A new driving test starts today but aspiring drivers may have to wait a few days before they can sit it.
The test comes in as driving test examiners plan a 48-hour strike from Monday in a dispute over pay and work hours.
Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union say examiners are being told to work longer, harder and for no extra pay to bring in the new testing regime.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “PCS members in the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) have tried to negotiate around their concerns but the door has been slammed shut in their face.
“They now feel they have no alternative but to take industrial action to bring home to the public how damaging the DVSA proposals are.”
Adrian Long, DVSA director of people, communications and engagement, said more than 320 extra driving examiners have been recruited in the last year – reducing waiting times to an average of seven weeks.
“It’s also significantly reduced the number of times we ask examiners to work at other centres – 1.5 days on average in the last four months,” he said.
“This means that we are not asking examiners to travel an extra day each week as PCS claim.”
The new driving test includes some of the biggest changes since the written theory exam was introduced in 1996.
The independent driving component is being doubled to 20 minutes and candidates will have to follow directions given by a sat nav.
Manoeuvres such as reversing around a corner are out and more likely scenarios such as entering a parking bay are in.
Learners will also be asked a vehicle safety question while driving, such as how to wash the windscreen.
From 2018, learners will be allowed to take motorway driving lessons with an approved instructor.
AA president Edmund King said the new test reflects “real life driving” and people who pass it will have “more confidence when driving solo”.
Steve Gooding, director of motoring research charity the RAC Foundation, said: “Coming up with revisions to the driving test that better reflect the real world challenges of driving in traffic must be a good move.”