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Zipper's Blog

Zipper's Blog

Zipper's Driving School


photo Gender: Male

Location: Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia

Hobbies and Interests: My personal computer, developing this website, novice driver safety, avoiding housework.
(I used to own my own ultralight aircraft but that was years ago, I'm less adventurous - and heavier - now).

I'm a single driving instructor with a gray beard (it wasn't gray when I started out as an instructor over 20 years ago The photo is 8 years old and now my beard is almost white - and so is my hair!).
I'm not planning to get married yet, perhaps I will later when I'm old enough.

01-Feb-2015" Instructor testing AGAIN!"
20-May-2012: What a day!
08-Apr-2012: No more instructor testing?
08-Apr-2012: What a week!
30-Jan-2012: Space saver spares
05-Feb-2011: Getting old & cranky?
02-May-2010: "This job must really stress you"
02-May-2010: Don't break the brakes
18-Apr-2010: Mowing dirt
18-Apr-2010: Leaf Blowers
13-Jun-2009: My Nickname
13-Jun-2009: First Post

Sunday 1st February 2015
... for third time.
The NT has decided to outsource c-class (car) licence testing to instructors.
Instructor testing has been tried twice before in the NT in two different programs:
(1) the DTAL Logbook Program's Competency Based Training & Assessment system.
(2) Australia's National Certificate System (instructors training/assessing under the umbrella of an RTO).

In both cases after a year or two of unethical behaviour by instructors e.g. "selling licences" it was stopped.

This time, the situation is different - instructors cannot test anyone that they have given a lesson to (how this will be policed is a mystery), and because the tests are the same public driving tests conducted by the MVR (Motor Vehicle Registry), strict routes, testing procedures and official marking sheets must be adhered to.
The MVR have set up a Compliance Officer's position to ensure conformity.
Sunday 20th May 2012
Some days just don't go right.

On Sunday I headed to the local tip with 2 triple-bagged bags of rubbish in the boot (triple-bagged to reduce the chances of a smelly boot).
On the way I was interrupted by a phone call and turned back to get my booking diary.

Monday lunchtime: a hot day, I parked my manual and hopped into the automatic to do the next driving lesson.
A smell reminded me that I had neglected to dump the bags after the "interruption"!
Luckily I had some time on my hands, I put the bags in the recently-emptied bins at my unit and frantically sprayed & aired the car.
When I got to the student's home he hopped behind the wheel with his wife in the back seat to interperet and I aplologised for the faint odour that lingered.

The student attempted to start the car - a flat battery, and that was the end of that lesson.
After another apology to the nice couple I rang AANT for roadside assistance, explaining that the battery was nearly 2 years old and would need to be replaced.
I answered a string of questions about the car's details (make/model/type/transmission etc) and waited under the hot sun for assistance.

I'd been pronised a 20-minute wait but it was an hour. That's OK as unforseen circumstances can delay things, and I certainly know that when it comes to delivering driving lessons!
It annoyed me though that the assister hadn't brought the correct type of battery with him - instead he jump-started my car and suggested I go to Battery World at Coconut Grove (a competitor) which I did.
I normally would have gone to Battery World but I had wanted to demonstrate to my students (who are from overseas) the benefits of being members of the AANT.
Sunday 8th April 2012
And I'm relieved!!

As of the 6th of March this year, I can no longer assess my own students for a driving licence, they now have to take the public driving test with a government licensing examiner ... and I'm relieved !!!!

Why would I be relieved about a situation that removes my authority to test my own students, resulting a major loss of income?
Read my reasons for being relieved in an article I wrote for instructors on a UK driver training forum.

Go to top of page.
Sunday 8th April 2012
It's been one of those weeks!

First I needed a medical to renew the driving instructor endorsement on which my career depends.
My appointment was first up for the morning and as soon as the doors opened I was in and lined up for my medical.
The nurse saw me before long and did basic checks such as hearing, eyesight, colour blindness, weight, height, thickness of wallet etc.
All I need was to go back to the waiting room and wait for the doctor to see me ...
I waited and waited. It was frustrating seeing others who had arrived much later than me go in, come out and leave.
Eventually I went up to the desk and explained I'd been there over 100 minutes and couldn't wait any longer.
I was booked in for a second appointment for the following week and rushed off but I was late for my next driving lesson.

