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France

French instructors in new strike over driving test reforms

media A fleet of cars line up in traffic Balint Porneczi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Driving instructors have again blocked roads in Paris and along the ring road surrounding the capital, in protest against new changes to the profession. The government wants to bring down the cost of learning to drive, but instructors say the reforms could kill off traditional driving schools.

Monday's strike action was called by three driving unions, who fear being  "ubered" by the new driving test reforms.

Among the changes, are plans to open up the playing field to new competitors. This means that driving schools will no longer have the monopoly of being able to hand out the coveted pink licence.

In France, learner drivers can pay as much as 1,800 euros to pass their test, leaving a sizeable dent in their wallets. 

Last November, President Emmanuel Macron announced a “drastic reduction in the cost of getting a driving licence”, saying it would allow young people to obtain the licence faster and at lower cost.

Currently, certificates are handed out to drivers once having gone through a driving school. However, plans to streamline the accreditation process could boost online platforms offering what unions describe "low-cost" licenses.

"This national certificate will mean the end of local driving schools in small towns and villages," reckons Patrice Bessone, president of the union CNPA-Road Safety.

Unfair competition

"It goes against the prime minister's plans to make driving more accessible," he told AFP.

For his part, Thibault Droinet, vice-president of the union Unic says it is "unfair competition. These online platforms do not have to pay social charges or any VAT tax. How are we supposed to compete with that?" he told AFP.

Driving schools also fear that the new changes could impact road safety, as candidates would be able to register on their own without going through a driving school.

"The success rate of independent candidates is currently 35 percent compared to 65 percent for candidates who go through a driving school, says the CNPA's Bessone.

These new changes will "clog up the exam process with people who have failed and have to repeat. It will thus take longer to get a licence," he said.

The unions are hoping to meet Prime minister Edouard Philippe to present their suggestions of how to drive down the cost of driving without driving them out of business.

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