Hopeful drivers idle while MPI clears pile-up of postponed road tests

Manitoba Public Insurance is slowly clearing a major pile-up of postponed road tests while hopeful drivers idle as demand for the coveted examination outpaces capacity.

Read this article for free:

or

Already have an account? Log in here »

To continue reading, please subscribe with this special offer:

All-Access Digital Subscription

$4.75 per week*

  • Enjoy unlimited reading on winnipegfreepress.com
  • Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
  • Access News Break, our award-winning app
  • Play interactive puzzles
Continue

*Pay $19.00 every four weeks. GST will be added to each payment. Subscription can be cancelled anytime.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/07/2020 (924 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitoba Public Insurance is slowly clearing a major pile-up of postponed road tests while hopeful drivers idle as demand for the coveted examination outpaces capacity.

The race for a road test

Booking a road test with Manitoba Public Insurance can be a cut-throat task these days with demand for the service pent up due to COVID-19 delays.

Approximately 600 road test appointments are released each Wednesday morning at 9 a.m., but are filled within an hour. The earliest people can expect to take their road test is at least 60 days in the future.

Booking a road test with Manitoba Public Insurance can be a cut-throat task these days with demand for the service pent up due to COVID-19 delays.

Approximately 600 road test appointments are released each Wednesday morning at 9 a.m., but are filled within an hour. The earliest people can expect to take their road test is at least 60 days in the future.

The corporation expects to clear its backlog of approximately 2,100 postponed tests within two months. New bookings will be accommodated after that date.

If you’re successful at booking a test, drivers are required to wear a mask and sanitize all touch points in the vehicle. Examiners meanwhile wear a respirator or medical mask and protective eyewear.

As for driver education programs, MPI’s Driver Z program piloted an online version through the summer for students whose courses were cancelled. The corporation is currently working through the backlog of in-car lessons while planning for upcoming fall sessions.

Brian Smiley, media relations coordinator for the Crown-corporation, said 4,300 previously scheduled road tests were postponed on March 14, days after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

“Roughly 50 per cent have rebooked,” Smiley said Wednesday. “We had to plow through those roughly 2,100 before we could open up for new tests.”

Since MPI resumed offering road tests on July 8, Gordon Pritchard said his 17-year-old daughter has visited the corporation’s website every Wednesday morning in a desperate attempt to book an appointment for her road test.

MPI will only accept road test bookings on Wednesday mornings at 9 a.m., through their website, by phone or at a service centre or Autopac agent, to keep a lid on demand.

Roughly 600 available appointments are released and all are snapped up within an hour, Smiley said.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Examiner Yuri Yermilov sanitizes the car before going on a driving test in Winnipeg on Wednesday.

However, Pritchard said any open spots listed online are gone within minutes. His daughter has also tried lining up at their local service centre with a dozen others in hopes of getting an appointment, only to be turned down.

“They’re creating this availability that doesn’t meet the need. Worse than that is you’re creating this massive bottle neck,” Pritchard said. “It’s completely inadequate.”

“I’m sure there’s other people that have a need for a driver’s test and can’t get one, and that’s not right, and the piece that drives me crazy is the attitude of this government agency that is not willing to adapt,” he said.

MPI is currently operating at reduced capacity, Smiley said, with four of its five Winnipeg testing centres open; the corporation’s Main Street service centre is a COVID-19 screening location.

“They’re creating this availability that doesn’t meet the need. Worse than that is you’re creating this massive bottle neck. It’s completely inadequate.” – Gordon Pritchard

Road test appointments are being booked 60 days into the future, when the backlog is expected to be cleared, Smiley said. Last summer, wait times averaged between 30 to 60 days.

Even though MPI has added more driver examiners, and recalled some from retirement, physical distancing requirements, COVID-19 precautions and summer vacations have reduced the overall number of available road test appointments, Smiley said.

While demand at rural testing centres is lower, allowing Winnipeg residents to book a test outside the Perimeter Highway and expanding service hours to evenings and weekends, are not currently in the plan, Smiley said.

Each Winnipeg service centre is able to offer on average 40 road tests daily.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS MPI is currently operating at reduced capacity, the media relations coordinator said, with four of its five Winnipeg testing centres open.

“We know our customers are frustrated. But having said that, there has to be expectation that we’re trying the best we can to accommodate our customers in the very unusual world we’re living in right now,” Smiley said. “Eventually, yes, we will be operating at full capacity but we aren’t able to provide a dateline on that.”

Pritchard meanwhile wants the corporation to make headway on the backlog especially to offer road tests to essential service employees and those who rely on private transportation for work.

“Scale it up with a solution that fits the problem,” Pritchard said. “I’m empathetic to the needs of our government agencies during COVID-19… but I think we’re all getting a little tired of hearing the COVID excuse.”

danielle.dasilva@freepress.mb.ca

Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva
Reporter

Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.

Report Error Submit a Tip