Saturday, 14 November 2015
I read a piece in the driving schools trade magazines putting forward the idea of price surges for lessons when demand is high and all our diaries are full. The taxi trade was used an example with higher prices at peak times. I suppose this happens a lot in transport. Train tickets are more expensive at peak times. Air flights are more expensive in the holiday season so should we be any different?
I don't think the price surge idea would work with driving lessons. A taxi journey is just a one off for a lot of people. The customer doesn't know the taxi driver personally most of the time. Compare this to a driving instructor who has got to know a pupil over time and has formed a good working relationship with them. I would not feel comfortable telling a pupil that their lessons were going up in price because I was getting more phone calls at the moment. I think they would feel they were being cheated. I know I wouldn't like it if it were done to me. Are we to reduce prices below our usual when times are not so busy, around Christmas for instance? I have no intention of lowering my prices at any time. I think it's negative business. Unless I get really desperate.
I think we need to remember that we are in education as well as business. It's like charging extra for lessons because you'r in a fancy car. I just think it's gimmicky. A fair price for good quality lessons will always win the day over silly offers and price surges. Call me old fashioned if you like.
I opened a mysterious envelope this week. It contained a certificate of excellence for my business based on online reviews, pricing and that sort of thing. It was from Best three rated dotcom. I looked at the site and in the listings there I was with a couple of other reputable driving schools. Not a bad bit of free advertising actually. Anyone else heard of this site?
I think that there is a definite shortage of driving instructors at the moment. Every school in the land seems to be advertising for them. I suspect there will be a flood of new instructors soon as the driving instructor training organisations see a gap opening up and swing into action. This wave of extreme business can't go on forever so time to get your business established on the lines of quality training and sensible pricing. We'll never make it rich teaching people to drive but we can make a difference to our pupils and make a reasonable living. That's good enough for me.
Thursday, 8 October 2015
Soothing or distracting? It seems nobody knows.
I love sounds in the car when I'm driving. I've spent many an hour recently ripping the CD collection to a USB stick so I can play them in the car. No CD payers in new cars which is not a great step forward in my opinion. All this has led me to read up a bit on the effect music has upon driving.
Different studies have provided different answers to the question of distraction. Apparently classical music is the most distracting and I can see why. It's complex stuff which demands a certain amount of concentration from the listener. If the concentration effort is going on the music then it can't be going on the road. Classical can be just the thing in a traffic jam though. It can sooth the soul that would otherwise be getting frustrated about not getting anywhere.
The tempo of the music is a factor. The faster the BPM the faster you want to drive which makes sense. A friend commented on this many years ago when my driving suddenly became more aggressive whilst listening to Korn. Nowadays I can listen to the most intense thrash and keep to a reasonable speed. Music on the motorway is absolutely essential. A few hours of driving in a straight line can be deadly boring without something to keep the mind occupied. In an urban traffic situation music can become annoying so I just turn it off.
It would be interesting to do an experiment on a driving lesson. Three tracks played on the move. One slow, one medium and one fast paced track could be played and the pupil's driving monitored to see if there is any effect. This would be a good chance to get those coaching skills to work and get some feedback from the pupil. It would make them consider driving in a wider context and benefit them after passing the driving test. As well as discussing how it made the pupil feel it would also bring to light how many other sounds were masked by the music. Noise from other cars, siren from the ambulance etc. It feels a lot more like driving in isolation when there are sounds on the stereo.
To be honest the biggest distraction is when actually selecting the tunes. The new touch screen interfaces take so much scrolling up and down and poking of buttons to get what you want. It's surprising how long I'm not paying attention to the road when I'm doing this. At least I'm aware of this and wait for an opportune moment to make my selection. The touch screen on my car decides not to work on some mornings and then the thing goes mad and scrolls through menus of it's own accord. I rang the garage and they say this isn't normal. No driving instructor can take a day off to sort out the sounds so I'll have to see if this is a temporary glitch. Happy motoring and choose your music wisely!
Monday, 21 September 2015
It's all come up roses in the end.
I had written a few posts recently about being mis-sold a PCP by my local dealership. I informed then I was a driving instructor with a annual mileage of 35000. The PCP plan had a much lower mileage allowance of 20000 which would incur significant costs when it came to trade in time. After complaining to the dealership and the finance company I presented my case to the Financial Ombudsman which seems to have done the trick.
