Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Questions (105)

Michael Moynihan


105. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Transport the steps being taken to address the waiting lists for driver tests; if additional resources can be put in place to reduce the backlog of appointments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11058/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

The driving test service is not currently operating as normal due to the impact of Covid-19. Tests are only available, under Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions, to essential workers. This has had a significant impact on waiting times.

RSA driver testers are undertaking driving tests in extraordinarily difficult conditions in the current Covid19 environment. The driving test is conducted in an enclosed space for a period of over 15 minutes, where physical distancing is not possible.

Given the significant risk to testers when conducting a driving test, Government has deemed that the driver testing service should be available only for essential workers in Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions. The Road Safety Authority offers driving tests to those who can produce evidence that they are an essential worker, in accordance with Government definitions. No exceptions can be made.

My Department is liaising with the RSA on an ongoing basis to help the service meet the growing demand for tests within the current public health situation. An additional 40 driver testers have been authorised by the Minister along with 36 approved for retention or rehire in 2020. Recruitment has commenced and a panel will be formed. However, hiring of testers requires advertising, selecting candidates and training. Newly hired testers require 7 weeks of training in order to be ready. Training is given by experienced testers, so while new hires are in training the capacity of the service is reduced.

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. Any decision on this matter will be guided by health protocols.

Until Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions have been eased, no progress can be made on addressing the backlog; however, the Road Safety Authority has plans in place for when the service is allowed to resume for all learner permit holders to be tested at the earliest possible date, and a gradual return of driving test times to their pre-Covid levels.