National Driver Licence Service
Sir, – The long delay at Leopardstown Driving Licence Centre referred to by a letter writer (March 25th) is replicated at many other National Driver Licence Service (NDLS) centres. However, the question is not why such delays occur, it is the more fundamental question as to why the NDLS was created and why drivers are subjected to the ordeal of attending to obtain or renew a licence.
Local authorities previously provided an efficient service, but in order to adopt a plastic “credit card” licence, that system was replaced by over 34 new NDLS offices – an exercise described as “centralisation” – at which all applicants must attend in person. The reason for personal attendance was given as the need to obtain a “secure” photograph, and every office is equipped with several cameras which produce very poor monochrome photographs.
It should be noted that when this vastly expensive operation was being set up, the Passport Office continued to accept colour photographs provided by applicants and it continues to deal with applicants very efficiently by post.
Having established a nationwide network of offices in 2013 with the singular purpose of dealing with driving licences, the necessity for personal attendance was questioned. The then-minister for transport Leo Varadkar informed the Dáil on November 5th, 2013, that applicants would not need to attend an NDLS office more than once and stated that the photographs involved “Safe 2” technology (apparently unknown to the Passport Office!). He went on to say that the plastic card contained a microchip for which “Gardaí have been issued with equipment to enable them to read it”.
Those assurances contrast greatly with today’s reality in which the microchip is of no use, applicants are required to attend at each renewal, and the NDLS cannot provide gardaí with details of disqualifications, penalty points or convictions. It is interesting to compare the NDLS with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency in the UK, which manages over 48 million driving licences in addition to the road tax for all vehicles from a single office. Particularly noteworthy is the fact that in the UK no personal attendance is required and that passport photographs are the standard requirement. UK police at the roadside have 24/7 access to drivers’ records and to the current tax and insurance status of every vehicle.
The fact is that the NDLS provides no improvement on the service previously provided by local authorities, despite the massive expenditure involved in its creation and maintenance.
In addition, it imposes completely unnecessary inconvenience and expense on all applicants by the attendance requirement. It is a huge waste of taxpayers’ money. – Yours, etc,