Backlog of MOT tests continues to be a huge issue, says oversight MLA

Many drivers across Northern Ireland are at risk of being put off the road through no fault of their own, with a huge backlog persisting at MOT centres.

Saturday, 3rd July 2021, 6:30 am

The Department of Infrastructure has put Temporary Exemption Certificates (TECs) in place for vehicle that are nine years or or less, but drivers whose cars are older and who cannot book an MOT in the next month will be risking committing a criminal offence if they continue to drive without a valid certificate.

One driver told the News Letter: “My car has just turned ten years old and its MOT is due to expire at the end of July. But I have checked several times in the past few days and I cannot find a free slot at any test centre. It is very frustrating and disappointing.”

Chair of the Infrastructure Committee which oversees the matter, DUP MLA Jonathan Buckley said: “The backlog in driving tests continues to be a huge issue, but the availability of MOT tests is also of concern.

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A vehicle during its MOT test at the Balmoral MOT centre in Belfast.
A vehicle during its MOT test at the Balmoral MOT centre in Belfast.

Whilst booking slots can become available at short notice, the fact there are no openings anywhere over the next month indicates that demand is not being met. It is a problem that is most acute for the owners of older vehicles, but the Minister does need to ensure that adequate testing capacity is available for people to access an MOT test within a realistic timeframe.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Infrastructure said that since testing was suspended in late March 2020 due to Covid-19, the DVA has applied TECs to all eligible vehicles to ensure that they may continue to be driven.

“From 20 July 2020, MOT testing resumed for priority vehicle groups, including those vehicles not able to avail of TECs. The DVA 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 and a reduction of the vehicle test appointment time.”

TECS have also been extended by four months from that date, for private cars, light goods vehicles and motorcycles aged 4-9 years. The DVA is planning to resume full vehicle testing services from 26 July, subject to review and to manage this transition.

The MOT status of any vehicle can be checked online, she said, and new test slots are released daily, but motorists may have to travel to a test site other than their nearest one to avail of this.

The PSNI said that a vehicle should not be driven without an MOT or TEC and that doing so could lead to enforcement or prosecution, but that a vehicle without either can still be driven to or from the test centre, or for remedial work.

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