Published: 06:00, 12 April 2021
| Updated: 15:58, 12 April 2021
An aspiring firefighter from Rainham had his life put on hold after driving lessons were halted and he can't wait to get back behind the wheel.
With lessons resuming across Kent today, driving schools are facing over a year's worth of backlogged of learners who were hoping to pass before the pandemic hit.
Andrew Davis, 24, has been learning to drive for almost three years now. His test was initially meant to be in January but was postponed five months to July.
The Sainsbury's general assistant, added: "At the time I had passed my theory, the Kent Fire and Rescue Service was recruiting for full time firefighters.
"I wrote in my personal statement I was learning to drive but due to the pandemic I can't get lessons and I can't get a test. Other services will be recruiting but I need my drivers licence to progress myself further. I can't get anywhere.
"It's a real shame. It's just a real setback in my life because I feel like I was so close and now I've been put back another hundred yards."
Being able to practice in his parent's car, Andrew sees himself as one of the lucky ones. But the loss of time and money is no less frustrating.
He added: "Words can't describe really how annoyed I am. But at the end of the day it is out of my control. It's out of everyone's control.
"I took my theory test in beginning of last year in 2020 and I have to pass my practical before it runs out in 2022 - so I'm in a rush."
According to the The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, a backlog of 420,000 driving test cancellations are yet to be cleared.
On top of this driving schools are still trying to take on new learners as a new generation turn 17 and seek out an instructor.
It will be weeks before schools know for sure what they are dealing with, as many learners may need to catch up on learning, move to other instructors or quit learning entirely.
WATCH: Jason Wilson speak about how lockdown has impacted driving test and instructors
According to Jason Wilson, manager at A-Class Driving School, it will likely take 18 months to two years to clear the backlog while dealing with the increased demand.
As well as looking to train and recruit more instructors, backlogs will be cleared by streamlining some of the admin processes for learners applying for tests - for example instead of students cancelling and reapplying for tests, they can just swap scheduled days.
The manager added: "The general consensus in relation to students is a lot of them are a bit deflated. A bit of fed up.
"A lot of them were concerned because they had their theory passed and they were hoping they'd be an extension on that. I know some of our instructors have students whose tests have been moved three or four times because of the lockdowns.
"But everybody that I've dealt with understands the pandemic is nobody's fault. Actually, we've got to work together. We would do what we can for our pupils, so I think a lot of them know that."
Even after the massive hit the industry took with very little income for a year, the manager says instructors have been dusting off their cars, charging their flat batteries and are 'ready to rock-and-roll.'
He added: "Lockdown has been quite depressing. A lot of driving instructors across the country lost is their sole income, so they have struggled.
"I think a lot of instructors in other companies have been treated very poorly, being made to pay franchise while they're not working - from what I've seen - which is wrong in my view. If you treat people like that in a pandemic it is only going to compound how they feel.
"The only concern I think for some of our guys is they are worried about another lockdown.
"Obviously they are very keen and excited to get back to work, but they need to remain vigilant, stay safe and do what they can to protect others. So cleaning car in between lessons and taking precautions.
"I think we'll come back stronger and I think the industry will as well."