First Drive Updates, Post-COVID-19 Shutdown

Originally posted: March 12, 2020
Updated:  July 2, 2020


All courses and training have resumed. 


Please see below for more information about our services and your specific situation.


Please leave a voicemail if you call.
We are currently averaging 90+ incoming phone calls per day, and are putting in many hours of overtime responding to all calls in the order they were received, as quickly as we possibly can, while also calling out to schedule students into training sessions.  As our office staff are working from home almost exclusively, the return call will likely not come from our published business number.


You might send us an email instead of calling.

We can't call back in the late night, but we can respond to email any time, thus are often able to respond to an email more quickly than a phone call.  Our email address is firstdrivedrivingschool@gmail.com.

Office hours are by appointment only. 
Our office staff continue to work from home to avoid unnecessary contact as students and instructors come and go at the offices, and to facilitate classroom sessions.  Office visits are possible but will be by appointment only for the foreseeable future.  We cannot accommodate unscheduled walk-in visits, and the office is absolutely closed when class is in session.  Please do not interrupt our classes! (We are not permitted to operate the office while class is in session!)   You may contact us by phone, text, or email to request an office appointment at either location.


New COVID Rules and Guidelines for Classrooms and In-Cars
Upon reopening in May, we implemented new rules and procedures for both classroom and in-car sessions to reduce the risk of spreading COVID as much as possible.  We are following thorough cleaning, disinfecting, and social distancing protocols, and are requiring everyone inside First Drive classrooms and cars to use face masks and hand sanitizer.  In-car students are asked to wipe down all touch surfaces on the driver’s side at the end of their lesson.  We ask that all students and parents be aware of these guidelines, and will defer training/service for anyone not wearing a mask.


In-car Scheduling
As of July 2, 2020, the wait for in-car sessions for a newly registered student will be about 10-12 weeks, provided the student meets the requirements to place themselves into group #2 (below) as soon as possible.


We will contact you by phone to schedule in-car sessions.  Before we can schedule you, we must have originals of all signed paperwork and online course certificates (if applicable) physically in our file.  State law requires that we have this paperwork on file before conducting an in-car session.  You may send these items by postal mail to our Hilliard office (see the "main office" mailing address at the top of this page) or make an appointment for an office visit to drop them off to us.  In-car scheduling is being prioritized in this order:

  1. Students whose 6-month completion deadlines fall within the next 4-6 weeks, sorted by how soon the deadline falls.  (Very few students in this category as of now.)
  2. Students who have completed the classroom training requirement, with all forms and documentation in our file, sorted by registration date.  (Many students in this category.)
  3. Students who have met the state minimum classroom training requirement, with required forms and documentation in our file, sorted by registration date.  (Many more students in this category.)  Students in this group will only be scheduled for in-car sessions if all students in groups 1 and 2 have already been scheduled.


  • Students with a classroom training requirement who do not yet have documentation of completing the initial required minimum classroom training are not legally eligible to schedule in-car lessons.

  • Students who have no classroom requirement (generally, only students aged 18 and older in non-certificate courses) will be worked into group 2 by registration date.  There are never many students in this category.


When we contact you, we will only schedule two in-cars at a time.  This is because we are limiting our in-car schedule to about four weeks out and we need to facilitate all students' progress as favorably as possible.  Within a short time of the second in-car, we will contact you again to schedule the remaining two in-cars.  You are still likely to finish all in-cars within about 4-5 weeks of the first one, and certainly within the required six months.

While we cannot schedule in-cars on request, we will be happy to verify your place in line if you ask.

If you would like more information as to our process and our rationale for this new prioritization and system, please see the additional section at the end of this update.

Teen 8 Hour Behind-the-Wheel Course Students

If you haven’t finished the online course yet but you’re in a hurry to get your in-cars, please continue working diligently and complete the online course as quickly as you can.  Students who have finished the online course are getting in-cars before those who haven’t yet.  Please forward to us your Certificate of Enrollment and Certificate of Completion when you receive them.  The state requires that we have the originals of these certificates in our file.  You can mail them to us at our main office in Hilliard (address below) or make an appointment to drop them off at either location.  We suggest dropping them off to avoid the small chance of a certificate getting lost in the mail.  If you do send to us by mail, we suggest you first make a photo copy to keep for yourself.


Aceable Online Course Students
If you haven’t finished the online course yet but you’re in a hurry to get your in-cars, please continue working diligently and complete the online course as quickly as you can.  Due to current demand for in-car sessions, students who have completed the online course and submitted the Certificate of Completion to us are being prioritized for in-car scheduling.


​If you are having any trouble with the Aceable course, please first try contacting them to resolve it.  If you are unable to resolve it through them, please let us know.  If you can get a screenshot or photo of any error messages, that will help.


If you are doing the Aceable online course purchased through us and get a message in the course suggesting you need to pay additional money, please let us know right away.  Even take a photo of the screen and email that to us if you can.  If you received a course login from us, you certainly do not need to pay additional money, as we have already paid Aceable for your full course.  We have heard about a few instances of this lately and are trying to work with Aceable to figure out what the trouble is.  We suspect it is an adware pop-up advertisement unrelated to the course but have been unable to verify due to not directly seeing the message ourselves and being unable to replicate it.

