The Road Safety Authority (RSA) needs another 80 testers to get driving test waiting times down to 10 weeks by next March.
The Authority's CEO Sam Waide told the Oireachtas Transport Committee today that waiting times for tests could not be given to many people, but the committee later heard that they can be up as high as 25 weeks currently due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Mr Waide said that more than 62,000 are currently waiting on tests but fewer than 10% of those currently have an appointment.
"It is not possible to provide waiting times for the driving test because the service is not operating as normal. As tests are only available to essential workers and we have surplus capacity we can offer test slots to essential workers almost on demand.
"What we can say is that we have 98,414 applications on hand and of these 5,670 hold a test appointment in the coming weeks, while 62,024 are waiting for a test. The remaining 30,720 are ineligible for a test. Those who are ineligible are generally customers who have not completed mandatory lessons."
The RSA's director of driver testing and licensing, Declan Naughton, told the committee that the authority has 138 driving testers at the moment, with another 40 set to be deployed by June.
"At the moment we have 138 driver testers and we expect to have an additional 40 in the field by the end of June.
"The caveat is that we are currently delivering six driving tests a day. We had expected to be at seven at this point but due to the pandemic we are not. The question is around how quickly we get to seven or eight tests a day."
This, Mr Naughton said, would require sign off by the Department of Transport. The committee's chair, Fine Gael's Kieran O'Donnell, said the committee would write to the department to ask for this.
Fianna Fáil's Timmy Dooley said that the RSA offices should be open to help elderly people navigate driving licence extensions, which have been given up to December this year.
Mr Dooley said: "I am pleased that extensions have been given because I was finding in the constituency office an inordinate amount of elderly people who did not have access online and were unable to do a walk-in service in the offices of the authority, which is regrettable.
"My office was open with all of the Covid prevention measures in place and we found ourselves having to do the online work for them. I failed to see why such work could not have been done in the RSA offices."