Motor fuel price advance is on course to render driver training more expensive, with schools that have held off on raising prices so far planning to in the near future.
Indrek Madar, member of the board of Autosõit OÜ that trains prospective drivers in several parts of Estonia, said the while the driving school has not hiked prices this year, the matter is set to come up at a board meeting on Wednesday.
"Keeping in mind that the price of a liter of fuel has grown from €1.3-1.4 to €2.2, it is a major expense for us, next to labor costs," he said. "It is too soon to say whether we will make this decision now, while there is clearly a pain threshold somewhere. Instructors want to get paid and feed their families. We cannot start buying fuel at the expense of instructors' salaries."
Madar added that prices have not grown so abruptly in the past and the situation is new for everyone.
Enn Saard, member of the board of driving school Aide, pointed out that if a passenger car uses a liter of fuel an hour and a truck four or five liters, it is not difficult to calculate how much more expensive a driving lesson has become.
Saard said that while Aide paid no attention to when a person started studies before, it is now discussing whether to introduce a time limit, so that people who started learning six months or a year ago could no longer drive for the same price as when they started. Otherwise, the school could dip into the red with the driving lessons of students who started three years ago.
The driving school last hiked prices toward the start of the year but Saard suggested it will have to adjust them again in the near future.
"The pressure on salaries on top of everything else. Our people also want to be able to pay their electricity bills," Saard said, adding that the school does not keep an eye on the competition's price policy as there is no shortage of customers.
LRK Autokoolitus OÜ, active in Viljandi, Paide and Rapla, has tried to avoid hiking prices until now in hopes that the fuel price hike is temporary," member of the board Jaan Kleemann said.
"But it seems to be going from temporary to permanent now," he said, adding that if the company does not raise prices this summer it will have to work with a loss, which hampers development.
Plenty of prospective students
Driving schools have not noticed general price advance impacting people's interest in learning to drive. Indrek Madar said that the market has been unstable due to the coronavirus for the last two years, which is why it is impossible to talk about regular trends, while the school has not seen a drop in the number of students; rather, it is the opposite.
Enn Saard said that people are used to growing prices and that becoming part of Europe also means European prices. For example, it costs €1,700-1,800 to get a category B license in Finland, while Aide offers the package, complete with driving in the dark and slippery conditions training, for €905.
Kleemann said that the best indicator of economic interest is how many people want to get an A-license (for a motorcycle – ed.), or the number of so-called hobby drivers. The number of customers after an A-license has not fallen for LRK Autokoolitus to suggest people still have the money.
Estonia has about 300 driving schools and twice as many driving instructors. As is the case in many other fields, driving schools are also having difficulty finding instructors.
"There aren't any available even if you look hard, and we have not yet resorted to offering to pay instructors of other schools more. We have been training our own instructors and paying for their training," Madar said, suggesting that a driving instructor's training spans at least 750 hours and takes seven to nine months to complete.
Kleemann said that LRK Autokoolitus has had the same team for over a decade, while people will want to retire at some point, meaning they are already giving the matter thought.
"They [instructors] are not easy to find," he admitted.
The price of motor fuel broke the all-time record in Estonia on Tuesday when customers of leading filling station chains had to dish out €2.259 for a liter of gasoline 95. The price of diesel fuel was €1,999 per liter and that of 98 octane gasoline €2.309 per liter.
Head of the Estonian Oil Association Mart Raamat said that the situation remains unstable, which is why he does see the price coming down this summer.
Editor: Marcus Turovski