Thursday, 24 September 2020

Questions (72)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

72. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which plans are being made or are in place in an effort to clear backlogs for driving tests that arose as a result of Covid-19 with particular reference to County Kildare; the progress to date in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26061/20]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

I am aware of the backlog in driving tests as a result of the closure of the service earlier in the year, and reduced capacity in the service since reopening.

The driver testing service, operated by the Road Safety Authority (RSA), resumed on 29 June for certain classes of vehicles on 29 June, and for the remainder, including cars, from mid-July. While matters related to particular locations are operational issues for the the RSA, overall the service is facing significant limts on capacity due to the need to comply with health restrictions. Before the pandemic driver testers were conducting 8 tests each per day. On resumption it was 5. I am happy to be able to report that this was increased to 6 from 14 September, and may be increased to 7 later, subject as always to health and safety concerns.

The RSA has recently submitted proposals in order to address the backlog, which are currently being considered in my Department. Increasing capacity will be key to addressing the problem. This will include increases in tester numbers and in testing facilities. My Department has alreay approved the rehire of temporary testers whose contracts had expired and retention of contracted testers otherwise due to leave in the next two months. Hiring of further permanent testers would take time, both for the hiring process and for training of those hired.

I should caution that there will be no quick or easy or solution to these difficulties. The RSA has indicated that it is currently receiving more applications than capacity, and it will take time to get on top of and reduce the backlog. My Department will continue to work with the RSA to see that this essential public service is delivered in as timely a way as possible, within overarching health protections.