows free appointments, but not the name of the tester, let alone the testing organization. Of course, uniform pricing would also have to be guaranteed, but the client – in this case the respective federal state – could also determine this.
Testing monopoly violates EU law
But the subject of testing monopoly is now being tackled for completely different reasons. On July 22, 2016, the EU Commission initiated infringement proceedings against Germany, in which it declared that the regulations applicable in Germany (§ 21 StVZO in conjunction with §§ 6 and 10 of the KfSachvG) do not restrict the "freedom of establishment of service providers and the freedom to provide services in Germany is restricted in a justified and disproportionate manner and that this constitutes a violation of EU law", as stated in the draft of the Second Regulation amending the Road Traffic Licensing Regulations of February 26th, 2018 . As a result, in 2019 § 21 of the Road Traffic Licensing Regulations was adapted and supplemented by the addition that in future not only an opinion from the "authority responsible according to state law" can be submitted for the operating license for individual vehicles, but also an opinion "one after § 30 of the EC Vehicle Approval Regulation for the testing of complete vehicles of the respective vehicle class named technical service". This put an end to the monopoly of TÜV and Dekra when it came to operating permits for individual vehicles.
At first glance, § 21 StVZO has nothing to do with taking the driving test. However, the statement by the BMVI states: "The changes made in the area of § 21 StVZO have far-reaching effects on the one hand on the future position of the technical test centers (TP) in the system of technical vehicle testing and on the other hand on the system of the driving license test. Background is that the area of responsibility of the TP includes both areas. Initial consultations with the federal states have taken place about the effects in the area of the driving license test. The result is open."
So it seems clear that there will be changes in the area of driving license tests. However, it is still undefined what a time horizon and the changes will look like.
In the long term, things could actually change when it comes to driving tests. Because it looks like the change in § 21 StVZO will also have an impact on the driving test monopoly. If, in the long term, several technical test centers are allowed to be commissioned to conduct the driving test, there would most likely be more test dates automatically. How and when it could be implemented is still unclear.