Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Ceisteanna (253)

Martin Browne

Ceist:

253. Deputy Martin Browne asked the Minister for Transport his views on the way in which the backlog in driver tests is affecting third-level students that opt to travel to college on the days they are required on campus; the number of additional staff that have been recruited to deal with the backlog; if the staff members have reduced the backlog; his plans to increase the number of additional driver testers; and his views on the need of third-level students to sit their driver tests as quickly as possible. [27240/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As you can appreciate Covid 19 has had a profound effect on the delivery the Driver Test service. I acknowledge that third- level students are one of many cohorts across all areas of society who have being impacted by the increased demand since services resumed.

The Driver Test service has seen its weekly capacity reduced significantly in order to comply with occupational and public health requirements. As an example, due to the additional hygiene and sanitation procedures that are now absolutely necessary, each testing slot now takes a much longer time to complete. In addition to this, the number of testers working in any centre at the one time has to be reduced to ensure physical distance rules can be maintained.

Those who had appointments cancelled due to Covid 19 are being prioritised in the first instance. Initially, only those who are front line healthcare workers will be deemed eligible for an urgent test slot. This approach for prioritising customers will be kept under review as the RSA moves through the service resumption.

My Department is remaining in close contact with the RSA who are examining ways of increasing the number of tests within the current health constraints. One option is the employment of additional testers, something which has been done in the past to address backlogs. However, I would like to stress, 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.

In the meantime, my Department has give approval to the RSA to retain 18 driver testers on temporary contracts due to expire in October and November, and to rehire up to 19 testers whose contracts expired in May.

While I regret the inconvenience caused by the necessity to adhere to the restrictions imposed on us by NPHET and other experts, the safety of the public, whether through contracting Covid or through deaths or injuries on our roads, must be of paramount importance.