Members of the Rural Independent Group has condemned the government’s classification of driver theory tests as non-essential services.
The government has announced the gradual and phased re-opening of some RSA driver services with effect from Monday, May 10th, 2021.
It has classified the Driver Testing Service, the National Driver Licence Service, the National Car Testing Service, and the Commercial Vehicle Roadworthiness Testing Service as essential services.
Remote driver theory tests
Minister of State, with responsibility for Public Procurement and eGovernment, Ossian Smyth, was present in the Dáil to act on behalf of Minister of State, Deputy Hildegarde Naughton during a debate earlier this week.
He said: “Regarding driver theory tests, this is not an essential service and remains closed. In the meantime, the RSA is engaging with its service provider to examine ways of increasing the number of tests for when services resume.”
“The aim is to increase capacity at all test centres to cater for additional appointments. Pre-pandemic capacity was approximately 15,000 tests per month. When the service is allowed to reopen, the aim is to provide approximately 50,000 tests per month.”
He confirmed that a pilot online driver theory test is underway for trucks and buses.
The minister said the “roll-out of this option to theory tests for cars is planned to begin during May 2021, with up to 3,000 online car theory tests being conducted per month”.
“There will be a limit on the number of customers who can avail of the service during the initial roll-out phase, but work is ongoing to make online services more widely available towards the end of 2021.”
Richard O’Donoghue, said, “I am very disappointed with the Minister of State. He said a theory test is not essential. What about the harvest this year?”
“What about the farmers whose sons and daughters want to help to bring in the harvest? That is essential.”
“Those sons and daughters can get their theory tests when they are 16-years-old and can then drive tractors on their own farms.”
“The Minister of State thinks that is not essential, but that just proves the point I have been making since I was elected.”
“The Government is too city-based and does not understand rural Ireland or anything about farming. The Minister of State has just proven that by saying that he thinks a driver theory test is not essential.”
“Why? It is because he does not understand about the harvest and he does not understand the people in our areas who do not have transport.”
“They need to get to college, to the grocery shops and to their part-time jobs. The Minister of State is saying the people of Ireland are not essential. That is exactly what he has just said, because he does not understand the situation,” he added.
‘A tractor cannot drive itself’
Michael Healy-Rae also voiced his concerns during the debate: “It is essential for every young person of age when he or she wants to get behind the wheel, like every one of us did. They are young people; we adore them, and we want them to get on the road.”
“They are as safe and entitled to do that as anybody else. If the Minister of State did know about cutting silage, he would know that a tractor cannot drive itself. A young boy or girl must be at the wheel.”
“That is how the silage is cut and how the animals are fed in the wintertime, but a lot the Minister of State cares about the animals or the people or the young people. He has shown that here tonight,” he concluded.
Meanwhile, the FCI has urged farm contractors to take a zero-tolerance approach to the sharing of Tik Tok-type tractor motion videos on social media sites during this year’s silage harvest.