On 18 May 2023, the Ombudsman, Ms Winnie Chiu, announced the launch of a direct investigation to examine the driving test arrangements of the Transport Department (“TD”).
TD handles matters relating to the arrangements for driving test appointments, driving tests and assessments, as well as driving test appeals pursuant to the relevant sections of the Road Traffic Ordinance and Road Traffic (Driving Licences) Regulations. Recent years saw a growing public demand for driving tests and an ever-increasing waiting time for candidates, with the current waiting time for a driving test ranging from seven to more than ten months on average (Note 1).
Candidates who failed a road test and applied for retaking the test would usually be allotted a test date beyond the validity period of their learner’s driving licences (12 months). It means that they would have to apply for their learner’s driving licences again for undergoing driving training before the next road test, resulting in additional cost and inconvenience. Given the rather low passing rates in road tests (Note 2), a lot of candidates have been affected.
On the other hand, TD does not permit video recording by candidates during driving tests. Some members of the public have complained to the Office of The Ombudsman and questioned TD’s decision of and justification for prohibiting video recording of driving tests with the dashboard cameras in test vehicles. The Office also notices a rising trend in the number of appeal cases relating to driving tests, and that the Transport Tribunal, in the course of handling appeals, has to consider any case-related evidence it has received.
Between January 2022 and March 2023, the Office has received 40 complaints related to driving tests, involving such issues as candidates’ discontent about the waiting time for driving tests, TD’s early test appointment booking system, the scheduling of driving tests, as well as appeals and arrangements for video recording of driving tests.
Ms Chiu said, “In recent years, candidates have to wait longer and longer for taking driving tests. This has led to a slew of complaints. TD needs to review its current workflow of driving test arrangements and consider drawing up improvement measures. In addition, whether TD can make use of technology for keeping objective records of driving tests so as to facilitate effective handling of related complaints and appeal cases is an issue worth studying. In this light, we decided to launch a direct investigation to probe TD’s arrangements for driving tests, including administrative arrangements with respect to applications for driving tests and tests scheduling, recording of driving tests and the appeal handling mechanism. Recommendations would be made where due.“
Note 1: TD’s data show that in 2010, 95% of road tests were conducted within 82 days upon application for motor cycle, private car and light goods vehicle driving licence. However, as at May 7, 2023, the average waiting time for taking a road test for non-commercial vehicles (including private cars, light goods vehicles, motor cycles and motor tricycles) ranged from 223 to 317 days.
Note 2: In 2020, the passing rates in driving tests for private cars and light goods vehicles (combined) were 31% and 25% respectively; in 2021, 30% and 24% respectively.
Source: The Office of The Ombudsman of Hong Kong, China