I was contacted by the dealership and arranged to go in for a meeting to discuss the complaint. I expected to come away empty handed but was very surprised when I got there. The culprits were no longer at the dealership and had been replaced by some new guys. I spoke to the new branch and sales managers who were very nice. They began by apologising for the fact that I had to go through the hassle of sending the complaint around before reaching the Ombudsman which brought it to their attention. They admitted that the plan had been mis-sold and was not suitable for my needs.
After some discussion it was agreed that after a couple of years the car would be valued for trade in as if it only had the allowed 40000 miles on it and the difference between that and it's value with the actual mileage would be covered by the dealership. I can now do as many miles as I like without penalty which is a huge weight off my mind. They also agreed to pay for the dual controls fitting to the next car which will save me a bit. I thought that was a good and proper deal.
It appears that the other guys who mis-sold me the plan had been suspected of irregularities and had been removed. Now they have a proper case they can do something about it and find out what was really going on. I now realise it was not the whole company that was to blame but just a few individuals. Makes me glad I didn't start anything on the internet which would have got them bad press. I did find their internal complaints a bit soft though. I expected more from the finance company but all's well that ends well.
On a lighter note I drove through central London last weekend and it nearly made my brain explode. I'd hate to be in a rush and have to get through that lot. Lights went red then green then red again and nothing was moving except aggressive taxis and mad cyclists. I felt so proud when I got to Brixton and saw the Trailer Park Boys doing their thing live. Had to drive back through near midnight and the city did look spectacular from the insane traffic jam we were in. It's an interesting life innit?
Wednesday, 2 September 2015
Easy peasy for a driving instructor who knows the roads.
I am out there on the road all day every day during the week. Like we all are. I have come to know the roads of Nottingham like the back of my hand. I don't know many street names so I could never be a taxi driver. Drop me off anywhere in this fair city and I'll always find my way straight back home.
It's not often I drive outside Nottingham to be honest. Come the weekend I have had enough of sitting in the car and can't wait to be out in the open air, or on an bus. I took the kids to Newquay for a holiday a couple of weeks back and it brought into focus the shortcomings in my hazard awareness and planning. I am used to knowing what comes next and what the speed limits are on any given stretch of road. Surprising how difficult things can be when the familiarity is taken away.
My sat nav is really old now. It costs £100 or something to update the maps so there's no chance. Sometimes I will drive onto a road that doesn't exist and the thing will recalculate. No big deal. The problem is that many of the speed limits have been lowered since the maps were done and the device is telling me it's a 60 when really it's a 50mph road. I got that unsure feeling learners get when they aren't sure what the speed limit is. I started to pay much more attention to signs as the week progressed and was back on form after a few days.
A couple of times I took the wrong turning at roundabouts. Easy to follow the lane changes when you know exactly where the lanes are going in advance. A bit tougher on unfamiliar ground. I had to struggle with my temper and keep it cool as I drove off in the wrong direction. It brought it home to me how much of my driving is done by memory. Plenty of country lanes in lovely Cornwall. As a city driver they aren't something I practice regularly. Tight turns straight after a hill which can't be seen until the last second kept me on my toes. Hard to be slow when the locals are 2 feet off your rear bumper and looking impatient.
The caravan site got a bit muddy towards the end of the week. Trying to make it up the hill in a front wheel drive car with the wheels skidding left and right gave me some much needed practice in clutch control. On the way home it was a game of dodging the aggressive idiots on the motorway and trying not to be a centre lane driver. It is so much more convenient and safe to stay in the middle lane as opposed to bobbing in and out of the left hand lane I think.
So it was good to realise my skills needed some work and to put the work in. When you stop thinking you're a good driver you start being one I've heard it said. It's true as well. None of us can afford to be complacent.
Wednesday, 5 August 2015
Pupils can really give a Driving Instructor food for thought.
