Saturday, 6 January 2018

Driving Instructors in Worcester

This is a write up of Advanced Driver Training by XT Driver Training who are probably one of the best driving schools in Worcester. Mr Brookes who often writes articles for the ADINJC organisation and has often be referred to as one of the best driving instructors in Worcester and he has very kindly wrote a Blog post on advanced driving. I hope you enjoy his words. You can find out more about driving lessons in Worcester here.

What to write about for this month? Here I am staring at a blank screen. Then it  occurred to me. Advanced Driving Tests! – Why not, it’s yet another area I have specialist knowledge in, that’s equally of interest to ADI’s.  (Now bear with me, I promise I will produce an article on the various requirements for the spacing of characters on number plates eventually). So, what is it? To cut a long story short it’s a system of driving developed by the Police from a series of training notes used by the Metropolitan Police at Hendon in the 1930’s. Many of you will have no doubt heard of “Roadcraft” even if you haven’t read it, which was the book eventually published from those notes. (On a side note, Driving Examiners were originally trained by the Police at Hendon and Preston,  around until 1960 when the Ministry of Transport setup their own training at a couple of sites before finally ending up at Cardington in 1976. Roadcraft itself was the first government publication  published on actual driving techniques until “Driving” came out in 1970, which later became “Driving the Essential Skills”) It’s called Advanced Driving, just because that was the name of the course at Hendon. I tend to agree with an acquaintance of mine, Reg Local , that it might be rebranded “Better Driving”. Everyone reading this article, myself included could be a better driver in one way or another. What’s different about it? Well that really depends on the standard you were trained to originally. The last ADI I put through both the IAM and RoSPA tests best described it as a ‘different style of driving’ Off the top of my head, more emphasis is placed on not signalling when there is no-one to benefit, separating braking and gear changing, rev matching - things already touched on in the Essentials Skills, along with cornering and limit points. (With limit points, I’ve always found it odd that the Essential Skills tells you to set the correct speed for a corner on approach, but gives you no information on how to judge that speed). There are some slight positioning differences on  left hand bends, and straight lining roundabouts! – Everyone in my experience always seems to be excited about straight lining roundabouts for some reason. That could be a subject for  another article. So, moving swiftly on, let’s don our string backed driving gloves and see what options are available, if you’re interested in taking an advanced test. First off, The Institute of Advanced Motorists. Now rebranded as IAM Roadsmart, it was founded in 1956 to bring the police system to a civilian audience. Its link to ADIs is that one of the founders was Denise McCann, who was Chair of BSM at the time. It’s probably the most well-known advanced test amongst the public. The test is usually examined by a serving or retired police officer, lasts around an hour and takes in all types of road. Commentary or as it’s now called by the IAM “Spoken Thought”, is optional.  The marking system is graded 1-3 (1=Commended, 2=Satisfactory, 3=Requires development) across 23 categories (for example Steering, Anticipation, Positioning), with no “3’s” allowed for a Pass, so it’s not a purely fault based assessment like the DVSA. To turn up ‘cold’ and take the test it’s £99, and any ADI capable of driving to a good Part 2 standard should have no problems with it. If you want to learn a little more about the Roadcraft system of driving, or think you may want to brush up on some techniques then there is a £149 option which includes as many sessions as you need pre-test with a volunteer observer. There is also the equivalent of a distinction called a “F1rst” – This is where a candidate scores 1’s in 21 out of the 23 categories and has to give a short commentary. Having passed the initial test, you can go on to take the tougher “Masters” test. This lasts 90 minutes, has a commentary requirement and is conducted in an area unfamiliar to the candidate, by Area Examiners who are usually ex-police driver trainers.  The marking system is the same as the standard test, but to a much a higher standard. Some say equivalent to a police course (without the use of any exemptions obviously). There’s less than a thousand ‘Masters’ on the register currently. This is also graded as Pass or Distinction, and is valid for 5 years. The cost is £249 for 12 hours training and the test or £129 for the test only if you feel you’re at a high enough standard already. Now we move on the next most well-known course available. The Finchley League of Safe Drivers. Who?  I hear you say. In 1955 the Finchley League of Safe drivers recruited some Hendon Driving instructors to teach the system to the public, in 1960 it became the League of Safe Drivers before in 1980 passing the reins over to an organisation you might have heard of – The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents or RoSPA. The RoSPA test is also around an hour, a lot of the examiners also examine for the IAM, (there’s a limited amount of police or ex-police personnel interested in examining). The test is along the same lines as the standard IAM test and is graded Bronze, Silver or Gold. Traditionally and perhaps slightly controversially, a “normal” IAM Pass was considered equivalent to a Bronze or a Silver. Before the F1rst, Enthusiasts would often progress from the IAM test upwards to the RoSPA test which was considered a tougher standard.  The test only option is £62 – There’s no training package like the IAM. If you want training you’ll need to join your local group for a small fee. The pass is also only valid for three years. (Having initially passed the test you pay a nominal yearly membership fee to RoSPA which covers the cost of your three yearly retests). Training for both the IAM and RoSPA is provided by volunteer observers who have taken the test, and then taken the organisations training tests, and varies across the country. Some groups will provide classroom sessions and one to one tuition, others do a monthly meet, where everyone arrives in a local car park, and gets assigned an Observer for a run, or combination of both. If you don’t want to become immersed in Roadcraft, then there are still a couple of options open  to you. Diamond Advanced Motorists who are linked to the DIA, offer an Advanced Test and an Elite Test. The Advanced test is basically a Part 2, and in fact is often taken by PDI’s as a dry-run, so not worth considering if you’re a fully-fledged ADI unless you just want to dip a toe in the water. The Elite test on the other hand is a two fault (but not two in the same category), 90-minute test based on the Cardington system of marking and is £125 for the test only. The cost of training for the test, should you need it will vary depending on the hourly rate of the Diamond Trainer you use. Finally, the DVSA themselves offer the “Cardington Special Test”.  It’s £144 and you must travel to Cardington to take it.  Grade A, the only grade anyone is really interested in, is a maximum of 3 faults. This also allows you exempt membership to IAM Roadsmart (i.e. you can become a member without taking their test) What do you get out of it? A new set of skills and knowledge to impart to your clients, many fleet providers also require their trainers to have taken advanced tests. You could volunteer as an observer after you’ve passed your test as a gateway to getting experience teaching full license holders, if that’s not an area you’ve worked in before, or just for the satisfaction of pushing yourself that little bit further. Further reading: Without doubt: Roadcraft, however Advanced and Performance Driving by Reg Local is an excellent primer for the subject along with his Youtube channel where he has a variety of instructional videos on the different techniques. The now out of print “Expert Driving the Police Way” by John Miles can still be found from online sellers, along with the Roadcraft DVD, and Ultimate Driving Craft by Chris Gilbert.

