Six-point plan to clear driving test backlog sent to Eamon Ryan

Essential workers eligible for driving tests during Covid rules, but cannot get lessons

Almost 180,000 people are queuing for a driving test, including 80,000 awaiting a theory test. File photograph: iStock

Almost 180,000 people are queuing for a driving test, including 80,000 awaiting a theory test. File photograph: iStock

 

Almost 180,000 people are now queuing for a driving test, with even essential workers caught in the backlog, according to the Oireachtas Committee on Transport.

The committee has written to Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan asking him to implement a six-point plan to help clear the backlog.

The letter to Mr Ryan outlines the committee’s recommendations following extensive hearings with driving testers, the Road Safety Authority (RSA), driving instructors and unions involved in the testing process.

The hearings were told there were 99,636 people waiting to sit their driving tests, with a further 80,000 waiting to sit the driving theory test.

Some 5,262 of those waiting for the driving test have been scheduled for an appointment, 61,635 were waiting for an appointment and 32,739 were deemed ineligible for a test, mostly due to not having completed the mandatory 12 hours of driver training with an authorised instructor.

Driving tests have been suspended for all but essential workers due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but many of those essential workers can’t take the test because they do not have 12 lessons completed.

During the hearings, representatives of the approved driving instructors’ union Unite said they were prevented from giving lessons to frontline healthcare staff and other essential workers because of Covid-19 restrictions.

The committee was also told that given a failure rate of about 46 per cent, the numbers of candidates “in the system” could quickly hit 300,000.

Chairman of the committee, Kieran O’Donnell, said the committee was “conscious of the impact this driving test backlog is especially having on young drivers”.

He said it was estimated that going from a provisional to a full driving licence could reduce motor insurance premiums by anything between 30 per cent to 80 per cent.

Recommendations

In order to address the growing backlog for driving tests, the committee recommended that:

  • Essential workers who have access to driving tests but cannot complete the mandatory driver training should be allowed to complete lessons in a safe way with approved driving instructors.
  • Where there is spare testing centre capacity, non-essential workers who have completed their mandatory lessons should be allowed to sit their driving test.
  • The Minister and his department should approve the request and submission from the RSA to recruit an additional 80 driver testers to bring the total complement to 218.
  • The RSA and department should look at the possibility of increasing the number of tests a driver tester can perform each day.
  • The RSA should expedite the planned rollout of online driver theory tests to cover all testing categories.
  • Approved driving instructors should be supported to handle an anticipated pent-up demand for one million hours of driving lessons, once restrictions are lifted.

Further, the committee asked that instructors are supported to ensure they can operate and come through this pandemic.