On my last blog post I told the world about how I had been mis-sold a PCP by my local dealership. I was chatting to a pupil about how I think companies in general have become more sinister and underhand in the way they deal with the public. My pupil who has worked in the financial sector for various companies has told me this is undoubtedly the case. He reckons it's a trickle down from the banking crisis where no one was ever prosecuted for wrongdoing and just seemed to get away with it.I complained to Skoda UK about the mis-selling and found they were practically powerless to do anything at all. The people on the phone seemed to sympathise with me but told me there is only so much they are allowed to do and pointed me in the direction of the financial ombudsman. I have put in my complaint with them. Today they informed me that they cannot raise a complaint against the dealership but can against the finance company. They've collected all the info and now it's time for me to sit back and see what they come up with.
Last week a really nice bloke ran into the back of my car at a roundabout during a lesson. Less than six thousand miles on the clock and it's already going in for repair. Ha. The guy admitted liability so everything should be straight forward. I informed my insurance company of the accident and they set the wheels in motion to get my car repaired. Later the other guy's insurance company called and offered to sort everything out. I informed them the process had already started and then they started to tell me that if my insurance company asked too much for the hire vehicle etc. then they would contest it and I may have to pay the charges out of my own pocket.
I informed my insurance company what had happened and they said that the other company were using scare tactics to get me to go with them so they could keep their costs down. I would receive the cheapest repairs and hire car possible if I let them handle the claim according to my company. The other guys told me that my insurer was simply looking to make as much money as possible. I felt a bit like piggy in the middle. I've never come across this before on previous non fault claims. I was told that they shouldn't have approached me at all. A few days after the calls I received letters from the other company telling me of the risk I have of being liable for vehicle hire charges if they contest them. This was totally brand new to me. During previous non fault claims I have simply informed my company and let them handle it.
The other company farce I'm dealing with is the tree in my garden. I called the letting agent about 6 weeks ago to tell them it's overgrown and touching various wires. The telephone lines and power lines I think. First they ignored it, then they lost the notes on the request. 3 times I emailed photos of the tree. A guy came round from the contractors and had a look and took more photos. Nothing happened. I chased it a bit. Another guy came round from another contractor and took some more photos. As I write this the tree has still not been cut back. Ha! I'd do it myself if it wasn't so high up. Anyway, there's me getting it off my chest about modern companies. I'm not going to mention the stuff I've heard from new pupils about Drive Dynamics cos this would go on too long. Have a nice day.
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Monday, 1 June 2015
I thought never trusting a car salesman was just a myth.
I got mis sold a pcp agreement last month. I'm investigating the matter to see what can be done. Nothing like this has ever happened before and I've got to say I didn't enjoy the experience. Here's the lowdown.
After receiving a letter from my local dealership suggesting I could trade my car in now under favourable terms I visited the showroom on Mansfield Road Nottingham. I explained that I was a driving instructor with an annual mileage of around 35000 and that my current vehicle was bought as new from the same garage under an HP agreement. I gave the mileage on my previous vehicle at around 72000.
I was shown that the new monthly payment on a PCP plan was only slightly higher than my current HP payment with a definite resale value at the end. I asked the sales guy why the trade-in price was higher than that my previous car. He replied that the new model would trade for much more than the outgoing model. He explained that by trading in every 2-3 years I needn't be concerned about the final payment. The figures looked good and the monthly payment would be manageable to my business. The fact that these figures are based on an annual mileage allowance of 20000 was not disclosed to me at point of sale. This product was sold to me in the full knowledge that my annual mileage was way in excess of this figure and would render the plan unsuitable for purpose.
I had no further contact with the dealership after paying the initial deposit either in person, by phone or email. Nothing was sent to me by post.
On Wednesday 22/04/15 I was contacted via mobile phone by the sales guy who informed me that the vehicle would be arriving at the dealership on the following Monday or Tuesday. I suggested getting dual controls fitted on the Wednesday 29/04/15 to which the salesman agreed.
I telephoned the dealership on Thursday 30/04/15 and left a message for the sales guy to confirm that the dual controls would be fitted at 9.00am on Wednesday 29/04/15.
I received a telephone voicemail message from the salesman on Friday 24/04/15 asking if there were any space needed for the fitting of the dual controls at the dealership. As there were no special requirements and I retrieved the message after 5.00pm I did not respond.
