Women of the Road Part 3: The Chief Driving Examiner

Continuing our series about women in driving, today it’s the turn of a driving examiner. But not just any old driving examiner – it’s Great Britain’s Chief Driving Examiner, Lesley Young.

Lesley, why did you become a driving examiner?Lesley Young

I was working as a driving instructor back in the early 1980s and becoming a driving examiner seemed a natural progression. It also seemed like a great career move, with lots of opportunity for development.

That was 30 years ago, and I’ve certainly taken advantage of the opportunities that have come up.

How did you progress through the ranks to become head of your profession? 

I started as a driving examiner in 1985, and in those days there were very few female driving examiners. In fact, most driving-test candidates thought I was the secretary!

I gradually worked my way through the grades to become Chief Driving Examiner. That meant taking on additional responsibility, getting my motorcycle and truck licences (my licence to drive an articulated lorry was a particular milestone!) and volunteering for various projects so that I could develop my skills.

Finally I took the big decision to move from my home in the West Country to take up the post of Deputy Chief Driving Examiner.

Now I’m very proud to say that I’m the first female Chief Driving Examiner in the history of the driving test.

How has the job changed over the years? 

When I started out, the driving test was a very formal event. We didn’t talk to driving instructors and certainly not to candidates, other than to give directions.

Some years ago we started to understand the benefit of talking to other people in the industry, and to our customers. That’s been a great focus ever since, and I think it’s contributed to both my own and DVSA’s development.

In 2014, the Driving Standards Agency merged with VOSA to become the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). My new team is not only responsible for driver /rider testing and training standards, but also for all vehicle-related policy. That includes the MOT, enforcement and heavy vehicle testing.

It’s still a very male-dominated world, but how attitudes have changed – no-one automatically thinks I’m the secretary now!

What does your job involve?

The first thing to say is that I don’t do many driving tests these days, but I lead a team dedicated to improving services to our customers and that includes our front-line staff. The job’s demanding, but very rewarding (most of the time).

Front-line staff – that is, people who deal with the public, like examiners and traffic officers – are vital to our success. Whatever we plan to do, we want to make sure these front-line members of staff have the support and equipment they need to do their jobs well.

I also have a team that’s responsible for making sure the driving and vehicle tests are of the highest standard. It’s really important that these tests are fair; if standards vary, it could be very harmful to road safety.

I provide advice on all things driver-, rider- and vehicle-related to the Department for Transport. I also share DVSA’s knowledge with the advisory group for the International Driving Commission. We bring countries together to pool experience and research, and look at ways to reduce road deaths around the world.

Why do you like working in transport?

There are loads of reasons. I’ll list some of them:

  • It allows me to make a difference to road safety.
  • It’s really dynamic: there’s always plenty going on and everyone has an opinion!
  • It brings me into contact with the wider world of road safety outside my organisation, but I’m still close to the examiners’ day-to-day challenges.

What do you see yourself doing in the future?

I’d like to carry on with what I’m doing, but things will change. Technology in the driving and vehicle world is a big thing. For instance, autonomous (or driverless) cars are being developed all over the world and there’ll come a time when ordinary people will want to drive them, and garages will need to test their safety. That’s where we come in.

What could we do to attract more women to career with DVSA?

Only 18 percent of our driving examiners are female, and the percentage is even lower in the technical vehicle jobs. That’s not reflective of the society we serve. So we need to increase awareness of what a driving examiner/vehicle examiner is and does.

Let’s focus on the driving examiner job. A driving examiner has to make a candidate feel comfortable under fairly stressful circumstances, while making a fair and objective assessment of their driving. These people skills are traditionally associated with women, and women make excellent driving examiners.

There’s also a lot of flexibility in the job. DVSA is really family-friendly; it’s the ideal place to be a working mum or a carer to elderly parents.

And, of course, we’d also like to see more women on the vehicle-testing side of our business.

If you’d like a career with DVSA, perhaps as a driving examiner or a traffic enforcement officer, have a look at GOV.UK. It tells you what qualifications you’ll need. You can also sign up to receive email alerts when any vacancies come up.