More than a third of those sitting for a practical test to obtain a driving licence are being failed by Transport Malta examiners, with instructors calling for an overhaul of the testing system and checks and balances in place to prevent abuse.
Last year, a driving licence racket was revealed whereby driving test students were being moved to the front of the queue or recommended for passes by ministers and Labour Party officials.
This resulted in an unknown number of students acquiring their driving licences without the necessary skills to be safely behind the wheel.
But now, some driving instructors say that students are failing for minor or ‘silly’ reasons, skewing the pass and failure rate and making more money for certain driving schools.
“We have been in the industry far too long not to notice what is going on,” a veteran instructor told The Shift on condition of anonymity.
“It seems that many students of motoring schools are failing too often and on very simple mistakes. This benefits the same motoring schools as it means more fees are forked out by the same students in new test applications and additional weeks of lessons,” he said.
Statistics published recently in parliament, following questions raised by Nationalist Party MP Rebekah Borg, showed that between 2020 and 2023, a total of 34,048 practical driving tests were conducted by Transport Malta examiners. Almost 12,000 candidates failed, equivalent to 34%.
While this rate falls within the average across European member states, where failure rates can be between 20% and 55% on the first try, some instructors believe it is time for Transport Malta to review how the tests are conducted and what leads to a pass or a fail.
This is even more important in the context of last year’s revelations which found passes were being given to students who may not have otherwise passed, a result of political interference.
In addition, “Examiners need to be changed regularly as there is too much familiarity with certain motoring schools. Also, it does not make sense that instructors stand to benefit if their students fail. The contrary should happen,” another instructor said.
What happens after a failure?
There are around 150 registered motoring schools in Malta, and students would typically enrol with one of them, paying between €25 and €30 an hour each week for an average of six months.
When a student fails, they must re-apply through their chosen motoring school. Aside from paying another fee of some €60, including the instructor’s fee, the waiting time for another test slot is around three months.
During this time and to avoid another failure, students typically choose and are encouraged to continue lessons, paying hundreds of euro over the three months until the next test attempt occurs.
The higher the failure rate and the longer the time between tests, the more money the motoring school makes.
This system is unfair, instructors say, adding there is little sign that Transport Malta plans to reduce test waiting times or reassess pass and fail criteria.
But it is not just impacting Maltese citizens. While European citizens can use their national driving license in Malta, third-country nationals can only use theirs for a year before being required to apply for a Maltese or EU licence.
Among the more than 34,000 that failed between 2020 and 2023, some 15,000 were non-EU citizens.