THUNDER BAY – Casey Peever’s G2 driver’s licence expires on New Year’s Eve.
Without it, the youth worker won’t be able to do her job.
Peever has been trying for months to land a coveted – and increasingly scarce – appointment with Drive Test Ontario, the private sector company contracted by the province to do road tests for drivers in the graduated licensing system.
So far, she’s had no luck, and time is running out.
“I’m stuck in a perpetual loop,” Peever said on Friday, striking out once again trying to find a cancellation spot to gain her full G-level licence.
“I had my test booked and then COVID hit. Long story short, I need my driver’s licence in order to maintain my job. I work with at-risk youth and I drive them around all day. If I have to go back to a G1, I can’t work anymore.”
It’s frustrating, not to mention time consuming, she said.
“It’s taking time out of my workday. I work eight hours. We don’t get breaks. If you take a break, you make the time up. Having to come here to wait in a half-hour long line to be told to do it online – well I was online, stuck in queue for 30 to 40 minutes to have them say sorry, they’re all booked up because it’s a lottery system.”
Peever would like to see the province put a priority on those seeking licence upgrades for work and other essential purposes, instead of her current cross-her-fingers approach.
“They only open up so many a day at arbitrary times,” she said. “It’s extremely frustrating.”
It’s just not possible, said an MTO spokesperson in an emailed response to several questions about what appears to be a growing DriveTest backlog, which has been exacerbated by COVID-19 closures.
“Due to the high demand for road test appointments, DriveTest is unable to prioritize customers. The current road test booking system does not have the functionality to prioritize road test appointments for specific individuals or groups. MTO and DriveTest are currently focused on implementing measures to address the road test backlog as quickly as possible; however, a prioritization function is something that may be included in future IT improvements to Ontario’s road test booking system,” said Lee Alderson, a senior issues advisor at the MTO.
Appointments are opened up to six months in advance, though some have told the Dougall Media newsroom they’ve gone through the process, only to be told the next available appointment is in 2026.
Earlier this month the province increased road testing to seven days a week in a pair of southern Ontario locations, adding extra days at two other locations in that region this past Monday. Southwestern Ontario, Niagara and Ottawa regions will see the same level of service soon, though no mention was made about Northwestern Ontario.
Weekday hours have also been extended and 84 additional employees have been hired to help clear the backlog.
NDP MPP Judith Monteith-Farrell (Thunder Bay-Atikokan) said she’d like to see the province reconsider its stance on prioritizing those who need their license for employment purposes, or at the very least, consider extending the validity of those already in possession of G1 or G2 licenses so they don’t have to start over from scratch.
“There should have been something put in place,” she said.
“It was just a mess because it was not controlled by the Ministry of Transportation, and it should be. What they should be doing is ensuring they have people trained to do drive tests.”
Peever said it's logistically tough for her to book an appointment in Dryden, as other drivers have done.