I had no further contact with the dealership until I arrived there at 8.50am on Wednesday 29/04/15. I made the sales guy aware that I was waiting for the arrival of Dual Control Services who arrived at around 9.50am. The car was positioned to allow access for the dual controls to be fitted. After removing the dual controls from my existing vehicle a new set was fitted to the new vehicle. Fitting was completed at around 11.00am . The previous vehicle was now unfit for purpose to use as a driving school car as the dual controls had been removed. The sales guy then informed me that the PDI would not be completed until 4.00pm and that paperwork had not arrived. I left the dealership and cancelled the afternoon's work with a view to returning at 4.00pm.
I arrived at the dealership at around 3.50pm. At this point the only paperwork I had seen was the deposit receipt dated 06/03/2015. I was informed by the salesman that no paperwork had arrived. I was apprehensive as I needed the new car for business the next day. I had arranged to meet a friend later but this could be cancelled. I also believed at this time that the dealership closed at 5.00pm ( I found out some time later that they actually closed at 7.00pm that day).
I sat and waited for around 40 minutes and was handed a contract at approx. 4.30pm by. I looked at it and signed. Then I noticed the previously undisclosed 20000 mile limit. I was shocked by this and queried it with the sales guy who informed me that I should have told about this at the point of sale. I also should have been called in to look over the contracts before signing. I discussed why I had not been informed of such an important piece of information when the salesman knew my annual mileage was well in excess of this. He explained that if I was trading in every couple of years it wouldn't matter. He told me that at trade in the deal was between me and the dealership and had nothing to do with the finance company. He said he would have a word with his manager and sort something out. There was some arguing and in all this I regrettably signed the sheet (already pre-ticked) that stated I had received the customer care in relation to explaining the contract. I had in fact received no such customer support.
I became frustrated at having the figure hidden from me but I had to take the car or close my business. I asked the salesman where the car was as the dealership was closing in 15 minutes. He replied that someone had gone to fill the tank with petrol. He did not use this opportunity to inform me that the branch was open until 7.00pm.
The sales guy then asked me for my driving licence. I replied that no one had told me to bring it. He asked if I could scan it and email it to him asap. I replied I lived about 15 minutes away and could do it as soon as I got home but remarked that the branch closes at 5.00. He replied he would be there until 5.30. He did not take this opportunity to tell me that the branch was open until 7.00pm.
At about 4.50pm the car was brought round to the front of the dealership and I complained there were no mats in the car. A salesman got some and I fitted them and left. I drove straight home in order to email my licence back by 5.30. At this point I had not been asked to show any ID before taking the vehicle.
I arrived home, scanned and emailed my licence back at 17.24. I asked Sales bloke for something in writing about the mileage limits and what we had discussed about them not counting. I noticed that in my haste I had left behind the contracts I had signed. I then left to meet my friend and on returning later that evening I checked my emails. The sales guy had replied and said he would contact me when he had spoken to his manager. He had replied at 18.55.
I returned to the dealership at 9.30 next morning to collect the documents I had forgotten the previous evening. Sales guy told me there were more documents to sign. I said I would sign nothing further until I had taken advice. I then left the dealership.
After finally having an opportunity to read the contract and realise it's implications I emailed the garage to arrange a meeting for the following Tuesday.
My friend and I arrived at the dealership at 11.00am. I discussed how I felt that I had been mis-sold the pcp plan. Sales guy was evasive and the discussion was not going anywhere. I asked if I could get the old car back and reverse the transaction. We insisted on seeing the branch manager. We were joined by the manager and I explained the situation. I had not been given any information up until the point of signing that would reveal the hidden mileage allowance. He simply pointed to my signature on the tick sheet. I mentioned that the company had assisted me in modifying a car that I hadn't signed a contract for. He said he didn't know anything about it.
After some discussion it was agreed that the manager would look at the paperwork with a view to reversing the transaction to square 1. I asked if it was possible to be compensated for the price of the dual controls and other expenses. Total expenditure on the vehicle including deposit was £673.00. The manager said he would telephone me later in the day with the result after looking at paperwork.
He telephoned me later to tell me the transaction could not be reversed. Reasons given were that the papers were signed and in order, the old vehicle had too high a mileage to finance back to me and I had put too many miles onto the new car. He assured me that the mileage allowance would not effect me at trade in. That was the end of the conversation.