When I got home to change cars for another lesson I noticed a package near the front door - aha it was the zoom lens I'd ordered a week ago and it had arrived on time - looks like the day wouldn't be a total loss.
However when I opened it I found they'd sent me the wrong lens, I already had that particular zoom lens supplied as a standard kit item when I bought the camera so it was useless to me.

The supplier said they'd sent the correct lens but I'm not expecting it to come anytime soon, I've already gone through hell waiting for weeks for a filing cabinet to be delivered from a supplier in the same city.

Later I bought a couple of "wheel lifters" from an auto accessory outlet, one for each car.
I haven't had to use one as yet but these handy items promise to be a godsend for me as I have arm/shoulder joint problems and lifting a spare wheel onto the hub while changing a flat tyre is a painful process for me in more ways than one.
One of the units was missing a small circlip on the end of a shaft, not a big problem but I decided to e-mail the manufacturer to send me a circlip as I didn't want to go to a parts store and be forced to buy a whole packet of them.

I received an e-mail advising that I would receive an e-mail from a guy in the spares department and this duly arrived.
I was asked to provide a photograph of "the thing you got missing".

Well, if it's missing I can't photograph it can I? But I provided a couple of close-ups of the unit & axle in question.

I received this reply:
"Dear John
can you teach me how to remove this from the lifter?
I have them in stock but not sure how to get it remove"

Oh boy this looked like it could develop into yet another farce, but I sent a short email explaining all he had to do was gently prise the clip off with the tip of a screwdriver.
I didn't add that the next step was to get down on hands and knees searching for it under cupboards etc.
Monday 1st January 2012
My venerable 2005 Mitsubishi Lancer has a full-size spare, it is even an alloy rim to match the others - which is great, no cost-cutting there.
My 2008 Suzuki Swift however has one of those horrible "space saver" spares (at least it HAS a spare unlike the Sports version which has a roadside repair kit instead, useless for anything other than a minor puncture).

The first time I got a puncture was at the end of a driving lesson as I dropped off the student at his rural home.
With a couple of interested wallabies and myself watching, the student (a bush lad who'd done it before) soon had the old tyre off and the spare on.
But I had to drive roughly 30km into Darwin at 80km/h on a 100km/h road, hoping that I didn't get another flat tyre on the way.

The spare rim doesn't fill me with confidence.
Smaller and narrower than the standard wheels, it restricts the speed to 80km/h (a problem on a single-lane road with Darwin's impatient drivers behind) and handling is also compromised.
AND instead of completing the day's lessons as I can in the Lancer, I usually have to cancel a lesson in order to get the original tyre repaired and back on ASAP.

And that's what happened yesterday - I was about to put a keys2drive client behind the wheel when I noticed a front tyre had a screw embedded in it so I had to cancel the lesson.
Luckily the tyre wasn't deflated much and I preferred to change it in my own driveway not the client's, so I went home and put the spare on.
This was the first time I had to jack the car up for a front wheel, I could not find the jacking point and the illustration in the manual didn't help aaargh!!!
Eventually I got it jacked up but I didn't feel that it was very secure so I very gingerly changed the wheel.
The space saver needed a couple of extra psi, so out with my 12V inflater. Which failed because the tip of the hose came off!
Off to Repco I went to buy a foot pump and a hydraulic jack, but when I tried the foot pump it didn't work (I could hear air leaking out of the cylinder) and the tyre deflated further!- perhaps it serves me right for buying an accessory pump branded "Slime" and made in _____ (you can fill the blank in yourself).
Eventually I limped to a tyre service and got all 4 tyres changed and the spare inflated, but it wasn't a happy weekend.

"Space saver" doesn't really describe these types of spare rims, I think "money saver" is more accurate. Money saving for Suzuki, not the car owner!
Saturday 5nd February 2011
Talking about stress - the older one gets, the more important it is to have peace & quiet - for most oldies anyway.

I live in a nice area near the coast, the concrete unit I'm in muffles sound so effectively that I often don't realise the couple next door are having a shouting argument until I open the door and walk out onto the balcony.

At nights while I'm sitting at home working quietly at the computer, it seems the neighbour above is much more restless.

