Russell Blackstock

Russell Blackstock is a senior reporter at the Herald on Sunday.

Quota to fail testing drivers revealed

Leaked memo prescribes 40 per cent pass rate.

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Testing officers at driver licensing centres have been told to fail about 60 per cent of candidates.

Confirmation of the set rate is included in an internal memo obtained by the Herald on Sunday.

The letter from Gerard Clark, national operations manager at NZ Driver Licensing - the sole company contracted to conduct driving tests - informs staff of pass-rate expectations.

It was issued on May 2, two months after the new tests were introduced. It states: "Pass percentages for the new Full and Restricted tests should fall around the 40 per cent mark."

The memo also notes that sites where the pass rate is 50 per cent or higher appear to be "outside the norm", which could indicate problems with the test route or "perhaps the application of the test criteria by the Tester".

A copy of the memo was forwarded to the Herald on Sunday by an experienced tester who didn't want to be named. The tester also claimed officers who passed too many candidates were being filmed during tests.

The tough new test has caused fury among learner drivers since it was introduced in February.

Of 27,568 tests, just 12,123 resulted in passes. Learner drivers have paid more than $650,000 to resit the test, which costs $88 a time.

But the transport agency's principal adviser for testing standards, Jim Furneaux, said there was no way testers were set a target of failing six out of 10 people.

He insisted the agency is simply making sure the test is fair for everyone.

"There is no target and there is no quota," Furneaux said. "There is, however, an expectation that tests will be applied consistently across the country.

"New Zealand Driver Licensing has provided guidelines to all its branches for several years, stressing the need for consistency. They regularly look at the current overall national average pass rate and try to ensure regional variations over and above that national average stay broadly within a fairly wide band.

"This is so that a customer sitting a test in Northland or in Southland can expect a similar level of rigour to be applied in the application of the test."

He added: 'Well under 60 per cent of applicants are failing. The current pass rate is around 47 per cent."

Furneaux also denied cameras were put in cars to monitor testers who were passing too many people.

"Cameras may be installed in an applicant's vehicle to film a test, as long as the applicant agrees to it, "Furneaux said. "Footage from tests is used in order to assess the work of a testing officer, and as a training tool.

"The footage can also be used as evidence in cases where a complaint is made by an applicant or if the result of the test is disputed."

- Herald on Sunday

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