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Sam's Angels | Driving Schools in Blackburn

In this Blog I just want to show you the diversity there is amongst driving instructors. I recently met the owner of Sam's Angels which is one of the driving schools in Blackburn, Lancashire.

Sam asked me to revamp her website for her so my initial thing to do is to contact the customer and arrange a meeting. This is a necessary step as I find it best to try and meet up with the owner of the driving school so I can hopefully get a vibe for their business and what their about. Before I travelled to meet Sam, I first researched to see how many driving instructors in Blackburn there was. I was surprised to see so many.

So I travelled to Blackburn to meet up with Sam and we met up for a coffee in the town centre. I asked Sam to tell me a few things about herself and why she had chosen to be a driving instructor. During our conversation, it was clear to see that Sam was very enthusiastic and driven by two things, one was road safety and the other was running a business. After listening to Sam for a short while, it became clear that she was a business woman and wanted to succeed in this area of business.

I also discovered that she has now taken on a new ADI and in the short amount of time she's been in business, Sam's Angels has already expanded. This now means that she can offer twice as many driving lesson in Blackburn and receive a good healthy profit from just having one instructor extra out on the roads working for her.

What was very impressive was that she is diversifying into different markets and that is her clients generally come from different ethnic origins. This means that Sam can cater for Urdu, Punjabi and Gujrati speaking clients as both her and her new franchisee can also speak these languages. I asked her if this was a niche in her market and she sort of agreed that it is in her local area as there aren't any driving instructors that can cater for these languages.

I explained to her that this is great providing that there is enough demand in her community and there are lots of clients who prefer using their own language - as an after thought, I thought that this was a stupid sweeping statement by me.

Sam wanted to be known as one of the best female driving instructors in Blackburn and she was only currently offering driving lessons to females. I asked her why this was and pointed out to her that she was limiting herself and that if she wanted to expand then she would have to market herself for both male and female pupils.

We chewed over the fat on this and in the end I managed to persuade her to change her offering to also cater for both male and female. By doing this meant that she wasn't restricting her growth rate. So, if she wanted to expand her staff even further by taking on extra driving instructors then she could do this sooner rather than later.

Sam's Angels already have a website so we got down to taking business and discussing what her requirements where and what her end goal was. We discussed lot of things such as her design, brand, look and feel, exposure on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

We had to revaluate her pricing structure, not just for normal driving lessons but also for offering discounts for any block bookings she wanted and any student discounts and those sort of things. Sam didn't want to be one of those driving instructors in Blackburn who offer cheap driving lessons near me gang. Instead, she wanted to be very competitive and also be the leader in price in a few years to come.

After a few hours I had all the information I needed and it was time now to get back to the office and start making a strategy for Sam's Driving School in Blackburn so we both went through deadlines and made a plan going forward. I told Sam that I would touch base with her in one week's time to finalise the strategy and go through the design principles, if this could be signed off we could then move onto step 2 which will be to get the layout of her brand updated, create artwork and the layout for her website.