Plans to fine the operator of the NCT over delays ultimately 'isn't going to help anybody'.
That's according to Transport Commentator Conor Faughnan, who was responding to Road Safety Authority (RSA) proposals for penalties for the firm operating the contract.
The operation has come under increasing scrutiny recently, as people have experienced extreme delays in getting their tests.
Mr Faughnan told Newstalk Breakfast they're coming under a lot of pressure.
"Their problem goes back to the pandemic," he said.
"The NCT tests were suspended during the pandemic, they also lost a lot of their employees at that time.
"They have never really caught up; we've had a rolling backlog of delayed NCT tests ever since.
"Applus, the company in question, has been frantically trying to recruit and to tune up and to get back up to speed.
"They have more or less got up to speed, in terms of the pace at which tests are conducted, but they haven't got through the backlog.
"It's frustrating all around, for sure... I think for many people now the pandemic as an excuse is starting to wear thin".
Mr Faughnan said he does not believe fines are the way to go.
"They have a contract from the RSA to operate the test and there is a service level agreement," he said.
"If they fall short of that it can trigger penalties, maybe, but I'm not sure that would help.
"I think over the years Applus have performed their job well - they simply haven't got to grips with their backlog or their recruitment challenge.
"I'm not convinced punishing them is going to help anybody ultimately".
'Going to have to improve'
Mr Faughnan said one issue is people not being prepared for the tests.
"One of their main problems is that a lot of test time is wasted - there's a really high failure rate," he said.
"People turn up for the NCT unprepared; they don't care too much, they're quite happy to fail it and then represent for a retest and pass the second time around.
"That takes capacity out of the system and it slows the whole thing down.
"But one way or the other, the NCT is going to have to improve their performance," he added.
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