This article covers obtaining your licence and beginning work as a driving instructor. A driving instructor is any person who teaches another person to drive for money or reward. To do this legally you must hold a Driving Instructor’s licence. You can learn to be a driving instructor for cars, motorbikes and heavy vehicles but you will need separate training for each one.
There are two main steps:
- Get the licence
- Find employment, buy or join a franchise, or start your own school
Getting a Driving Instructor Licence
- You are at least 21 years old
- You have held a full driver’s licence of the relevant class (i.e. car, motorbike or heavy vehicle) for at least three years during the four-year period immediately prior to your application
- You have been authorised by Roads and Maritime Services to undertake an approved course in driving instruction, and have passed.
From the application process through to completing the qualifications usually takes around six months and the process is:
- Documents and checks
- Theory and practical tests
- Letter of eligibility
- Driving Instructor training course
- Regulator Final Assessment
Documents and checks
You’ll need to provide:
- A completed Driving Instructor application form (PDF, 391Kb)
- A completed medical check stating that you’re fit to drive (pages 4 and 5 of the application form)
- Passed Police and criminal checks
- Two specimen signatures
- Four colour passport-sized photos.
You’ll need to:
- Pass an extended knowledge test on road rules (90 questions) – remember to practise the questions using this website
- Car instructors must pass the driving test (95% correct) before being issued a letter of eligibility; motorbike instructors must pass a Motorcycle Operator Skills Test (MOST) with 100% result.
- If you undertake the test in an automatic car, your Driving Instructor licence will have a condition that only allows you to teach in an automatic car.
You’re required to supply the vehicle for all driving/riding tests and assessments.
Completing this stage will entitle you to a letter of eligibility.
Letter of eligibility
Before you can enroll in a training course you must have received your letter of eligibility from Roads and Maritime.
Instructor training course
The instructor training standards are nationally agreed upon and are included in the Australian Quality Training Framework (AQTF):
- Cars: Driving instructors must pass the Certificate IV in Transport and Logistics (Road Transport – Car Driving Instruction) TLI41210
- Heavy vehicles: Driving instructors must pass the Certificate IV in Transport and Logistics (Road Transport – Heavy Vehicle Driving Instruction) TLI41310
- Motorcycles: Riding instructors must pass the Roads and Maritime pre-learner rider training course as a student, prior to commencing the instructor training with an approved course provider.
Visit this page for approved course providers and information for interstate driving instructors and heavy vehicle instructors.
Regulator final assessment
The final stage is to prove that you are ready to teach. You be required to:
- Present lessons
- Demonstrate safe driving
- Perform a commentary drive
- Complete various manoeuvres
Motorcycle instructors don’t take a regulator final assessment but must be accredited by R&M before being able to instruct in the NSW Rdier Training Scheme.
Instructing drivers who have a restricted or full licence
You can obtain a Restricted Driving Instructor’s licence which allows you to instruct drivers or riders of cars or motorbikes (not heavy vehicles) who have progressed past their learner licence.
Working as a driving instructor
Roads and Maritime monitors driving instructor behaviour under the Driving Instructors Act 1992. Make sure you are familiar with your obligations under the act otherwise you risk fines, suspension, loss of licence or prosecution.
Working for an existing driving school
Some driving schools have a fleet of vehicles and hire instructors to work in them. You will be paid a salary or a contract rate and the company will supply you with students via their own marketing efforts. If the pay is per student, check what the minimum guaranteed number of students is – you don’t want to sign up and then only get five students a month – and what are the arrangements during holiday periods.
Licensing or franchising
Other schools offer licencing and franchise opportunities where you purchase your own vehicle but take advantage of their marketing and infrastructure either by purchasing a franchise or paying yearly licence fees. This can be an easy way in to owning your own business but having the brand recognition that a larger company provides.
You are technically working for yourself and can run your business any way you choose, but you should be sure to take advantage of all the help that the franchisor or licensor can provide you.
Bear in mind that building up your own business like this doesn’t have a great deal of value as you cannot capitalise on selling the brand, only a certain level of potential income, and as you won’t have repeat clients like other business do, it can be a difficult proposition to sell.
Get advice from an accountant, business adviser or lawyer before purchasing a franchise or licensing a brand, and do your due diligence.
Establishing your own driving school
If you have a good level of business nous, you could set up your own driving school. You might start with one vehicle and build up your reputation in an area. Once you have steady clients perhaps you employ someone to handle the administration and some of the marketing. Then once you are busy full time you could employ someone or licence your brand to them.
Running a business like this is much more complex and time-consuming than working for another company or operating a franchise/licence. If you have staff you will need to manage them. You will have premises and obligations and, if you don’t have much experience, it can help to engage a business mentor early on to help you with the structure of the business and putting systems in place so that you don’t waste time.
You will need to consider
- Vehicle costs – purchase or lease, operating costs, insurance, fit-out and sign writing
- Other setup costs – website and email, business cards, logos, phone, company registration and legal compliance, purchasing your driving instructor licence
- Your hourly rate – it’s not a good idea to undercut other instructors because a) it starts a price war, b) you won’t make money and, c) it makes you look cheap. Find ways of adding value rather than cutting your costs. How many hours do you have to work to achieve the profit you want to achieve?
- Time spent not in the car/on the bike – any time you are spending doing admin, marketing or other activities that aren’t in the car means that you are not generating money. Can you be smart here by purchasing a tablet that you can use in your car while you are between lessons, for example?
- Getting to your target market – you can’t just build it and they’ll come (unless there’s zero competition in your area) so how will you make people aware of your business? Mailbox drops, advertising in the school newsletter, local newspapers and websites, local website profiles (e.g. Yelp and other directories), writing guest articles, using Google Adwords and other click-based advertising, sponsoring a local club, etc.
Remember that the majority of people that start businesses are people that can do ‘something’, and they often neglect the knowledge required to run a business. If you can get a marketing advantage you will win in the end.