I can't believe they would hide such an important piece of information. I didn't do any research because I have been using the place for over 11 years and I've never had a problem. I'll certainly be more careful in future as this mileage limit is going to cost me if I can't get anything done about it. Wish me luck...
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Wednesday, 29 April 2015
Glad it's not just me who gets nervous!
I was flipping through the driving instructor trade magazines when I came across an article about the stress motorists feel when visiting a garage for repairs to their vehicle. I feel reassured now I know it's not just me. Some people get well stressed and feel nauseous or faint. I don't go that far but I do get a tight feeling in my chest. Close to where my wallet is usually.
You know it's going to cost before you get there. You never go to a garage to spend £20 do you? Ten times that and more a lot of the time. That sinking feeling you get when a warning light goes on and you know it's hassle and expense on the way. There's nothing quite like it.
I turned up to collect my new car this morning. It's been in the garage a few days and all has been arranged. Last time when the garage was owned by a smaller chain the dual controls were fitted first thing and I was back to work by 11.00am. When I turned up this morning the new one didn't even have it's number plates fitted. Dual control man was an hour late turning up and I won't get the car til 4.00 this afternoon. That's why I'm at home writing this. Had to cancel the whole afternoon's driving lessons. Even more money gone. No wonder I feel stress on the way there.
A lot of motorists would ignore a warning light for ages before doing something about it according to the article I read. It's amazing how many pupils don't notice a warning light at all and never mention it. If a light comes on I stare at it from the corner of my eye and use mind power to make it go off. Doesn't work most of the time and we driving schools have no option but to get things checked out immediately. Can't have time off the road. The MOT test is a source of stress for drivers as well. It's been many a year since I've had a car long enough for it to need an MOT but it was always a dodgy time in years past. Mine always seemed to fail and need work then a retest. It's a source of stress for my mates who have older cars.
It seems all we can do is try to relax and get problems sorted early before they become really expensive later on. Don't think I'll ever be really relaxed around a garage but that's just how it is. Happy motoring people.
Tuesday, 7 April 2015
Beware the shark infested waters of the SEO and IT industries.
If, like me, you have put many hours of love and learning into your website, tweaking and redesigning until it sells driving lessons. If you have slaved yourself doing SEO until it's on the front page then gone independent when it starts to bring enough work in then you care about it like it's your own child. It's a huge part of my driving school business now and without it the future is a lot less certain.
I employed the services of a web designer some years ago and in the beginning he was so enthusiastic and helpful. Couldn't do enough for me it seemed. As time went on he stopped answering calls which led me to solve my own problems and I learned a lot about websites. I like designing my own site and updating it when I want. One thing I didn't get involved with was domain hosting. I'd rather pay someone a small fee to do that. Until now.
For the last couple of years the domain registration has been allowed to expire. This means the site gets blocked and can't get any visitors and so can't generate new pupils. Quite a serious situation for the independent driving instructor. I have to call and text the web constantly until the site is back up. It worries me when it's down, it really does.
This time the site was down for about 5 days. During this time the phone stops and the site starts to slide down the Google rankings. After a couple of days texting the man I was assured that the site would be up within 48 hours at the very most. When it didn't get back online I tried to sort it myself but didn't have the passwords or account details so I'm effectively helpless to do anything. I had a look at the web designers site and there is no evidence at all I'm dealing with a legitimate company. No photos of anyone on the creative team. No customer reviews. There's even a blog that has no posts in it. Not even a welcome post. It made me very suspicious. There's no Google business page or facebook page to show customer interaction. Nothing you'd expect from a functioning business. In the 4 years I've been dealing with this imaginary company I've only ever spoken to one person. I really think this is one guy on his own.
I tacked down the bloke on facebook and after putting a face to the name I became a bit less nervous. After phoning the hosting company but they could do nothing without username and passwords. I then studied what I needed to know about running the account for myself and asked him for the account info. No reply so I told him of my intention to contact trading standards and two hours later the site was up and running. Still no account info but I'm determined to get it and run the thing myself.
