Thursday, 18 February 2021

Ceisteanna (84)

Duncan Smith


84. Deputy Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Transport his plans to reduce the backlog of those waiting to sit the driver test; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9262/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar 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 initial pandemic response, along with the health protocols required since the resumption of services, a significant backlog has developed. During Level 5, driving tests are only available to those involved in essential services.

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.

Sanction has recently been provided to hire 40 additional temporary driver testers, along with 36 approved for retention or rehire in 2020. The position will be kept under review when services resume.

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 when restrictions ease, subject to health assurances.

The Department has ongoing discussions with the RSA on how to return to the normal target for the maximum waiting time, which is around ten weeks. It is clear that it will not be possible to arrive at this quickly, given restraints which must be in place due to the pandemic. It is important to recognise that there are no quick fixes and that the continuing build-up of applications as the pandemic goes on means that it will take time to return to normal waiting periods.