Utter incompetence and stupidity – that’s all that can be said about the Driving Test situation. There are now 130,000 people across the country waiting to do the test and the average wait is ten months.
Do you want to know who is to blame? Bertie Ahern is your man. Transport ministers have come and gone over the past ten years and none of them have have covered themselves in glory.
But the man in charge has been Bertie Ahern and the problem is simply political will. Bertie could solve this if he wanted.
The background is as follows: In 2004 there were 103 testers. They carried out 154,000 tests, an average of 30 tests per week per tester, which is pretty impressive.
Currently a car driving test costs €38. There are dearer tests for trucks, buses, etc, but let’s base our average at the lower value.
At €38 each tester generates €57,000 in revenue each year for the testing service. Unless these lads and lassies are paid in gold this must cover the cost of running the service.
That being so, it should be a doddle to hire more testers until the backlog is cleared. Simple really.
So you think the problem must be the unions. These industrial dinosaurs don’t want extra staff hired. On the contrary, the union says that the employers can hire new testers to their heart’s content.
Therefore, why-oh-why doesn’t the Department of Transport hire more testers. The reason is that the Department can’t hire anybody unless Department of Finance says so.
Now Finance is a cautious animal. It said that Transport could hire ten more testers. This, of course, isn’t worth diddly squat as these new testers could only test around 15,000 extra drivers a year.
Now Transport Minister Martin Cullen has come up with a hare-brained scheme to get a private company to carry out some testing. The unions smell a cheap labour rat and have objected to the plan. Now the whole thing is stuck in a civil service arbitration process.
What is required is straightforward. The testing service should be autonomous. It should be allowed to hire as many testers as is required to get the job done.
All that is required is the political will, someone with the power to bang heads together and get the thing sorted out.
Apparently we can uproot civil servants from their homes and families and send them thither and yon in a coalition flagship decentralisation scheme, but we can’t hire an extra forty self-financing driving testers. It’s just stupid.
This is causing huge inconvenience for a lot of people. Some people can’t take up employment, or hire cars, or pay reasonable insurance rates. And still the incompetence trundles on while no-one is being held accountable for the shambles.
Here’s the latest waiting times for tests in weeks: Churchtown, 54; Finglas, 50; Raheny, 58; Rathgar, 54; Tallaght, 57. The national average is 43 weeks so Dublin is getting the sticky end of an already sticky stick.
Bertie Ahern is to blame. That’s where the buck is supposed to stop.