The ceiling is poured concrete and I usually don't hear sounds (talking, radio, TV or whatever) from the unit above me - but lately there are loud dragging sounds, occasional screeching noises from the dragged object, and the sound of something solid but heavy being dropped onto the floor and bouncing at an increasing tempo. This goes on for ages without a brake sorry, break, until late at night.
It sends my imagination wild but it's very irritating too.

Today I slipped home during the day to compose & send off some important emails - what a racket!
I had to endure the dragging and bouncing from above, a contractor with a leaf blower out in the car park, tree fellers with chain saws and a chipping machine across the road, and a young kid over the laneway who has a loud piercing voice and knows how to use it.
Sunday 2nd May 2010
Yes it does, but not in the way most people think. They assume instructors are stressed because of frustration with a learner's lack of progress ("You're not listening!!!") and being in the car with them as they drive dangerously ("You're gonna kill us!!!"), but it's not like that at all.

In fact, the biggest stress factors come from other sources. For example ...
  • Other road users treating the L-plates as a target.
    What is it about driving which increases the intolerance of drivers to ridiculous levels? Everyone learned to drive at one time but many experienced drivers seem to forget this.
    Some P-platers (usually young males) seem to take childish delight in harassing learner drivers.
  • Making enough to live.
    This job is volatile, sometimes I'm working 7 day weeks and 12 to 14 hour days, at other times my booking diary is almost empty.
    Even during the busy periods, the high turnover involved in keeping 2 cars on the road in good condition and the high cost of living in the NT makes it very difficult to save.
  • Balancing the diary.
    It's difficult to juggle student bookings to dovetail neatly into a full day, most want the late afternoon time slots after work or school and it's difficult to fill up the other times. Late cancellations don't help either.
  • Driving tests.
    I'm not one of those instructors who are blase about their students undergoing driving tests - it's often as nerve-wracking for me as it is for the candidate.
  • People who think no special skills are needed to be a driving instructor.
    Included in this group are learner's family members & friends, some government officials, and some NT instructors whose lack of training and poor teaching skills is sullying the reputation of the rest of us.
  • Government bureaucracy and red tape. Enough said!

I rarely get frustrated with learners themselves (they are LEARNERS after all, they are not expected to have prior knowledge or skills nor are they expected to "do it right" the first time they try).

As for learners driving dangerously, I strive to constantly keep my concentration and alertness at high levels (a big reason why we are so tired after a day of instructing), and I have dual pedals in the training cars to help maintain safety (they are training aids, e.g. for demonstrations, as well).
Sunday 2nd May 2010
Spelling seems to be a lost art these days.
The most common spelling error I see (because of my line of work I suppose) it confusing break with brake.
I see it often on the driver training forums I visit and it was also in today's NT News article on a blue 1968 Ford Mustang, a nice car even though it didn't have "power breaks". I also see "loosing the plot" instead of "losing the plot" quite often as well.

That said, I wonder how many spelling mistakes I've managed to put on this site? The only sure-fire way to eliminate errors is to get some other person to check your work.
Saturday 18th April 2010
The Dry (season) is nearly upon us in the tropical Northern Territory, and with the Dry comes clouds of annoying dust.

A lot of this dust is due to a quaint Darwin habit of continuing to mow verges and public areas even if the grass is dried and the area being mowed is mostly dirt.
Closely related is the use of leaf blowers (see below).
Saturday 18th April 2010
What an infernal invention!
Yard maintenance contractors come round regularly to the block of units where I live and diligently blow leaves against fences and into corners while getting dust all over my clean training cars and disturbing the peace with a tremendous din.
Monday 13th June 2009
I've been referred to as "Zipper" ever since high school at Loxton in South Australia in the early sixties.
I got the moniker because school mates had trouble pronouncing my last name "Ziersch" and it's followed me around ever since.

I don't mind because they could easily have chosen something offensive instead.
While casting around for a trading name for my business, all I could think of was "Zipper's Driving School" - the name's a bit weird I suppose but it's unique.
Monday 13th June 2009
Working on my website is an evening hobby so although I already have a blog on Blogspot.com I thought I'd put one on my own site as well.

My intention is to duplicate the blogs on both sites, I haven't got round to updating my Blogspot.com blog yet.
An interesting feature of Blogspot.com is the "National Geographic Photo of the Day".
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