Classroom Sessions
Our classrooms are limited to five students in Hilliard and seven students in Powell.  Masks are absolutely required to be worn during the entire class, no exceptions. 

Upon reopening, we had initially discouraged the classroom option for new teen course signups in favor of online, as there were a lot of students still needing classes and we didn’t know how well it would work with the COVID precautions and diminished capacity.  This is no longer the case.  The students initially needing classes have finished.  Even though class capacity is limited, there are seats available, and aside from the capacity limitation, the precautions are not a major hindrance.  If you have not yet registered with us and prefer the classroom sessions, we encourage you to choose the classroom option.


If you are already signed up for traditional classes but haven’t scheduled them yet, please contact us to reserve a seat.  We do need to schedule you into the classes, we can’t do open walk-in attendance, but there are seats available.

6-Month Deadlines
By state law, a driver training course must be completed within six months of the initial training.  For traditional classroom students, this window starts with the first classroom session.  For online students, it begins with the first in-car session (you have a separate 6-month deadline for the online course).

Because of the pandemic shutdown, the state allowed driving schools to extend the 6-month window by the amount made necessary by the shutdown.  6-month clocks that started counting down before we suspended operations on March 16th were paused until we resumed full operations on May 26th.  As a result, up to 71 days can be added to those original 6-month deadlines.

Temps expired, or about to??  Please note this statement from the Ohio BMV website
"On March 27, 2020, Governor Mike DeWine signed Sub. H.B. 197, which states that Ohio licenses (including driver license, CDLs, and registrations) expiring during the declared State of Emergency shall remain valid until either 90 days after the declared emergency ends, or December 1st, 2020, whichever comes sooner. The State of Emergency was declared on March 9, 2020."

A temporary license is essentially a driver's license with the special restriction that you must have a qualifying licensed driver in the seat next to you, so the above statement applies to temps too.  If yours expired on or after March 9th 2020, it will remain valid as described.  When the May 26th reopening of the BMV was announced, Lt. Gov. Husted pointed out that the extension would still remain in effect until 90 days after the state of emergency is declared over, or December 1, whichever comes first.  As of June 24th, the state of emergency is still in effect, so your temps are good for at least 91 more days.

Still Have Questions?
As always, please do not hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions, comments, or concerns. You may contact us as follows….


  • phone: 614-777-1762
  • email: firstdrivedrivingschool@gmail.com
  • text: 614-951-9161


Please note that our office staff are all working remotely from home and will be for the foreseeable future.  If you call, please leave a voicemail.  Office visits are possible but will be by appointment only, outside of class times.  Our response time for phone, text, and email inquiries is currently about 1-2 business days.


Our mailing address is:


First Drive Driving School LLC
6356 Scioto Darby Rd
Hilliard  OH  43026


Our Powell office has a mailbox too but it does not get checked every day.  We strongly recommend mailing your stuff to our Hilliard office instead.
 


More About In-Car Scheduling
It is our third highest objective (just below safety, and quality of training) and absolutely in our best interest to facilitate all students, collectively, through our courses as expeditiously as we can.  We have absolutely no reason nor interest in holding anyone back or being unfair.  The vast majority of our students and parents have been very understanding and even appreciative of our current in-car scheduling process, but regrettably a few have been upset about it.  Invariably, those who are upset aren't seeing and understanding the big picture.  It is important to us to be fully transparent and set accurate expectations, so here are the details of our rationale:

Prior to the COVID shutdown, we scheduled in-cars on demand as long as the student met the initial class training requirement and we had slots available.  Our in-car schedule was usually booking 7-12 weeks out, depending on the season.  Sometimes we ran out of in-car slots because most instructors wouldn’t give us schedules that far in advance.  While we managed our end of the 6-month requirement to make the training available, it was entirely up to students and parents to manage their own 6-month deadlines and take advantage of the available training. 


The nearly 2½ month shutdown gave us an excellent opportunity to take a thorough look at our student records, our processes, and how students move through our courses, and we made some interesting discoveries about the outcomes of our previous model:

  • Much of our in-car schedule was filled with students who were apparently not actually in any hurry to complete the entire course and be done with it, whiles students who were in a hurry would be made to wait.  We found a very large number of students who had signed up, almost immediately met the minimum legal requirement to schedule in-cars (that’s one class session or an online Certificate of Enrollment number, and a promise to bring the required paperwork to their first in-car lesson), scheduled all of their in-cars, often late-cancelled and rescheduled at least one of them, and then took several more months after the in-cars were done to finish the class training requirement and complete the course.  

  • There were multiple cases where students had finished their in-cars ASAP but missed the 6-month deadline because they didn’t finish all of their classes in time.  At that point, classes were walk-in, open attendance.  They could have attended any time, no reservation required.  Those in-car sessions had to be repeated so the slots were essentially wasted.

