Wednesday, 3 November 2021
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
I propose to take Questions Nos. 76 and 77 together.
Due to the suspension of driver testing services in the initial pandemic response, along with the health protocols required since the resumption of services, services are operating below normal capacity and a significant backlog has developed.
In line with the gradual reopening of services this summer, driving tests for all those who are eligible to take the test and have been waiting longest have now recommenced. Critical frontline workers continue to be the priority for the driver testing service.
The service continues to operate under restrictions in the interest of making it a safe environment while there is an ongoing presence of Covid. Given the necessity for a tester to be in close proximity to a test candidate, and to get into vehicles brought by the candidates which are therefore not a controlled environment, this places obvious limits on the capacity of the test service.
When the service resumed in June 2020, testers were conducting five tests each per day. Since 27 September 2021, this has been increased to seven tests per tester per day.
In order to deal with the backlog, the RSA received sanction to hire 40 new temporary testers, in addition to 36 they were sanctioned to retain or rehire in 2020. These new testers have completed their training and are now conducting live tests since July 2021. Sanction has also been granted to recruit a further 40 testers. An extra 10 temporary test centres have been opened and a further 9 locations have been expanded within the existing premises, to accommodate more testers.
The volume of tests being offered weekly continues to grow and for the past 4 weeks the average increased to 4098 tests being offered per week. There is now real progress to be seen in the increase in capacity in the service.