Here's what you need to know about the NCT penalty point changes and booking your test
Our Road Safety Authority expert this week outlines what's happening and how it affects you
It is important to be clear on what's happening with the early-December introduction of penalty points and a fixed charge notice for NCT offences.
NOW: You can get penalty points for these offences at the moment but it requires a conviction in court.
NEXT: What's changing in December is that Gardai will be able to deal with it at the roadside.
Instead of going to court and getting five points on conviction, motorists face getting three points and a fine at the roadside.
BOOKING A TEST:
The RSA ran ads to encourage people to book a test early rather than waiting until the New Year when demand is strong. It has certainly worked, with strong demand for the NCT services since early October. This is good news because it means more people are complying with the law and there is a safer vehicle fleet using the road.
The only note of concern is some reports in the media suggesting that there is a backlog of people waiting up to three month to get a test. This is not the case.
To adequately manage customers' needs - which range from those wishing to book a test up to 90 days in advance and those who need a test date in a hurry - the NCT holds back a significant proportion of appointments.
So where people are finding it difficult to book an appointment online, they should call NCT on 01 4135992.
Those who need an early appointment are put on a priority list and are currently getting a test appointment, on average, within two weeks (11 days nationally), with the vast majority getting their appointments within four weeks. Re-test appointments are, on average booked within three days.
A total of 30,000 NCT tests were booked last week alone and only 200 on the priority list fell outside the four-week time period.
WHAT'S BEEN DONE?
The NCT has been planning for the impact that changes might bring in December and took steps to help deal with any spike in demand.
Around 50 additional Vehicle Inspectors have been recruited compared with last year.
Opening hours have been extended from 8am to 10pm at some of the high-volume test centres and the majority of centres offer testing on both Saturday and Sunday.
These arrangements give an option for people to test their vehicle outside normal working hours.
The NCT has been testing record numbers in 2014; the total tested each month is around 12pc higher than in the corresponding months in 2013. And 2013 was a busy year as it dealt with the highest demand since the introduction of the service. A total of 1,170,889 full tests and 614,035 re-tests were carried out. The call centre dealt with more than two million calls.
The biggest problem we face is that over half the vehicle fleet is registered and therefore due for a test in the first quarter of the year. A number of things should spread demand more evenly throughout the year. Voluntary testing is in place since July this year. If you opt to have your vehicle tested more than 90 days in advance of the test due date, a certificate valid for two years (or one year depending on the age of the vehicle) from the date of the successful test will be issued.
The new dual registration period should also be a big help. Having said that it's important to bear in mind that the requirement to have valid NCT has not changed; motorists were always obliged to plan ahead. The only difference now is the ability to issue points at the roadside for the offence.