As required by EU law, testing of certain passenger cars has been mandatory in Ireland since January 2000. The National Car Testing Service Limited holds a ten year contract to carry out testing on behalf of the State. The company was awarded the contract following an international public tendering competition conducted in accordance with EU procurement law.
I understand the equipment used to carry out NCT tests was selected by NCTS on the basis of its capability to accurately and consistently test vehicles in accordance with detailed technical specifications prescribed by the then Department of the Environment and Local Government which had responsibility for vehicle testing when introduced. I am also advised that all NCTS vehicle testing staff are qualified vehicle mechanics. This requirement accords with the contract specifications which additionally requires all testers to undergo rigorous and comprehensive initial training before they commence testing customers cars and undergo regular review and developmental training. A primary purpose of the initial and ongoing training is to ensure that each tester follows standardised test procedures.
The test process is subject to regular internal scrutiny by NCTS management. Where operational deficiencies, such as a need for retraining, equipment recalibration or for procedural improvements, are identified these are addressed immediately. Furthermore, all elements of NCTS test operations are subject to continuous external supervision by the Department of Transport. The detailed supervision is carried out on behalf of the Department by a consortium consisting of PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Automobile Association.
During the ongoing supervision process, particular attention is paid to ensuring that the various performance standards set out in the contract between the company and the Minister are complied with on an ongoing basis. These standards apply to premises, test equipment, staff, test arrangements, facilities management, information technology infrastructure and operations, customer service and provision of public information.
More than 630,000 first tests and 300,000 retests were completed in 2003. I am satisfied that the measures I have outlined ensure that as far as is possible in such a high volume repetitive process, the test results reflect the condition of the vehicles at the time of testing.