Sinn Féin spokesperson on Transport Darren O’Rourke TD has called for a range of measures to be introduced to deal with the massive driving test and lessons backlog that has built up as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Teachta Ó Rourke said:
“The driving test system has been thrown into chaos as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, but a lack of action from the Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan has made a bad situation even worse.
“Changes must be introduced without delay to alleviate pressure on the system and ensure that people can obtain their driving licence in a reasonable time over the coming months.
“The latest figures we have show that 98,414 people are waiting to sit their driving test, while another 79,276 people are waiting to sit the driver theory test when it resumes.
“These types of figures could see people waiting up to seven months for a test if issues are not addressed urgently.
“We in Sinn Féin are proposing a range of proposals that we believe will help solve this escalating problem.
“Last October, the RSA sought permission to hire 80 additional testers. Despite this, approval for just 40 has been granted but they are still not in position. It is imperative that the requested number of 80 extra staff is authorised by the Department of Transport without further delay.
“The RSA need to examine the introduction of longer opening hours and permitting more tests per day to be carried out when tests re-start, in order to tackle the backlog that now exists.
“Regarding the driver theory test waiting list, we believe this exam should now be put online – allowing people to sit it remotely.
“The driver theory test service are currently providing remote theory tests for bus, truck, CPC and ADI categories. This is a welcome development, but it is essential that this is now extended to those learning to drive a car.
“Even though essential workers are permitted to sit their driving test during Level 5 restrictions, they are not permitted to take lessons; apart from one pre-test lesson.
“We believe this needs to change, as it is preventing essential workers getting driving licences, due to the fact that you cannot sit a driving test without first completing 12 mandatory EDT lessons.
“Essential workers should be permitted to take lessons during Level 5 to ensure they can sit their test.
“Approved Driving Instructors (ADIs) should be provided with high-grade PPE to keep them safe at work. We have sought clarification as to where they sit on the vaccination roll-out list, as they have remained at work throughout and are in very close contact with others in a confined space.
“ADIs have been treated very poorly by the RSA and the Department of Transport during this time, finding themselves locked out of testing centres over the winter months.
“This meant ADIs have had no access to toilet facilities, shelter, warmth or sanitisation facilities while at work.
“The Minister must engage with ADIs, testers and their unions to address these concerns. These workers must be centrally involved in preparing a roadmap out of the current challenges.”
Summary of Sinn Féin’s proposals:
- Hire 80 additional driving testers to achieve a 10-week wait target, as requested by RSA.
- Increase driver theory test capacity to 50,000 per week and put the theory test online.
- Operate longer opening hours and more practical driving tests per day when tests re-start.
- Consult with Approved Driving Instructors and their trade unions in the design of a roadmap out of the current challenges.
- Ensure ADIs have access to high-grade PPE to protect them at work.
- Remove barriers to ensure essential workers can sit their driving tests during Level 5.
- Include learner permits in the temporary licence extension scheme.