Responding to the publication of DVA testing statistics for July, Mr Buckley said:
‘‘Since May the number of driving tests conducted in Northern Ireland has not only reached but far surpassed pre-pandemic levels. Although this increase in capacity is cause for cautious optimism, the reality is that it must be sustained if the backlog in applications is to be addressed in a timely and effective fashion.
Critically, whilst driving test output in July increased by over 50% compared to the previous five years, demand is continuing to significantly outpace supply. Applications were up 68% in the same period. The situation for vehicle testing is even more bleak, with capacity showing few signs of reaching pre-Covid levels let alone expanding. To illustrate the scale of the challenge on this front, we should bear in mind that 850,082 vehicle tests were carried out in the year ending March 2020 whereas only 400,674 have taken place in the last twelve months.
It is unacceptable that drivers are still facing lengthy delays in accessing these services. Securing a driving licence is often an integral requirement for employment or training and it is crucial that the Minister for Infrastructure builds on the progress seen in recent weeks to proactively tackle gridlock in the system.
Businesses and drivers who rely on the roadworthiness of their vehicle also deserve better than being left in a state of limbo, unable to book a test until weeks or even months after the expiry of their current certificate. The Minister must double down on efforts to tackle the congestion in vehicle testing in particular.
I call on the Department to publish its latest estimate of the current backlog in driver and vehicle testing. It is vital that there is greater transparency on what progress has been made to date and what additional resources will be made available to pursue better outcomes.’’