Applus, the company responsible for conducting the National Car Test (NCT) in Ireland, has expressed confidence that the current average waiting time for an appointment will be almost halved by the end of next month. The testing backlog has reduced from 425,004 vehicles overdue an NCT in March, which was the highest level in recent years, to 414,000 on May 11. The backlog stood at 375,000 at the end of January. Applus has offered free tests to over 4,200 customers so far this year, with the usual fee being €55. Drivers do not have to pay if they are left without an appointment within 28 days of seeking one, subject to certain conditions.
Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Jack Chambers, has described the ongoing delays as “absolutely unacceptable” and causing “worry and anxiety” for motorists. He criticised Applus for failing to operate the service in accordance with its contract with the Road Safety Authority (RSA). Chambers has instructed officials in his department to engage with the RSA on a weekly basis and has written to the authority expressing his annoyance with the dysfunction from Applus and the impact it is having on motorists and road safety. He has also called for Applus to face serious penalties for the non-performance of its contract, which he believes should run into millions of euros. There is a dispute between the RSA and Applus over the penalties.
Chambers confirmed that the average wait time for an NCT appointment is now 30 days. In cases where the NCT website shows no appointments within 30 days, motorists should apply for the priority waiting list. Chambers assured that the majority of applicants on the priority waiting list should receive an appointment within 28 days. Since the customer charter was reinstated, 4,209 people have received a free test, and Chambers expects many more to receive free tests due to Applus’s failure to meet its targets.
The NCT is a compulsory test for all cars over four years old, with the aim of ensuring that vehicles are safe to drive on Irish roads. The RSA outsourced the service to Applus in 2019, and the company’s contract is due to run until 2024. The RSA has previously stated that it is satisfied with the way Applus has managed the NCT, but the current backlog has led to criticism of the company. Applus has blamed the backlog on Covid-19 restrictions and staff shortages due to Brexit.
The Irish Independent reported that Applus has been fined €6.5m by the RSA since it began operating the NCT in 2019, with most of the fines being for customer service issues. The newspaper also reported that Applus has paid €2.1m in compensation to customers since 2019.
The Irish Times reported that Chambers has asked the RSA to consider an alternative provider for the NCT if Applus does not improve its service. Chambers also called for the RSA to review the contract with Applus and to consider whether the company should be allowed to continue operating the NCT. The RSA has stated that it is monitoring the situation and is in regular contact with Applus to ensure that the backlog is reduced.
In conclusion, the NCT backlog has reduced from its peak in March, but the current average waiting time for an appointment is still 30 days. Applus has expressed confidence that the waiting time will be halved by the end of next month, but Minister Chambers has criticised the company for its non-performance of the contract and called for serious penalties to be imposed. The RSA has outsourced the NCT to Applus until 2024 but has faced criticism for its management of the service. Chambers has called for the RSA to consider alternative providers and to review the contract with Applus.