Fórsa has welcomed confirmation that the Road Safety Authority (RSA) intends to offer at least 67 fixed-term contracts to qualified driver-testers to help deal with an expected surge in demand for driving tests.
They will come from a panel of 100 testers to be put in place as part of a union-management agreement on handling the fall-out from proposed new legal sanctions on car owners who allow their vehicles to be used by unaccompanied learners.
Fórsa reached agreement with the RSA in April, and has since been awaiting sanction from the transport department. It says the authority originally proposed to outsource the extra work, before the union successfully argued that direct-labour was the quickest, safest and cheapest solution.
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.
Without action, this ran the risk of a short-term doubling of demand for driving tests, with increased average waiting times of as much as 55 weeks.
Fórsa official Ashley Connolly, who negotiated the deal with the RSA, said the union had moved quickly to avoid both privatisation and unacceptable waiting lists. “Fórsa supports the measures in the Road Traffic Bill because they will improve road safety. But we needed this deal to prevent a huge backlog of driving tests and a potential trebling of waiting times,” she said.
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.
Incoming official Brendan O’Hanlon said the union had also discussed other ways of reducing waiting times with the RSA, and was willing to look at additional flexibility measures. “The number of driver testers has fallen from 126 in 2007 to only 102 today. This is an important win for the union, now we will be working to ensure that it’s implemented in the way it was intended,” he said.