  • Meanwhile, we also regularly had students who put off scheduling in-cars until very near the end of their six months, sometimes to the point where the in-car schedule might be fully booked past their deadline.  Almost always, we were able to put in extra hours to accommodate these students and finish them on time, but on a few occasions it just wasn’t possible.

  • There were weeks when about 10% of the scheduled in-car sessions were late-cancelled simply because students did not bring the required paperwork to their first lessons.  The paperwork is required by the state, we are required to have it on file before the student gets into the car, we made it clear that the student had to bring it, and we could not legally take the student in the car without it.  Those in-car slots were wasted.

  • Other common reasons for late-cancels included students not having their temporary license with them, not meeting the license restrictions (a corrective lenses restriction but no contacts or glasses with them, or a daytime restriction and a lesson scheduled at night), license expired, arriving too late, miscommunication/misunderstanding about the appointment time, or simply forgetting they had a lesson scheduled.


Avoidably late-cancelled in-cars that go unfilled are the worst!  The rescheduling fee only covers the labor cost of the instructor, and barely that.  It does not cover the larger, unquantifiable cost imposed by the additional strain and delay on the overall schedule, and the resulting frustration, because lost time can never be recovered.  The rate at which this was happening averages to over a month of in-car sessions missed and wasted over the course of a year!


The overall conclusion was that a bulk of the wait time, delay, and uncertainty was unnecessary and could be avoided with structure and tighter management.

As the shutdown moved through the second month, and with the above issues on our minds, we also realized there could be some major challenges ahead:

  • If we reopened in May or June, the backlog of COVID-delayed students would collide with the summer rush we see every year from May through September. 

  • Our capacity would likely be diminished due to new COVID-related space restrictions and time-consuming precautions and procedures. 

  • Our capacity could be further diminished due to some of our instructors, being in higher risk categories, possibly not being able to return to work. 


It was obvious the previous model would not hold up to a triple whammy of COVID backlog, summer rush, and diminished capacity.  We would need a carefully managed process moving forward to keep all students on track and progressing as quickly as possible, and to ensure the most efficient, least wasteful use of in-car slots.  We implemented the following:

  • We now have one person fully dedicated to managing and scheduling Hilliard students, and another person fully dedicated to managing and scheduling Powell students.

  • Due to the ongoing uncertainty of the situation (Will we have someone get sick or test positive?  Will there be another shutdown?), we will not schedule in-cars more than about four weeks out.  This will likely remain the case until COVID is no longer a potential factor.

  • Instead of scheduling on demand when a student or parent calls, we will reach out to each student to schedule in-cars.  This is the only way to coordinate the backlog and the rush, keep students moving in a fair order, and keep everyone on track and within 6-month deadlines.

  • We will not call to schedule a student’s in-cars until the required paperwork is physically in our file.  With the demand on our schedule, we simply cannot afford the inevitable lost time that will result if we schedule on a promise that the student will bring it to the first lesson.  Most would, but too many wouldn’t, and the rescheduling fee doesn't really cover the cost of that.

  • Since we are only scheduling four weeks out, we will only schedule a student two in-cars at a time unless an approaching 6-month deadline is a concern.  This will enable more students to progress while still keeping a good pace in terms of the deadline, and they should still be able to complete all of their in-cars within about four weeks of the first one.

  • During times of peak volume, students who have completed the 24-hour class training requirement will be offered in-car sessions before those who have not.  This will serve to maximize all students’ progress through their courses while helping ensure that we and the students stay well under the state-mandated 6-month deadline.  This will also empower students who need to finish more urgently a way to do so.  Without this rule, all students would be on a substantially longer timeline.


We first announced impending priority and process changes by mass email and on this update page as early as March 12th when we first realized we would have to shut down.  The rules above were fully defined and announced by mid April.

We have been following this formula since we resumed in-cars in late May.  In the time since, we have averaged 95 in-car sessions per week.  We have averaged about one late cancel per week, previously unheard of.  135 final completion certificates have been issued.  There are no 6-month deadlines in jeopardy.  Not counting the 71-day shutdown, students are completing their courses at a record pace.  It’s working.  It is keeping everyone on track and progressing, no one is getting pushed out of the schedule, and it provides the most fair opportunity to all  of the students.  

If someone still truly feels we are being unfair or unreasonable, we do hope they will let us know.


HELP WANTED
We are looking for a few (or many!) good instructors!  We offer very competitive pay, the best in the area as far as we know, including paid training, and by all accounts we’re a pretty good place to work!  If you are passionate about safe driving, have at least 10 years’ experience as a licensed driver, excellent communication skills, a high school diploma, a clean driving record, no criminal record, and no recreational drug or regular alcohol use, you could qualify to work with us!  Among our staff are many retirees, and people with backgrounds in teaching, first responders, professional drivers, and car enthusiasts.

If you would be interested in working with us, please give us a call or shoot us an email!  There is plenty of work available!

FIRST DRIVE DRIVING SCHOOL LLC
Hilliard (main office): 6356 Scioto Darby Rd. Hilliard, OH  43026
Powell Office: 80 Grace Dr. Powell, OH  43065
firstdrivedrivingschool@gmail.com | Tel: 614-777-1762 | Txt: 614-951-9161

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