I have used SEO companies before but found them to be well shady and unclear about what they are selling me. I would advise any driving instructor to take control of their online property and run as much as you can yourself. Don't get held to ransom by someone you'll never meet.
Friday, 27 February 2015
Of mates, parents or anyone else with something to say.Sometimes it happens. You're getting along well with a pupil, driving lessons are going great and then wham! A message saying they're not happy with the progress they are making and they want their money back. Returning money for lessons paid in advance is no problem. Refunding money on lessons they have had is a different matter entirely.
So what was the problem I asked him on the phone. "Well, I've been talking to my mates and..." From here on in it's a lost cause. This pupil in particular lives in a part of town that is not good for a learner driver who cannot move off or stop, let alone turn left and stay on their own side of the road. It would be unsafe to start there and would lead to safety critical incidents every time we had to move or turn. I took the decision, which he agreed with, to drive us to a suitable area to start the lesson. No problems. Turns out his mates have been telling him that I'm wasting his time and should take an 'in at the deep end' approach because that's how you learn to drive.
Of course that isn't how you learn to drive. It's how you learn to be nervous and scared of the road. It seems once a learner has been influenced by friends or relatives it's very difficult for a driving instructor to convince them otherwise. In the end I refunded him an hour of used lesson time as a compromise to get him out of the door without leaving bad reviews or generally slagging me off. He was friendly about it and seemed pleased with the way I dealt with the complaint. The fact that many of his mates were or are illegal drivers didn't make him question their opinions at all.
Today I did a refresher lesson for a pupil whose friends had tried to convince her that she didn't need any and she should get out on the road by herself after three years of not driving. Luckily she had the strength of mind to ignore them and get some training. Very nice lesson it was too. She definitely does need refreshing and may have put herself and others in danger had she just gone out on her own.
These incidents have made me realise that we don't teach in a vacuum. Every pupil is subject to negative influences from the people around them and what they get through the media. From boy racer mates to parents who think that you shouldn't need more than ten lessons to pass the test. Just like yesteryear back in the 80s. There is only so much we can do to counteract these influences without it becoming personal. No doubt pupils will tell others what has been said in the car so we've got to be very diplomatic.
Anyway, dodgy pupil has gone and nice new pupils have entered my diary so it's onwards and upwards all the way.
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Thursday, 12 February 2015
Different people different ideas.I've been looking at how talks go on about modernising the driving test to make it more fit for purpose. I don't really see much wrong with the test itself. Teaching needs to keep up with modern practices so it sticks after the test but the driving test itself is fine I think. There is talk of including a sat nav section which would be useful. I also heard that manoeuvres were being done away with altogether which would be a big mistake. In a world short of road space you've got to be able to move the vehicle safely in confined spaces.
I teach a wide range of people who all have their own views on the driving test. Some of them are based on myth while others can be motivated by culture or by past experience. The attitudes based on myth are the funniest. Some people believe that the test is rigged and based on quotas. Don't get your test on a Friday because they will have run out of pass certificates is an old favourite that keeps sticking around.
People from overseas can be outraged at how difficult and lengthy the UK driving test is. Students from the middle east think the test is way too long and far too stringent. This can cause a few problems during teaching as they shrug off their mistakes like it doesn't really matter. Constantly comparing how we drive here with what you can get away with in Iran can become a bit of a bore. Driving in Iran sounds like a deadly game of forcing your way through traffic by any means necessary compared to here. Trying to convince foreign students that our way is the better and safer way can be a bit of a challenge. They tend to have a distrust of officialdom and what they see as needless bureaucracy which can make them a little argumentative towards examiners. Even after they have just passed.
Many experienced drivers think the test is not hard enough. It's a lot more difficult than it was when I passed back in the 80s. Many parents seem to think that nothing has changed since then and their kids should be able to pass in 10 lessons or less. They also see the test as being something separate from 'real driving' and just want their kids put through as quickly and cheaply as possible. Whether the youngsters are safe on the road afterwards seems to be of secondary concern.
I'm sure that the driving test will continue to evolve in it's own slow and painful way. There are many ways it can be refined to include new things. I would definitely reduce the number of allowed driver faults. 15 is a bit too many for my liking. I think 9 is about right. As long as the driving test helps produce better drivers in the future any progress is good news.
