Fórsa has reached agreement with the Road Safety Authority (RSA) on the establishment of a panel of additional driver testers to deal with an expected surge in demand for driving tests on foot of proposed new sanctions on car owners who allow their vehicles to be used by unaccompanied learner drivers.
Following negotiations with the union, the RSA is seeking departmental sanction to establish a panel of up to 100 additional driver-testers, who would be available to work in test centres around the country when the need arises.
Fórsa says measures in the amended Road Traffic Bill could double demand for driving tests in the short term. It says this could increase the average waiting time to as much as 55 weeks unless extra testers are made available.
Once enacted, the legislation will introduce fines of up to €2,000, or six months imprisonment, for motorists who allow their vehicles to be used by unaccompanied learner drivers. The bill will also allow the detention of vehicles illegally driven by learner drivers.
The union has also called for a much smaller number of extra driver testers to be employed on a permanent basis to cover increased ongoing demand for tests on foot of economic recovery.
Fórsa says the number of driver-testers has fallen by almost 20% since 2007. As a result, average waiting times have risen to 14 weeks on foot of the economic recovery. This is four weeks more than the Road Safety Authority’s 10-week target, which was previously being met.
Addressing delegates at Fórsa's Services & Enterprises conference in Galway on 13th April, official Ashley Connolly called on the Department of Transport to sanction the creation of the panel without delay. “Fórsa supports the measures in the Road Traffic Bill because they will improve road safety. But we need to quickly put the necessary measures in place to prevent a huge backlog of driving tests and a potential trebling of waiting times,” she said.
Ashley said the union had also discussed other ways of reducing waiting times with the Road Safety Authority, and was willing to look at additional flexibility measures. “The number of driver testers has fallen from 126 in 2007 to only 102 today,” she said.