Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Questions (127)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

127. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport if he is in receipt of plans from the Road SafteA to resolve the driver test backlog; and if so, the funding required. [8993/21]

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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 first 2020 lockdown, along with the health protocols since resumption of service and the further curtailing of services during subsequent level 5 restrictions, a significant backlog has developed. The need to once again return to level 5 restrictions for reasons of public health will inevitably impact further on delays to driver testing. During the level 5 period, driving tests will be available only to those who are involved in essential services, including essential retail work.

While the service is limited during level 5 restrictions, the Road Safety Authority is examining ways of increasing the number of tests within health constraints with an eye to resuming wider testing after level 5. This includes increasing the number of testing staff to help reduce and, over time, eliminate the backlog.

Following discussions with the RSA, my Department has approved the hiring of a further 40 temporary driver testers for 22 months, and the process of recruitment is now underway. However it will take some time for people to be selected and trained. These new hires will be in addition to the 36 temporary testers who I previously gave sanction to rehire during 2020.

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, subject to health assurances.

My Department will continue to monitor and review any financial and other resource implications.