What is a PDI?

Cartoon driving instructor

If you know anything about the process of learning to drive, you've probably heard the term 'ADI' thrown around. It stands for Approved Driving Instructor, and is the title awarded anyone who has passed all 3 of the tests that you need to complete to become a DVSA-approved driving instructor. Not everyone, however, is quite as aware of what a 'PDI' is. And we're here to set the record straight!

The term PDI is short for Potential Driving Instructor. This doesn't just mean anyone who has a vague interest in teaching people to drive. Rather, it describes someone who has applied, been accepted and has possibly already started training to be an ADI. In order to fully explain, we need to delve into the process of how one becomes a driving instructor...

Becoming a driving instructor

Speeding car

Earning an ADI licence (known as the green badge) takes quite a long time and requires hard work and significant financial investment. For a detailed rundown of what is involved, check out our post on how to become an ADI.

There are 3 tests driving instructors in training must pass: a theory test, a driving test and an instructional ability test. The first two tests are similar to those taken by learners, but longer and with a much smaller margin for error.

It is highly recommended that those in the process of becoming an ADI receive some kind of practical training—be it from qualified ADIs or through official channels that provide instructor tuition.

The pink badge

Cartoon mortarboard and scroll

You don't actually have to wait until you're a fully-qualified ADI to start providing driving lessons to learners. After passing the first two tests and completing at least 40 hours of training with a qualified instructor, PDIs are eligible to apply for what is known as a trainee driving instructor licence (or pink badge). That's right—it works in the opposite way to licences for drivers: pink for trainee and green for qualified.

Once you have your hands on a pink badge, you are able to provide driving lessons for 6 months, by which point you should be ready to take the third and final instructor test. This is a vital period during which you can build up valuable teaching experience before showing it off in front of a DVSA examiner.

Distinguishing an ADI from a PDI

ADI and PDI badges
Image source: Broughton School of Motoring

There are quite a few similarities between ADIs and PDIs, particularly by the time potential instructors pass the second part of the qualification tests. Both eventually have to undergo fairly rigorous criminal record and background checks before being issued with a full or trainee licence. And, of course, (once licensed) they can both provide lessons to learners in exchange for money.

You'll be able to tell if your instructor is an ADI or PDI by clocking the colour of the badge they have displayed on their car. It is usually positioned at the bottom left of the windscreen. As previously mentioned, if it's green, they're an approved driving instructor, and if it's pink, they're still a potential driving instructor.

Should the person charging you for driving lessons have no badge displayed on the car, it is likely they are practicing illegally. Before parting with your cash, ask them to produce it or contact the DVSA to see if they are registered.

Restrictions on PDIs

As with many things in life, the privilege of being able to charge people for lessons doesn't come for free. Applying for the trainee licence costs £140. You'll then need to decide if you want to commit to an extra 20 hours of training while you have the licence, or agree to be supervised for 20% of your lessons. You must select one if you want to be granted the licence in the first place.

Once you can proudly display your trainee licence, we'd advise you to get as much experience and training in as possible! It's only valid for 6 months and if you don't manage to pass the final ADI test within 3 attempts it will be revoked and you have to start from square one.

While using your licence you need to be working through a particular driving school—trainees are not allowed to provide lessons on an independent basis. When advertising your services, it's also really important that you make it clear that you're not a fully qualified instructor yet. Breaking any of the rules set forward by the DVSA will result in your trainee licence being revoked.

Being a PDI

Driving skills jigsaw

If you are currently a PDI—congratulations! You're embarking on a journey that can set you up with a lucrative and enjoyable career. Training to be a driving instructor may feel quite rigorous at times, but this is just a reflection of how important your role will be. Take it seriously and you could end up making a good amount of money while having a positive impact on people's lives.

You may find that some learners are reluctant to take lessons with someone who is not yet fully qualified. Don't let this get in the way of your progress. Think about your selling points. As you are still learning yourself, consider charging a more competitive rate than other instructors in your area. Each lesson provides valuable experience that will help you in the final test, after all.

To get the trainee licence in the first place you must have had a huge amount of training already, so it's likely you're more than capable of helping people learn all of the necessary skills. Plus, as you're working towards your own goals and the role is still fresh for you, the enthusiasm you bring to the job will be pleasant for the learners. Work that positivity and you'll have a green badge in no time!