Five month wait for MOT: PSNI advises how to avoid prosecution if driving without valid certificate in Northern Ireland

With motorists across NI facing delays of up to almost five months for an MOT test, police have issued guidance as to how people can avoid prosecution if they find themselves having to drive without a valid certificate.

By Philip Bradfield
Wednesday, 6th April 2022, 3:10 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th April 2022, 10:25 am

A survey of test centres in Newry, Mallusk, Armagh, Balmoral, Craigavon and Lisburn today found the only available slots in August, with Newry booked up until 31 of the month.

Asked how drivers could avoid prosecution if they have to drive without a valid certificate, the PSNI has given clear guidance.

“The DVA (Driver and Vehicle Agency) will make every effort to secure a MOT test date for any motorist whose MOT is due to expire,” a spokeswoman said. “In the event police encounter a vehicle with no current MOT, so long as we can ascertain that a vehicle is roadworthy, has a forthcoming MOT test date and is not SORNED [officially off road], then police will not take any further action. Every driver has a responsibility to ensure their vehicle is roadworthy.

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A Belfast MOT test centre being used for Covid testing in April 2020. Photo: Pacemaker.

“As for vehicle tax, police do not prosecute for this offence but can make a referral to Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) if they detect an untaxed or SORNED vehicle being used or kept on a public road. Taxation offences are a matter for HM Revenue and Customs and would be best contacted on this.”

The former Chair of the Stormont Infrastructure Committee, Jonny Buckley, said the system was still struggling to get on top of backlogs caused by the pandemic.

“Obviously this is a legacy issue going back as far as Covid that the department has never really been able to get on top of,” he said. “Therefore our test centres and MOTs are still lagging way behind in terms of delivery.

“One of the main reasons for this is actually a lack of bookable appointments and a lack of examiners, combined with the existing backlog that has been present since Covid.

“The committee has been pushing for exemption certificates to be put in place for vehicles that are younger and therefore having less need for an MOT test, but also the need for them to get additional examiners.

“This has been incredibly difficult to get. The department has promised ten new examiners but recruitment has been very difficult which is adding further delay. So the committee is asking the department to put a focus on staffing and creating additional booking slots and appointments to get through this backlog.”

A Department for Infrastructure spokesperson said that on 5 April over 157,000 vehicle tests are booked and around 54,000 vehicle test appointments remain available across its network of centres up to 31 July 2022.

The DVA releases vehicle test appointments on a daily basis and customers are encouraged to regularly check the booking system as they are able to change existing appointments to a different test centre and time if a slot becomes available, it added.

The DVA does not currently hold information to enable it to accurately report the average waiting times for vehicle tests, given that this position changes on a regular basis.

“The DVA is delivering vehicle testing at all 15 of its test centres and has steadily increased its vehicle testing capacity by adopting a range of measures including:

• the recruitment of additional vehicle examiners;

• the use of overtime to provide cover for leave and sick absence;

• making additional vehicle test slots available daily at most centres - further slots may also become available due to cancellations;

• offering vehicle test appointments on a Sunday at most test centres and on Bank Holidays, when testing is not normally available.

From 1 September to 28 February 2022, the DVA conducted 414,700 full vehicle tests, which is 10% more than the five-year average for those months and has adopted a new online booking syste.

The PSNI has agreed not to penalise the driver of a vehicle whose MOT has expired so long as the vehicle is in a roadworthy and safe condition; the vehicle is properly insured; and the driver can provide proof that a test appointment has been booked for the vehicle.

 The ABI view is that not having a valid MOT certificate would not necessarily invalidate your insurance, but if you are in that situation due to delays to vehicle testing in Northern Ireland then it is important to check your policy documents or speak to your insurer. However, it is a condition of insurance that owners maintain their vehicles in a roadworthy condition.