More than 100 extra staff are needed to avoid driving test waiting times doubling to 55 weeks because of new learner driver sanctions, says public service union Fórsa.
The union wants the Government to provide funding to hire up to 125 additional driver testers to deal with a surge in demand for driving tests.
More than 80,000 people are waiting to be tested.
Car owners who allow unaccompanied learner drivers to use their vehicles could face prosecution for the first time under new measures approved by Cabinet this week.
Fórsa believes measures in the amended Road Traffic Bill could double demand in the short term, potentially increasing driving-test waiting times up to 55 weeks.
Once enacted, the legislation will introduce fines of up to €2,000, or six-months imprisonment, for motorists who allow their vehicles to be used by unaccompanied learner drivers.
The bill will also allow the detention of vehicles illegally driven by learner drivers.
The union wants 25 extra driver testers to be employed permanently to meet increased demand and for another 100 testers to be hired on temporary contracts if demand surges, as expected, in response to the Road Traffic Bill.
It says the Government could sanction the temporary rehire of suitable retirees to help deal with a temporary demand surge.
The union says that the number of driver testers has fallen by almost 20% since 2007 and is now incapable of meeting current demand.
It says average waiting times have already risen to 14 weeks because of the economic recovery which is four weeks longer than the Road Safety Authority’s 10-week target, which was previously met.
According to latest average waiting times published by the RSA, the shortest is 8.6 weeks for Birr, Co Offaly and the longest is 19.3 for Nenagh, Co Tipperary.
However, some people had to wait up to 27 weeks in Tralee, Co Kerry and 24 weeks in Buncrana, Co Donegal, Cavan and Gorey, Co Wexford.
Fórsa official, Ashley Connolly, criticised as “wholly inadequate” government plans to recruit just five additional testers from a competition that recently attracted more than 4,300 applicants.
She said additional recruitment would reduce waiting times and improve road safety at no additional cost to the State because the service had been self-funding since 2014.
Ms Connolly said the union had discussed other ways of reducing waiting times with the Road Safety Authority and was willing to look at additional productivity measures.
“The fastest, safest and cheapest solution is to make provision to directly hire and train up to 100 additional driver-testers on two to three-year temporary contracts to deal with the expected surge in demand and to hire 25 more on a permanent basis to deal with increased underlying demand,” she said.
She said the number of driver testers had fallen from 126 in 2007 to only 102 today.
In 2007 the average waiting time was almost 19 weeks and was brought down to below 10 weeks by 2010 before rising again due to staffing shortages, the economic recovery and rumours of legislative changes.
The RSA raises revenue through the €85 cost of a driving test, plus revenue raised through the theory test, National Car Testing service and national driving licence service.
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