Number of cars without valid NCT jumps 50,000 in just a few weeks despite vow to end backlogs

Hundreds of thousands of drivers are now waiting on an NCT test date. Stock image

Anne-Marie Walsh

The number of vehicles without a valid NCT cert rose by 50,000 in just a few weeks but the operator of the national car test has vowed to cut backlogs and waiting times.

There were 425,004 vehicles with a due date for the test that was “in the past”  last week – the highest level in recent years.

This compares with 375,000 vehicles that were overdue their NCT at the end of January, according to a presentation to an Oireachtas committee.

Representatives of the testing company Applus told politicians that figure was 170,000 above the norm for the time of year. Test delays were described as unacceptable.

A Department of Transport spokesperson said junior minister Jack Chambers is frustrated at the delays, but assurances have been given that wait periods will fall to 12 days by the end of June.

He said a standard 12-day wait is set out in the NCT contract. The average waiting period nationally is now just under 28 days.

The rise in the backlog has come to light as it emerged driver testers are refusing to conduct tests in vehicles without a valid NCT cert from this week. Fórsa said it issued the instruction to members due to serious health and safety concerns.

“The highest number of vehicles due for an NCT in March in recent years, combined with the bank holiday for St Patrick’s Day have resulted in the increased figure,” said the department spokesperson.

He said the high number of vehicles registered in the first three months of each year have contributed to an overall increase in January and February. It is expected that this number will decrease significantly over the coming months,” he said.

He confirmed the 375,000 figure for vehicles without an NCT quoted at the committee and the 425,004 vehicles with an overdue test date last week are calculated on the same basis. The spokesperson said the figures represent the number of vehicles currently or shortly due to present for NCT.

He said the department and Road Safety Authority (RSA) do not have an exact figure for how many of the vehicles may be held by motor dealers. “Minister Chambers is deeply concerned and frustrated at the delays and backlogs facing the National Car Testing Services [NCTS],” he said.

He added that statutory responsibility for roadworthiness testing in the State, including the operation of the NCTS, rests with the RSA.

“However, Minister Chambers has instructed Department of Transport officials to continue holding weekly meetings with the Road Safety Authority to closely monitor progress in reducing test delays and to assist with any further issues or challenges which may arise.”

He said the NCT service remains under pressure as “high demand for testing and the knock-on impacts of an early 2022 Covid 19-related test backlog” was exacerbated by longer-term staffing shortages in the European Economic Area.

Applus, which runs the NCT, said this time of year is always challenging. “NCTS are still increasing capacity, and we will continue to do so until the issue is resolved,” it said.

“Recruitment is still ongoing and so far in 2023, we have recruited 24 vehicle inspectors who are now in the NCT test centres testing. We have a recruitment team that have just returned from the Philippines where we hope to have an additional 50-plus vehicle inspectors commence training as soon as visas are approved.”

It said 54,000 overdue vehicles have been tested and failed, 250,000 vehicles with a test due date in the past have a confirmed NCT booking, around 28,000 vehicles with a test due date in the past are on the priority list and waiting for an appointment, and around 60,000 vehicles have a motor tax expiry in the past and maybe considered to be off the road.

“The remainder of the vehicles have been notified that they are due an NCT but have still to make contact with us to arrange an appointment.”