NCT firm warns it will take until June to clear backlog after drivers endure months of delays

Tests operator Applus+ faces penalties for motorists’ woes

NCT vehicle inspector Stephen Cullen at the launch of Applus+ as the operators of the National Car Testing Service at the Greenhills NCT centre in Dublin. Photo: Frank McGrath

Eddie Cunningham

The National Car Testing Service (NCTS) has promised to clear the current backlog and return to normal waiting times by June, when vehicles will be inspected within 12 days of a booking.

NCTS said it was currently having to hold back two-thirds of possible slots to cope with staff shortages.

The available slots motorists can book online represent around one-third of the appointments that could be made available if staffing levels were higher.

NCTS will open the full capacity for the remaining two-thirds only two to three weeks in advance, when it is certain it will have enough inspectors to meet demand.

Applus+, the private company contracted to carry out the NCT, apologised for the backlog that has left 375,000 cars without a valid certificate of roadworthiness.

A source said of the staff shortage: “Mechanics are being hoovered up by the computer sector.”

Other factors include thousands of motorists not turning up when their car is due. Thousands of drivers are also using the NCT service to find out what is wrong with their car.

When the faults are fixed by a garage, they must return for a re-test, so adding greater volume to the numbers to be tested.

A spokesman for NCTS insisted normal waiting times would be reached by June as additional staff are due to come on stream.

“We’re starting to get a handle on it,” he said. “After Easter, the situation will start to improve. We will be back to a normal level of service by June.”

At the moment, he said, the average waiting time is about 25 days. With the return of normal waiting times, vehicles will be inspected within 12 days of applying for a test.

The optimistic outlook will come as a small consolation for motorists enduring months of waiting. The Irish Independent recently revealed that car owners trying to book NCT appointments were having to wait six months for a slot – often long after their certificate had expired.

One owner who contacted this paper and whose documentation has been seen was told the earliest his car could be inspected would be August 10 – it was due for a March 27 test.

The 10-year-old vehicle would then be due for a subsequent test in March next year.

Junior Transport Minister Jack Chambers has said Applus+ will be penalised for the “absolutely unacceptable” booking delays.

“The Road Safety Authority are in a process with Applus+ to apply penalties to that company who aren’t delivering the public service they’re contracted to do,” he said.

Mr Chambers accepted the delays created a risk of cars being used that were not roadworthy, but said motorists had a responsibility to ensure their car was safe to drive.

“There is an obligation on every driver, notwithstanding the NCT, that their vehicle is roadworthy,” he said. “The NCT is a snapshot in time.”