The Driver and Vehicle Agency’s (DVA) says it will conduct a recruitment drive to get more full time examiners in place to help with severe delays learner drivers are experiencing in securing test dates.
Currently, learner drivers are struggling to secure a test date with some waiting four months for any availability. The booking system has been described by one local driving instructor as a “total disgrace”.
The next availability in Craigavon has stretched into 2024. In Armagh, there is no availability.
“This is an unacceptable delay in securing driving test appointments, but sadly is reflective of the ongoing chaos that seems to be across the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) at this time,” said Upper Bann MP, Carla Lockhart.
“In recent weeks several young people have contacted me in sheer frustration that they cannot secure a driving test until after Christmas in the Craigavon test centre. That is totally unacceptable. This is holding young people back from the freedom that driving brings, but which can also be key to securing employment, apprenticeships and a range of other important work/life opportunities.
“I have written to the Permanent Secretary in DfI to ask why this problem is ongoing, and what steps are being taken to address it. We need solutions, and if the issue is a lack of resources in terms of staff then we need a plan by DfI as to how this is being addressed with urgency.
“The priority must be to get tests made available in a reasonable timeframe and I will certainly for pushing for this outcome with the Department.”
A spokesperson for DfI said: “The DVA currently has 93 full time and dual role staff capable of conducting driving tests across its network of tests centres and is about to launch a recruitment competition for additional full time driving examiners. On successful completion of their training some of these new examiners will be assigned to Armagh test centre.
“In addition to the recruitment of additional examiners, the DVA has taken a range of measures to maximise the availability of driving test slots, including continuing to offer driving tests on a Saturday and at certain centres on Sundays where it is suitable to do so without compromising the integrity of the test.
“Overtime is also being used to rota off-shift dual role driving examiners to provide further capacity. The DVA is now releasing Category B (private car) driving test appointments five months in advance with all test centres set to release driving test appointments on the first working day of each month. Additional test slots will also be released as resources continue to become available.
“Due to the constantly changing position, the DVA’s advice to customers is to keep checking the booking system for availability as additional appointment slots are added when resources become available. If slots are not initially available at a customer’s preferred test centre, they may wish to consider booking a test at another centre.”