Due to the suspension of driver testing services during the initial pandemic response, along with the health protocols required since the resumption of services, they are operating well below normal capacity and a significant backlog has developed. Covid-19 has had a profound effect on the delivery of these services, which must comply with occupational and public health guidelines. Fewer daily tests can now be conducted due to social distancing and priority is given to essential workers and then to those who have had tests cancelled due to Covid.
In line with the gradual reopening of services this summer, driving tests for all those who are eligible to take the test and have been waiting longest have now recommenced. Critical front-line workers continue to be the priority for the driver testing services. The latest figures available to Sunday, 12 September, show, in spite of the Covid challenges, 101,870 tests have been offered and the Road Safety Authority, RSA, has delivered 92,672 driving tests in 2021. It is highly significant that no Covid case has been attributed to the driving test.
My Department is liaising with the RSA on an ongoing basis to meet the growing demand for tests. The RSA has a complement of 100 permanent driver testers. An additional 40 temporary driver testers have been authorised, along with 36 approved for retention or rehire in 2020.
These testers have been recruited and trained and commenced live testing in July. In addition, sanction was granted at the end of June to add a further 40 testers to the cohort. When trained and in place, this will increase the number of testers to 216. The RSA is looking to increase the number of tests from six to seven per tester, per day, from the end of this month, as well as extending operating hours and expanding facilities at existing centres or opening new centres.
There is an average of 3,254 tests conducted per week and the number of tests scheduled is increasing on a gradual basis. However, it has be noted that approximately 5% of all tests scheduled are not conducted or are abandoned on the day for a number of reasons, such as the driver not having NCT certification or adequate insurance. In addition, it is disappointing to note that a number of people do not turn up on the day of their scheduled test.