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Tuesday, 20 January 2015
Even a driving instructor's got to have a life.
Don't get me wrong I'm happy to be busy. Couple of years ago there was a period when I thought it was all over. I'd go any distance to pick up pupils and bend over backwards to keep them as work levels were so low. Now times have changed and it seems driving instructors now have a better set of problems to deal with.
Being self employed it's difficult to turn away work. It's certainly not something I enjoy doing. Yet things are so busy I'm working more hours than I said I would. It can get a bit depressing getting up on a Sunday morning to go do lessons. It means that there is not a day when I don't open my eyes and then just stay in bed. Everybody needs time for life and driving instructors are no exception.
Pupils and their parents don't seem to think we are due a bit of rest. They will actually call at 11.00pm on a Saturday night. Now that's something I just would not do unless I was calling for an ambulance. I like to think that it's inappropriate to call anyone I don't know at such an ungodly hour. When I do talk to potential pupils they seem put out when I won't start at 6.00am or work until 10.00 at night. They might be ready for a lesson at 5 o clock on a Sunday afternoon but I am not.
When the lessons have finished the job is far from over. Getting home means a quick coffee and a fag and then on goes the laptop. After answering any phone messages it's on to the emails. I always respond to messages as I don't want to get a reputation for ignoring enquiries but it can go on for an hour or so if I'm not careful. An hour of unpaid work after a really long day on the road can be so draining. Don't want to sound like I'm moaning but I'm sure other instructors know what I mean. I've only got time to write this because I've had a cancellation.
It's important that we don't overwork ourselves. If we allow ourselves to get fatigued then the lesson quality is bound to suffer. As we know this can have dangerous consequences in the long run. I think we have to learn to say no sometimes. Future pupil numbers are never guaranteed and it's wise to make hay while the sun shines. Trouble is the sun has been shining for over a year now and shows no signs of slowing down. Could we relax a bit knowing that the next few months will be OK? I think we can. Not everyone is busy according to what I see on the internet but here in Nottingham it is booming. Let's not overdo it out there and forget what it's like to have fun. Over and out.
Tuesday, 6 January 2015
Driving on ice can be very revealing.Last week I did a few lessons in between Christmas and New Year. We had a good bit of snow here in Nottingham but I didn't let it interfere with lessons too much. We're preparing people for real life driving so it's good that pupils get experience in all sorts of weather conditions. Holiday week means there's less traffic on the road so an ideal time to get some practice in.
It all depends on the pupil's experience and confidence when I take them out in the snow. People have different attitudes towards it. One person who is having refresher lessons phoned up to cancel. |I always give people the option of cancelling late without charge if conditions are bad. I was a bit disappointed that they didn't want to do it. As they have already passed the test and are just bringing their skills up to date a drive in the snow would have been ideal. I thought it a missed opportunity but you can't force people into things. A relatively new pupil also cancelled. She is still at the nervous stage anyway and one tiny skid could wreck her confidence. In this case it was good that she made the decision to cancel.
Driving on a slippery road is good for developing smoothness in the use of controls. Too much gas on the move off and there's your wheel spin. One or two of these and it's amazing how the learner gets to grips with the biting point and the right amount of gas. They develop this more quickly than driving on a dry road where they can get away with a certain amount of jerkiness. Harsh braking on icy roads results in the sound of the ABS coming on and if the wheels are being turned a small skid. Soon the pupil's braking is a lot smoother as they seek to avoid a skid. Again, excellent practice that you wouldn't get on a dry road.
Hazard awareness and forward planning come along a treat when there's snow on the road. Give way lines can no longer be seen at many junctions. Anticipation is required in case anyone is coming the other way and can't see their give way line. Like at crossroads. The Mirror signal manoeuvre routine needs to be started early to allow for gentle braking. Paying attention to the road surface itself becomes a factor whilst trying to keep the tyres off the snow to maintain grip.
Yes, they were very good lessons last week. It was a fantastic Christmas holiday altogether. I read a lot of Harry Potter and had a good time with my daughters playing Xbox and watching films. Now the diary is filling up again with new pupils and existing pupils coming back off holiday. A happy new year to all you driving instructors out there. All then best for 2015.
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