Driver testers will no longer carry out tests in car without a valid NCT

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Anne-Marie Walsh

Driver testers are set to refuse to carry out tests in vehicles without a valid NCT certificate from today.

Fórsa has instructed testers at the Road Safety Authority (RSA) to revert to a requirement that customers’ vehicles must be officially roadworthy.

It said the requirement that a car presented for a test must have a valid NCT had been temporarily suspended due to delays due to the Covid pandemic.

The union claimed the RSA has continued to instruct driver testers to waive the requirement if a car does not have a valid NCT.

Fórsa represents most of the RSA’s driver testers.

The move comes as there were an estimated 375,000 cars on Irish roads without a valid NCT last month due backlogs in some test centres.

Fórsa said it has informed the RSA that the instruction has been issued due to serious health and safety concerns for its driver tester members.

In a letter to RSA management today, Derek Kelleher, Fórsa assistant general secretary, said it is a health and safety issue for members.

“The vehicle a customer presents for their test becomes the RSA staff member's workplace,” he said.

“The only way of ensuring that a vehicle is safe and roadworthy is when it has a valid NCT certificate.

"Without this, it is difficult to ascertain the health and safety risks to our members if they are forced to carry out their work in a vehicle that does not have the certificate.

“Ultimately, they do not know what risk this poses to their safety and limiting tests to vehicles that have a valid NCT helps mitigate the risk.”

He said instructing members to only conduct a driving test in a vehicle with a valid NCT is a reasonably practicable way of increasing their safety at work. Mr Kelleher said it aligns with the General Principles of Prevention within the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act.

A Fórsa spokesperson said it has raised the issue with the RSA since November last year.

He said it also raised it at a State Agencies Oversight Body meeting last week.

Fórsa said it advised, rather instructed, driver tester members last November to adhere to the RSA protocol that all vehicles presented for a driving test must display a valid NCT certificate.

In a statement the RSA said it was “disappointed” by Fórsa’s decision.

It said the system whereby driver testers accepted a confirmation of an upcoming NCT booking to progress with a driving test was “risk assessed and Fórsa were consulted every step of the way, in the drafting and implementation of this risk assessment”.

"The RSA has engaged extensively with the union on this issue and were very clear that our approach was in line with the shared policy approach adopted by An Garda Síochána and the insurance industry. The RSA believes that this action is not being taken in the spirit of how the RSA and Fórsa union would normally engage.

"The RSA is calling for Fórsa to engage with us through agreed resolution mechanisms to provide certainty to our customers and our colleagues in driver testing.”

It apologised to affected customers and said they will not lose their fee to sit the driving test.

"All customers scheduled for a driving test this week have been contacted, via text, to advise them to present for their driving test in a vehicle with a valid NCT.

"If a customer realises, immediately before a test, that they do not have a valid NCT, they can cancel using the RSA’s MyRoadSafety online portal. Use the cancellation reason 'no availability' and you will not lose your fee. You will be sent an invitation to book a new test date as soon as possible.

"For customers who turn up for a test and whose driving test does not go ahead (because they did not have a valid NCT) we will issue a new invitation to book a driving test so that they can book a new test free of charge. There is no need to contact us. These customers will not go to the back of the queue for a driving test.”

The RSA said around 25 people a week are turned away from their driving test for not having a valid NCT. This is out of almost 4,000 car tests that are conducted each week on average.