As of 2 February 2004 the average waiting time for a driving test at Waterford Driving Test Centre is 38 weeks and at Dungarvan Driving Test Centre 46 weeks.
The current waiting times are due to the unprecedented level of 234,000 test applications received in 2003. This represents a 21% increase on 2002 applications. However, indications are that applications have now fallen to normally expected levels. The annual capacity of the driver testing service, inclusive of normal overtime, is in the region of 200,000 tests. I anticipate that the current waiting times will improve over the coming year.
Sanction for a bonus scheme for driver testers was obtained from the Department of Finance in May 2003. Under the terms of the scheme set out by the Department of Finance, the bonus scheme terminated in November 2003. I have requested my officials to examine the potential for initiating a further bonus scheme similar to that which terminated last November in order to address the backlog.
In addition to the bonus scheme, eight retired driver testers were re-employed with effect from 13 October 2003. Driver testers continue to deliver additional tests by working overtime on Saturdays and at lunchtime.
Preparation of legislation to establish a Driver Testing and Standards Authority, which will take on responsibility for conducting driving tests and will have more flexibility to respond to variations in demand, is at an advanced stage.