Additional 40 testers needed to process driving test backlog – RSA

Tests to reopen to non-essential workers, with pandemic backlog of 180,000 applicants

Waiting times for a driving test, which were at 25 weeks late last year, will continue to grow, reaching a peak by the end of the year or early in 2022.  Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Waiting times for a driving test, which were at 25 weeks late last year, will continue to grow, reaching a peak by the end of the year or early in 2022. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

With just days to the start of the reopening of driving test services to non-essential workers, the Road Safety Authority (RSA) has said it remains unclear what capacity it will have to deal with the backlog of applicants created by the pandemic.

It said waiting times for a driving test, which were at 25 weeks late last year, will continue to grow, reaching a peak by the end of the year or early in 2022, as the system grapples with a backlog currently numbering 180,000 applicants.

Of the 180,000 applicants, 62,000 have passed a driver theory test and completed 12 mandatory driving lessons from an approved instructor and are “ready to go”, according to the authority. A further 30,000 are waiting to complete mandatory lessons and in excess of 80,000 are awaiting the driver theory test.

The authority said it will begin “inviting” a cohort of some of those who have completed all training and who are longest waiting later in May.

The actual number invited will depend on the capacity of the system, something the RSA has yet to finalise with the Department of Transport and health authorities including the HSE and the Department of Health.

On Friday last the Government cleared the way for the resumption of testing from May 10th.

Online portal

It also said the RSA would reopen its online portal to allow those with 12 mandatory lessons to upload their log books and apply for a test date. In a joint statement that day Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan and Minister of State at the Department of Transport Hildegarde Naughton said driving tests for essential workers will continue to be the priority for the testing service.

But they also said, “in line with the gradual reopening of services”, driving tests for all those who are eligible to take the test and have been waiting longest will recommence “in a limited fashion”.

The chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Kieran O’Donnell, has called on the Ministers to sanction the employment by the RSA of a further 40 driving testers, to deal with the backlog.

Mr O’Donnell said it had been made clear at committee hearings that only with an additional 40 testers would it be possible to get the waiting time down to 10 weeks on average by February 2022.

He also called for the RSA to move the driver theory test to an online platform. “I understand the Ministers are giving active consideration to both issues,” he said.

A spokesman for the RSA said there was no doubt waiting times for a driving test “will get worse before they get better”.