Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Questions (126)

Seán Canney

Question:

126. Deputy Seán Canney asked the Minister for Transport if he is satisfied with the level of service being provided by the RSA to learner drivers and those seeking to renew licences during the current pandemic; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that learner drivers who booked their test in June 2020 still do not have a test date; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that learner drivers are regularly on hold for 90 minutes trying to get through to the RSA; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that emails are not being responded to and that booking systems are repeatedly coming up with errors which are not being rectified; if his attention has been further drawn to the stress and difficulty caused learning drivers nationwide (details supplied); if his attention has been further drawn to the particular difficulty that this is causing young rural dwellers who have no access to public transport; his plans to rectify the situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6537/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

My Department is in constant contact with the Road Safety Authority since the start of the pandemic regarding all of its services, the impact of Covid-19 on those services, and how they can best be maintained in the current circumstances.

Due to suspension of driver testing services in the initial pandemic response, along with the health protocols required since the resumption of services, a significant backlog has developed. During Level 5, driving tests are only available to those involved in essential services.

Sanction has recently been provided to hire 40 additional temporary driver testers, along with 36 approved for retention or rehire in 2020. The position will be kept under review when services resume.

These measures will help to increase testing capacity. However, I would like to stress, that many of the issues impacting on the delivery of service are concerned with the throughput of centres themselves in light of the restrictions, rather than on the availability of staff.

The RSA are also looking at a number of other measures, including whether the number of tests a driver tester can perform each day can be increased when restrictions ease, subject to health assurances.

I am aware that the RSA has experienced a number of operating issues since the launch of their new customer portal and officials in my Department have raised these issues with the RSA. We have been reassured by the Authority, these technical issues are gradually being resolved. Performance improvements have recently been implemented meaning customers can now access the portal without any undue delays. Delays in contacting the customer care call centre have also been addressed and waiting times are slowly improving.

The RSA will continue to give priority to addressing the remaining issues as they seek to improve the overall portal performance and restore the service to the highest possible standards. I am assured that the measures being put in place will have the desired effect. My Department will continue to monitor the situation and we thank the Deputy and others for bringing these matter to our attention.

With regard to renewing driver licences, possible further extensions of driving licences are currently under consideration at EU level. A decision on this issue is expected shortly.

The Road Safety Authority (RSA), through the National Driver Licence Service (NDLS), has expanded the online facility to accommodate all driving licence and learner permit applications to enable accessibility online rather than by calling to an office. A verified MyGovID account, which requires a Public Services Card, is needed to access the online system.

All persons of 70 years of age and over are now invited to renew their driving licence or learner permit by post. Applicants will be contacted directly by the National Driver Licence Service (NDLS). Previously only those aged 70 and over who renew their licence on a yearly basis could avail of this service.