Service Alberta and Alberta Transportation announced in October some significant changes to how road tests are delivered in Alberta. They cited concerns about price and lack of oversight as reasons to overhaul the current model.
In order to understand the changes, it is necessary first to know the basics about the current system. Currently, Driver Examiners are licensed by Alberta Transportation, but they are independent contractors – they work neither for the registry nor for the government. Driver Programs and Licensing Standards is responsible for dealing with complaints, assessment, accreditation, etc. Road Tests must be booked through an Alberta Registry.
Registries take care of making sure people are eligible for the test and most tests start and end at the registry (Class 1, 2 and 3 are an exception because most urban parking lots don’t accommodate such large vehicles). The average road test in Alberta is around $89.50 for Basic and $143 for Advanced. The cost has increased significantly in the past 10 years. This is mainly due to the fact that the supply of driver examiners has been restricted severely. Thus, they have been able to ask for higher and higher fees and registries have had no choice but oblige and to pass the cost on to the end user.
Starting March 1, all road tests will be conducted by Alberta government employees. There are currently postings on the Alberta Government website for driver examiners, senior examiners and training standards coordinators. The start date for these positions is January 1, 2019. We have no idea what plans Alberta Transportation has for the delivery of road tests in January and February of 2019 since most current examiners are applying for these jobs. We anticipate that this may lead to a shortage of available test slots throughout the province. If you are eligible for a road test, we strongly suggest taking it before the end of December or being prepared to wait until March 1, 2019 if at all possible.
The Government of Alberta has shared with us the following:
- Road Test prices will be capped at $83 for Basic and $138 for Advanced. We assume that there will still be GST on the service fee portion. (Registries Plus currently charges $80.24 for a Basic and $138 for an Advanced, before GST). This means that for our customers, costs will increase or stay the same – but they will not decrease.
- Booking will be available through a Government of Alberta online booking website or in person at registry offices. We have asked to be able to link directly from our website to the booking page for our location, but Transportation has not confirmed any details about the booking portal.
- Testing will be available Monday – Saturday (Sunday service will not be provided any longer).
- Driver Examiners will not be able to offer vehicle rentals for tests, as most do now.
- The Government of Alberta maintains that these changes will be revenue neutral – it will neither cost taxpayers nor will road testing fees contribute to government revenue.
For the average Albertans, most of these changes will not be perceptible – they will still go to a Registry or a registry website to book, they will have a permit printed at a registry, meet the driver examiner at the registry. And when they pass, a registry agent will take care of re-classing their licence.
We fully support Alberta Transportation in its efforts to improve driver testing standards in Alberta. However, we do have some unaddressed concerns around availability of driver examiners since salaried employees won’t have the same degree to flexibility to load balance (i.e. work when Albertans want to do road testing and take unpaid time off when they don’t). We also disagree that service has been an issue – we hear from happy customers every day who appreciate the convenient booking, priority service and level of professionalism from our booking agents and the examiners who test at our office- our Google reviews speak to this quite definitively.
The main concerns about dealing with complaints and standardizing testing could easily have been addressed by Alberta Transportation hiring more staff to deal with quality and standards. The issue of price also could have been addressed very simply by accrediting more examiners and allowing the free market to do its thing.
Having said all of that, the current administration has chosen a repatriated model. We are happy that they appreciate the role that Alberta Registries play in the delivery of road testing and we are pleased to participate and to work with the Government and new examiners to be sure that Albertans continue to receive excellent service and to ensure that all licensed drivers in Alberta have the required skills to be safe on the road.
At the end of the day, safety and service are what matters most. Should you have any questions, please feel free to give us a call or chat with your friendly Registries Plus clerk on your next visit. We look forward to continuing to serve you in 2019.