The Road Safety Authority (RSA) has said it “remains unclear” on the capacity it will require for dealing with the backlog of driving test applicants, which has built up during the pandemic.
Of the 180,000 people registered for a test, some 62,000 are eligible to go to the nest stage as they’ve passed a driver theory test and completed 12 mandatory driving lessons from an approved instructor.
The RSA gave the figures at a recent hearing of the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, where its chairperson, Kieran O’Donnell, called for an additional 40 driving testers to be hired to get the waiting time down to 10 weeks by next February.
Fórsa had previously agreed to the recruitment of 40 temporary driver-testers to help with a large backlog of tests caused by Covid-related cancellations, particularly during the first wave of the pandemic. The union is in discussion with the RSA seeking additional full time testers as it believes the demand for tests justifies additional full time posts.
The union continued to raise concerns about the number of tests being conducted during the current lockdown. It said there was a high risk of Covid transmission as the tests are conducted in extremely confined spaces.
Fórsa also sought additional training and an increase in the number of supervisors to deal with the recruitment of temporary staff, and made public statements in defence of testers following criticism of the RSA’s handling of tests during this stage of the pandemic.
All tests were stood down a year ago, during the first stage of the pandemic. But testers returned to work in July, when the numbers of new Covid cases seemed to be under control and Fórsa had agreed safety measures.
When the numbers of cases spiked again in the new year, the union again sought a suspension of all tests. But the Government designated driving tests as an emergency service and tests for front line workers were continued to be scheduled.
The government are now seeking to open up the number of people who can access tests. Forsa will approach these talks with the primary goal of ensuring that the tests remain save for both testers and applicants.
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