Car driving tests unlikely to resume before late July

Department says driving tests raise problems in terms of social distancing rules

The Department of Transport said ‘the resumption of driver testing raises particular problems in terms of compliance with the [return to work safety] protocol’.

The Department of Transport said ‘the resumption of driver testing raises particular problems in terms of compliance with the [return to work safety] protocol’.

 

More than 56,000 applicants for driving test look set to have to wait until late July at the earliest for a test date because of the challenge of maintaining social distancing between inspectors and candidates.

Under the Government’s revised timetable for easing the Covid-19 restrictions published last Friday, driving tests are allowed to resume and driving schools may reopen as part of phase 3, which begins on Monday next, June 29th.

However, the department on Tuesday said “the resumption of driver testing raises particular problems in terms of compliance with the [return to work safety] protocol and in particular social distancing rules, as it requires the driver tester and the candidate to be within a two metre distance continuously for a period in excess of 20 minutes, in a very confined space.”

A spokeswoman for the department said: “based on the protocol, it is likely that car driving tests may only be able to recommence in phase 4 of the Government’s roadmap” which is due to begin on July 20th.

It is possible bus, truck and motorbike testing may resume as part of phase 3.

The spokeswoman added: “Dates for the resumption of the driving test, and any special arrangements which will need to be put into place to allow for the provision of the service will be determined in consultation with the relevant health authorities.

“There will be an announcement as soon as this is done.”

Fórsa trade union which represents driving testers said talks were underway between the Road Safety Authority, examiners and the Department of Transport and there may be scope for an early restart of tests for drivers of buses, trucks and motorbikes.

But he said it would not be easy to find a solution to the problem of how to comply with the social distancing protocol when inside a car.

“We don’t know what that solution is” spokesman Niall Shanahan said. Mr Shanahan said testers had been asked about returning to work and most said they were happy to go back once they had assurances on the safety protocols, from health authorities.

Mr Shanahan said Fórsa’s concern was for the health and safety authorities to have approve d whatever solution emerges.

Of the 56,000 learner drivers who are now waiting for tests 36,511 have completed their mandatory pre-test driving lessons with an instructor while another 19,817 had not taken all their lessons before the Covid-19 restrictions were introduced.

In 2018 Fórsa reached agreement with the Road Safety Authority on the establishment of a panel of additional driver testers to deal with a six month backlog when numbers awaiting tests reached almost 83,000. While this strategy may be an option to clear the backlog, additional drivers would be faced with the same problem of social distancing.

NCT

Applus which manages the National Car Testing Service said it too was awaiting further announcements on when the full range of NCT centres would open, but hoped this would be in Phase 3..

Some 15 NCT centres reopened as part of phase 2 on the June 8th. They were Little Island and Blarney in Cork; Northpoint 1 and 2, Deansgrange and Fonthill in Dublin; and centres in Galway, Limerick, Waterford, Letterkenny, Athlone, Ballina, Naas, Drogheda and Derrybeg. An additional four NCT centres reopened on the 22nd June - Ennis, Enniscorthy, Killarney and Abbeyfeale .

Applus said “the reopening of the remaining centres is subject to the Government’s approval of the start of phase 3 of the Road Map to ease Covid19 restrictions .

The NCT service has applied a four month extension for all vehicles due to undergo testing during the Covid restrictions. A spokeswoman said motorists were being encouraged to check their new test due date on the Check NCT Due Date section on the NCTS website, before booking their test to ensure they aren’t booking their test unnecessarily early.

In Northern Ireland infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has announced a phased return of MOT and driver testing services in the coming weeks.

From 20 July, the North will resume MOT testing for priority vehicle groups, including those vehicles that are not able to avail of Temporary Exemption Certificates . This includes taxis and buses due a first time test and vehicles not previously registered in Northern Ireland.