Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has today announced that the Driver & Vehicle Agency (DVA) intends a phased return of MOT and driver testing services in the coming weeks.
The DVA has already reinstated limited Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA) testing to ensure supply chains and the health service continue to be supported during this time of significant challenge and is working to expand this service. A statutory authorisation process for ADR vehicles, used for the carriage of dangerous goods, has also been introduced.
From 20 July, the DVA plans to resume MOT testing for priority vehicle groups, including those vehicles that are not able to avail of Temporary Exemption Certificates (TECs). This includes taxis and buses due a first time test; vehicles not previously registered in Northern Ireland; vehicles with MOTs that have expired by more than 12 months, including vehicles previously declared SORN and those sold by car dealerships.
MOT testing for other vehicles such as four year old cars and motorbikes, three year old light goods vehicles and testing of heavy goods vehicles, trailers and buses is planned to commence in August. An exact date will be confirmed once the demand for the initial priority groups has been addressed. These customers will be sent reminder letters with details of how to book a test at the appropriate time.
There are also plans to reinstate some driver testing services in July for those licence categories where testing can be done safely in line with PHA advice and guidance on social distancing requirements. This includes motorbike driver testing, planned from 6 July, and tests for drivers of buses, tractors and module 4 CPC tests for lorry, bus and coach drivers, planned from 20 July.
Driver theory tests remain suspended at this time. DVA officials continue to engage with colleagues in the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency in GB and it is anticipated a date for the resumption of this service will be confirmed shortly. The Department is also exploring options for an extension to valid theory test pass certificates for those customers whose certificate has, or will expire, during this crisis.
Announcing plans for the phased return of services, Minister Mallon said: “Since the Covid-19 outbreak, my priority has been the safety of the public and staff and all vehicle and driving tests at all DVA testing centres were suspended for three months, until today, 22 June 2020.
“My officials have been working hard to find solutions to help customers and a number of measures have been put in place including a range of exemptions and extensions so that, as far as possible, vehicles can be kept on the road safely and most people can keep driving.
“However I am very conscious that for the past number of months some types of vehicles that need MOTs have had to stay off the road. I also recognise the frustrations of those customers not able to take driving tests during this time and the inconvenience this has caused.”
Minister Mallon continued: “DVA has carried out a full review of risk assessments and has developed new MOT processes that comply with all the published government public health advice and guidance, including the guidance on working in and from vehicles. Consultation is ongoing with trade unions with a view to the phased return of testing in the coming weeks. To adhere to social distancing requirements it will be necessary to operate test centres with reduced staffing levels and with some changes to the testing process to keep staff and customers safe.
“While this is progress and we will be able to prioritise customers that cannot currently get their vehicles on the road, it is unfortunately not practicable to safely resume all services at this time, including car driving tests.
“However, some driver testing services for those vehicle types where social distancing is possible is planned from next month. As we work towards recovery from the impacts of Covid-19 I am pleased that we are able to help these customers get back on track.
“We all want to see a full resumption of DVA services and for things to return to normal. I am pleased to say that new lifts have been installed at 10 test centres to date and the remaining lifts are due to be in place by mid-July.
“I will continue to keep other DVA services under review in line with the latest public health advice and following important consultation with staff and unions. I have made it clear that all services, except those in MOT centres currently being used as Covid-19 testing centres, will resume as soon as it is safe to do so and I will provide further updates in the coming weeks.
“Covid-19 has caused unprecedented difficulties for all of us and I thank our customers for their patience at this very challenging time.”