At London’s DriveTest Centre, don’t count on being out by lunch

By Andrew Lupton, CBC News

Ahmed Al Mousa is new to Ontario, but he’s become an expert when it comes to navigating the long wait times at London’s DriveTest Centre in the city’s south end.

Al Mousa, a pharmacist and researcher at Western University, moved to London from Saskatchewan a year ago. He’s now helping his wife Majd Al-Hejoj — who’s driven for nine years in Jordan — get an Ontario licence.

But getting the licence has meant three trips to the DriveTest Centre, each with a wait of about three hours.

“This is brutal,” Al Mousa told CBC News on Monday, while he waited for Al-Hejoj to take her written driver’s test.

“They have only two employees working behind those windows. It doesn’t seem to be going smooth in there.”

Many customers on Monday said they’d been waiting there for hours to take a test or update information on their driver’s licence.

Ben Roberts is a truck driver who must make regular visits to the centre’s crowded lobby to update medical information on his commercial driver’s licence. Each visit requires time off work — one licence update even spanned over two days.

“I arrived at 3:30 p.m. and by 5:30 my number hadn’t been called and they told me I’d have to come back the next day,” said Roberts.

“It’s frustrating trying to book time off work… I have a busy schedule. It’s time that I don’t really have, but now I’ll have to make it up.”

Facebook page for London’s DriveTest centre has many comments with complaints about long wait times.

“I think their goal is to see how many people they can make snap in a day,” one user wrote.

Issue at Queen’s Park

The problems at several Ontario DriveTest centres haven’t escaped the attention of London-Middlesex MPP Jeff Yurek.

He’s heard from constituents who arrive hours before opening time, some even carrying lawn chairs, to ensure they are served before lunch.

“It’s unacceptable what’s going on,” said Yurek, who said complaints about London’s DriveTest Centre have increased in recent months. “I don’t think the people of London are being served in a timely manner.”

Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Michael Harris is the PC transportation critic. He said DriveTest centres are falling well below the original target of servicing 90 per cent of customers within 20 minutes or less.

“Visit any one of these centres … and you’ll see long, winding lines of camp-out queues of young and old waiting..,” he said in October.  “You’d think when you drive by that these folks are waiting for the new iPhoneX but they’s simply waiting to get their licence.”

The province handed over administration of DriveTest Centres to a private company — U.K.-based Serco — back in 2003. Serco’s 10-year contract with the province was renewed in 2013.

Although it was a PC government that first privatized these centres, Harris said the Liberal government has failed to provide proper oversight over the company in recent years.

Province made aware

Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca said in a statement that the province is aware of service problems at DriveTest centres and is working to fix them.

“I am aware of the concerns regarding wait times at some DriveTest locations, and frankly, I think it’s unacceptable that some people are waiting for extended periods of time,” the statement said.

The province is also looking at creating drop boxes for medical forms and pre-screening complex transactions.