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major delays Driving instructors face backlog of up to one million lessons as waiting list grows

There have been calls to allow all essential workers and those who need a licence for work purposes to continue with their driving lessons.

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Traffic on the M1 motorway as further restrictions in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

Traffic on the M1 motorway as further restrictions in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

Traffic on the M1 motorway as further restrictions in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

Driving instructors are facing a backlog of up to one million lessons as the number of people on the driving waiting list continues to grow, an Oireachtas committee has heard.

There have been calls to allow all essential workers and those who need a licence for work purposes to continue with their driving lessons and sit the driving test.

The transport committee was told that essential workers including doctors, nurses and trainee paramedics have not been able to sit driving tests because of the ongoing restrictions.

There is a huge backlog for both theory tests and driving tests, with around 98,414 learners waiting for a driving test, and 54,000 people waiting for a theory test.

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) said there will be an 40 additional testers in June to help clear the backlog.

The authority said they hope to receive clearance for a further 40 during the summer.

This would be a 58% increase in the driving tester work force.

Dominic Brophy, chairman of Unite ADI (Approved Driving Instructors) Union branch, said the backlog is a huge problem which needs resolved.

Darragh Dunne, branch secretary, told the committee: “When you talk about 90,000 people waiting for a driving test, and if we say that they require an average of 10 lessons per applicant, we are getting close to one million lessons in the system.

“We have made many proposals to the RSA in regards to the staggering of test times, so one test goes out at 10am and the next applicant can come and deal with the paperwork and they leave at 10.10am and the next test can be at 10.20am.”

There's no opportunity to wash their hands or shelter from the weatherDominic Brophy

Mr Brophy said that “intelligent use” of the scheduling system would help clear the backlog during Level 5 restrictions.

He was also critical of the restrictions on driving instructors using RSA facilities while students sit driving tests.

“To provide a safe place for people to wait is simple courtesy, people are being left wondering around industrial estates while their test candidate or son or daughter has gone out for a test,” Mr Brophy added.

“That’s not a safe thing.

“There’s no opportunity to wash their hands or shelter from the weather.”

Fianna Fail TD Cathal Crowe said that students enrolling in the paramedic course at the University of Limerick have to have a driving licence.

“Even if they got a theory test in April or May, there is a legal requirement that you have to wait six months after your theory test before you can get your full licence,” Mr Crowe said.

He added that some students will not be able to take up the course offer in August as a consequence.

“We will see the knock-on effect in four years’ time when there will be a huge shortage of paramedics and that will have an impact on the system,” he added.

Mr Dunne said it was “heartbreaking” when he was forced to stop giving driving lessons to a trainee paramedic.

“We hope that an allowance would be made for essential workers to fulfil their lessons and complete their theory test and learning permit,” Mr Dunne added.

The Unite ADI Union branch was formed last August and has some 1,000 approved driving instructors registered.

“We are exceeding our (membership) expectations and expect that number to increase post-Covid,” Mr Brophy added.

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