Waiting times for driving tests and NCT longer than usual

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Learner drivers face an average wait of 10 weeks for a driving test, according to Road Safety Authority (RSA) figures seen by RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

The RSA has confirmed that eight of its 60 test centers have waiting times of more than 10 weeks, while driving instructors and learner drivers say they experience long waiting times.

According to RSA figures, 33,000 drivers are waiting to take their driving test. With an average of 3,500 tests performed per week, the RSA says it would take ten weeks to clear those tests.

Despite the numbers, driving instructors say some people experience longer wait times.

“We have people who have applied for their tests…a girl is waiting five months,” said Kevin Hogan, chief executive of Ladybird Driving School in Dublin.

“Then there are candidates who are on the cancellation list who could take a test within four, five or six weeks.

“It’s really a mixed bag but generally you’re looking for at least three months plus.”

Bruna Borges, one of Mr. Hogan’s students, has been waiting for a test for months.

“I’m on the waiting list,” she said. “I went to the website yesterday to check this and they said I might have booked the test in March.

“It’s like six months of waiting.”

Ms Borges fears that with the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions she will find it difficult to juggle returning to her desk and collecting her son from school.

“I’m a single parent and I live far from the city center. Now that normal life is returning, I’ll probably have to go to work in the office,” she said.

“It will be even more difficult for me because then I will have to manage to get to the office and collect my son from school – all without a car.

“I don’t know how I’m going to do this.”

The RSA has confirmed that waiting times are over 10 weeks at some test centers.

“The Drogheda test center has the longest wait time in the country – currently 17 weeks for an invitation to choose an appointment,” said Declan Naughton, director of driving testing and licensing at RSA.

He told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that as the Covid-19 rules are relaxed they will be able to focus on a small number of centers with longer waiting times to provide additional capacity and reduce dwell times. ‘waiting.

“Overall, 52 of our 60 centers have an invitation wait time of 10 weeks or less,” he said.

Here are the top five centers with the longest wait times, according to the RSA:

Drogheda – 18 weeks

Mulhuddart – 16 weeks

Mulhuddart (Hotel Carlton) – 14 weeks

Killester – 14 weeks

Galway – 14 weeks

Figures from the Road Safety Authority show that 12,000 of the drivers awaiting testing have scheduled tests over the next five to six weeks. The remaining 21,000 are still waiting for tests to be scheduled.

“Our target is to have an average wait of ten weeks and we have achieved this over the past few weeks,” an RSA statement read.

“Projections made early last year had estimated that it would be February 2022 before we reached that point.”

Declan Naughton said the wait time at the start of the pandemic was six weeks, but rose to about six months at the worst of the pandemic.

“We are now back to around 10 weeks,” he added.

A closer analysis of the RSA figures shows that as of January 21, the total number of people seeking a driving test was 104,398.

Of these, 12,764 have testing appointments; 27,375 are not eligible for a test for reasons such as not having completed the required number of lessons; 42,846 people were offered appointments but declined them, while 21,413 are waiting for their invitation to take the test.

About 202,000 theory driving tests were carried out in 2021. Some 170,000 of them were carried out in the last six months of 2021.

Driving instructors say this will put a strain on the testing system and lead to delays later this year and into 2023 as those drivers seek testing.

The RSA says it can handle the number of people seeking tests.

“We should be able to handle it because right now the driving testers are doing seven tests a week,” Declan Naughton said.

“Normally, in the post-pandemic period, they will be able to do eight tests.

“In reality, between the additional tests and the ability to work overtime, we could add up to 2,000 additional tests per week into the system.”

The Omicron variant of Covid-19 has led to driving test cancellations.

“During the first few days of the new year, we had an absence rate of 20%, which gradually decreased to 10% at the start of last week,” RSA told Morning Ireland in a statement.

He said 1,228 tests were canceled in the first three weeks of January due to symptoms of Covid-19 or the testers’ illness, while 1,531 customers canceled their testing appointment due to Covid-19. or medical incapacity during the day.

NCT appointments have also been canceled due to Covid-19.

Fifteen percent of staff were absent, resulting in 4,400 cancellations and 1,700 no-shows.

Of NCT’s 850 employees, 130 have been affected by Covid-19 since November.

“I am pleased to say that all 49 NCT centers across the country are fully operational,” said Mark Synnott, managing director of Applus automotive, the company that manages the NCT.

“But, like all organisations, we experience a spike in absenteeism, modestly from mid-November but obviously a significant surge when we return after the Christmas holidays.

“We achieved an absenteeism rate of just under 15%. This means that last week we lost around 450 working days across the whole network.

“It has had an impact on testing, but I have to give credit to our staff who are doing everything they can to cover bookings as much as possible.

“So again using last week as an example, we canceled around 1,700 bookings, while clients also canceled around 2,700 and another 1,700 did not show up for their appointment.

“That said, we would also have taken around 2,300 extras to facilitate the exchanges and make the most of the appointments available.

Mr Synnott said tests can be booked within 28 days if needed and there is a waiting list function on the NCT website.

Currently in Ireland there are 80,000 cars with overdue NCT tests. Mr Synnott said it was not a backlog.

“While 80,000 overdue vehicles may seem like a large number, it really is very small when you consider the number of vehicles that may be in garage forecourts awaiting sale, or off the road. for other reasons.

“Also, please do not describe this as a backlog, these are vehicle owners who have not tried to have their vehicles tested and are therefore ‘overdue’.

“As of January 1, looking at the two-year test cycle, with 2.5 million vehicles affected, there were 200,000 vehicles that still had a test due date in 2020/2021, of which 120,000 were reserved for a full trial or retest.

“So about 3% didn’t attempt to impersonate.”

The current average wait time for an NCT test is 19 days.

However, Drogheda, Kells, Cahir, Dundalk and Derrybeg have waiting times of 22-24 days according to Applus, although Drogheda, Kells and Cahir are undergoing refurbishment and capacity is being reduced accordingly.

“We release slots on a rolling basis as we become aware of staff availability,” Synnott said.

“For those who need it, we are currently able to offer a 28-day trial appointment if they use the ‘waitlist’ feature on the website.”

This week, Applus will release an additional 20,000 NCT locations for February.

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