Driving test backlogs won’t be back to normal until early 2024, according to the Department of Transport.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning the junior minister with responsibility for road transport Jack Chambers said 75 new driving testers will be hired in the coming months.
He said the new testers will not be in place until October, with waiting times expected to begin reducing into early 2024.
The timeline is slightly quicker than that promised to the Oireachtas back in February when the RSA said it did not expect to see wait times reducing until the midpoint of 2024.
Minister Chambers said learner drivers are currently waiting around 21 weeks for a test.
“That is essentially double what it should be,” he said. “It should be a ten-week average waiting time and even it should be lower than ten weeks arguably.”
He said it will take five months to get the new testers in place – three months recruiting and two months training.
“They will be in place by October of this year and we are hoping to even expedite that if possible and we should see the waiting times start to reduce from then on,” he said.
“I know many young people have been waiting indefinitely since they competed their theory test and have gone through their mandatory number of lessons and we are trying to put a solution in place that really puts a sustainable number of testers in place so that we can address the increased levels of demand we have seen over the last couple of years.”
Minister Chambers said an extra 30 testers were recruited last year – but it made little difference to waiting times.
“That is underpinned by a 30% increase in leaner permits since the end of 2019,” he said.
“There is better capacity in the theory test so more people are getting through the theory test and getting their mandatory lessons, which is presenting an increased level of demand.
“As we all know from secondary school places, there is a young demographic in our country and obviously, people want to be able to drive and have the freedom to go about their business.
“So that is what is underlying or underpinning the significant wait times. We hope this solution will give much more certainty to people this year and next year.”
Asked when learner drivers could expect to see wait times come down, he said there will be an improvement this year – with waiting times back to normal early next year.
“So just as an example, we were doing 3,000 tests per week in October last year, we are now at over 4,000,2 he said.
“With the 75 additional testers we could be up and around 6,000 tests per week so there will be progress for many people who are waiting say 21 weeks this year but it will be early next year before we get back to an average waiting time of 10 weeks.
“I expect it to be in quarter one of 2024. I don’t think we will be waiting until the middle of next year to see tangible progress made.”
You can listen back here: