Once Level 5 restrictions are lifted there will be a backlog of 90,000 applicants looking for a test date
Driving instructors are calling on the Road Safety Authority (RSA) to engage with them to ensure the backlog of 90,000 applicants is cleared when Level 5 restrictions are lifted.
Trade union Unite, which represents driving instructors throughout Ireland, is also calling for better conditions amidst reports that some instructors are being left out in the rain while their client takes their test.
Currently, only essential workers are allowed to sit their driving test but this is expected to be lifted at the beginning of December.
When Ireland was placed under a Level 5 lockdown those who were not essential workers were asked by the RSA to cancel their test.
The trade union has said that the RSA “has refused to engage with basic demands being made by driving instructors in order to secure their safety.”
Unite Regional Officer Jean O’Dowd said the union has been seeking engagement with the RSA since June and is calling on them to “recognise that driving instructors are central to road safety.”
She explained that when Level 5 restrictions are lifted driving instructors will be critical to clearing the backlog of 90,000 applicants and thus need extra support.
“As the pandemic continues, Level 5 restrictions mean that driver theory test centres are closed and essential driver training lessons have been paused,” she said.
“These measures were necessary but have contributed to a testing backlog, with over 90,000 applicants now awaiting driving tests.
“Driving instructors will be critical to clearing this bottleneck. Both the Road Safety Authority and the Department of Transport must engage with instructors, through Unite, to ensure that all systems are in place to clear this backlog once the emergency is over and to identify priority candidates such as essential workers.
“That engagement must also focus on instructors’ demands for access to basic sanitary facilities."
The union is calling for better sanitary facilities for instructors within test centres, as currently many physical test centres are closed due to the pandemic.
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Transport Darren O’Rourke TD has said that this is "scandolous" as many driving instructors are being left standing outside in the rain.
Speaking in the Dáil this morning, the Meath East TD said: "I’ve been contacted by numerous driving instructors who have been refused entry to driving test centres.
“This means that if a learner driver is using the instructor’s car for the test, which is commonplace, the instructors are left standing outside the door of the testing centre for the hour.
“Yesterday, I was sent a video of two driving instructors in the west of Ireland, locked out of the test centre, while the rain was horizontal, and they were just left with a collapsible chair and an umbrella.
“They’re locked out with no access to toilet facilities, shelter, warmth or sanitisation facilities. It is a disgraceful way to treat workers.
“These instructors are working right through Level 5 to ensure other essential workers can prepare to take sit their driving test, so they can get to work.
“We need a bit of common sense here, particularly now in the winter months.
“Instructors should be allowed inside once they are abiding by the rules such as mask wearing, social distancing and hand sanitising."
A spokesperson for the RSA said: "Approved Driving Instructors (ADIs) are important stakeholders in the learning to drive process. Unfortunately since the driver testing service resumed after being suspended due to Covid-19 health emergency, nobody other than a test candidate is allowed to enter a test centre.
"This is in order to manage our responsibilities to prevent the spread of the virus. We regret this is so and we hope to resume access to ADIs at a future date when the threat of the virus has passed."