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BACKLOG

Almost 50k Learner drivers to wait 19 weeks for a test, says RSA

The national average waiting time for a driving test is currently 19 weeks, almost double the RSA’s target.

LAST UPDATE | 1 Feb 2023

THE CEO OF the Road Safety Authority told the Oireachtas Transport committee that there are currently 47,364 learners waiting to sit a driving test and a 19-week national average waiting time for an appointment.

Sam Waide said this morning that the RSA’s target waiting time is 10 weeks and that the group is currently providing an average of 4,000 tests per week, up from 3,000 in October 2022.

“However the resource level is not enough, the current staffing level will neither reduce the backlog of driving tests nor will it meet the projected future demands for the service based on the learner permit demand,” he said.

Waide said beyond 2023/24 the RSA projects that a permanent pool of 170 testers will be required to meet estimated future demand.

“The message I wish to tell our customers is we are doing everything we can to return the services to normal,” he said.

NCT delay

Waide and a representative from an NCT services contractor also addressed the lengthy waiting times facing drivers getting their NCT.

The average wait between booking an appointment and the next available appointment date is currently 27 days, compared to a pre-pandemic average of 12 days, the RSA has confirmed.

Data from December 2022 compiled by the National Car Testing Service showed that Kells in County Meath had the longest wait time of any NCT centre, at 42 days.

Waide apologised for the inconvenience these protracted wait times have caused drivers.

The service is currently provided at 49 test centres nationwide under a contract awarded to Applus Inspection Services Ireland Ltd. The deal is set to run until June 2030.

Applus’s country representative for Ireland, Mark Synnott, also spoke to the committee.

Over 35,000 tests per week are currently being carried out according to the latest data on NCTs – that is up from 28,000 average in the last three months of 2022. However, there are approximately 375,000 vehicles overdue with their NCT.

This is 170,000 above the norm for this time of year, Waide said.

“Covid caused significant staff absenteeism levels at test centres and in the call centre,” he said.

“There were also very high levels of customer no-shows and late cancellations, reduced availability of new cars has meant there are more older cars in the Irish fleet. 

Synnott addressed the pandemic’s impact on staffing within the industry, as well as the actions taken by Applus to rectify the current NCT delays.

In his opening statement, Synnott said that 2,500 vehicles do not show up for their appointment each week and a further 1,000 cancel just before the test.

That’s a combined 3,500 vehicles each and every week foregoing their appointment and looking for a new one.”

He also explained how vehicles tend to be registered in the first few months of each year, meaning that quarter one of any year will have the largest demand for testing.

Synnott added that the NCTS managed this demand surge from 2016 to 2020 by proactively getting ahead of the demand curve but have been behind that curve and struggling to catch-up since the pandemic.

The beginning of 2022 saw a significant amount of Covid-19 transmission, which led to disruption in testing and caused a significant knock-on effect, increasing wait times, he told the committee.

According to Applus, 113 inspectors left the company during or after the pandemic, while the number of vehicles that required testing increased significantly.

However the company has since hired 124 new inspectors, including 44 recruited from the Philippines, the Applus representative explained. The company says it now employs the highest volumes of vehicle inspectors in the history of the NCTS.

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Jamie McCarron and Christina Finn
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