The introduction of additional measures are improving services at NCT centres – Donohoe

3rd March, 2015

Speaking in the Seanad this evening (Tuesday), the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Paschal Donohoe TD, said the additional measures that have been introduced at National Car Test (NCT) centres, including around the clock testing in selected centres, are improving services and helping to meet customers’ needs (see full speech below).


“A number of measures have been rolled-out by the National Car Testing Service (NCTS) to meet the increase in the number of people looking to secure an NCT on the back of changes made to the penalty points system late last year. It must be pointed out that it has been an offence to drive a car without an NCT since has 2009 and that changes I introduced in December simply brought this offence within the fixed charge notice system.


“Among the measures introduced is 24 hour testing, which commenced at the Northpoint test centre in Dublin last night. This facility will be available four nights a week and is being shared between the Northpoint test centre and Deansgrange in Dublin. 24 hour testing will commence at Little Island test centre in Cork this evening. This will facilitate owners who work shifts or who may require an urgent appointment and has already proved very popular with 100% of night time slots available for the first week having been booked up quickly.


“Additional test lanes have also been provided at Blarney, Naas, Mullingar and Portlaoise test centres.  In addition, opening hours have been extended at a number of centres including Galway, Ballina, Enniscorthy and Killarney which now provide testing from 7am to 11.30pm 4 days a week. The majority of centres are open 7 days a week with late openings on 3 days to 10pm. Opening hours at 20 centres have been extended to provide at least one additional day of either later or earlier opening.


“Changes have also been made to the online booking system, to make it easier for customers to book and pay for their test on-line. Customers can also log a request for a booking, directly through the website, if a suitable test slot is not available.


“To facilitate improved compliance with NCT requirements, additional vehicle inspectors have been recruited and now number 580, the highest ever in the history of NCT, giving the NCTS the capacity to carry out more than 150,000 additional tests this year, compared to last.  Call centre staff have also been increased significantly.


“NCTS is dealing well with the current unprecedented demand for tests and have taken action to meet customer requirements.  I would like to commend the staff involved for the flexibility they have shown in in doing so. Our public services need to be as responsive and as flexible as possible in meeting public demand and the ability to offer a full NCT service, outside the normal 9am to 5pm, serves to better meet that demand.


“The NCT is a preventative road safety measure that plays a key role in ensuring the roadworthiness of vehicles on our roads.  The NCT has made a significant contribution to road safety in this country since its introduction 15 years ago. The days of having large numbers of unsafe vehicles using our roads are largely gone, as cars are tested to the highest international standards. I am aware that a level of frustration has been expressed by members of the public in recent months in respect of this issue which is being dealt with through the roll-out of these additional measures to meet customer needs.”



Press Office, Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, 01 604 1090 / 01 604 1093



Speech by Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Paschal Donohoe TD to Seanad Éireann on the National Car Testing System


Check Against Delivery



When I was here in December on the Road Traffic (No. 2) Bill 2014, I undertook with Senators to come back to the House for a discussion around the National Car Testing Service.


At that time, as Senators may recall, we had just made a number of adjustments to the penalty points regime including the introduction of some new penalty point offences under the Road Traffic Act 2014.


Those changes came into effect on 8th December last.


But before discussing the issues that came into the spotlight at the end of last year around the NCT, I would like to reflect briefly on the importance of the penalty points regime in contributing to enhanced safety on our roads.





I am sad to say that last year saw a rise in the number of fatalities on our roads, the second consecutive annual rise in recent times.


I think we can all agree that the penalty points system has played an important role in reducing road fatalities and improving safety.


During the 1970s, road fatalities averaged 50 per month. While the situation improved somewhat over the ‘80s and ‘90s, road deaths still stood at over 400 in 2001, the year prior to the introduction of penalty points.


Last year, this tragic statistic stood at 197.


So we are making progress but I fully appreciate that that’s no comfort or consolation whatsoever to the families of those who have died on our roads – I am deeply conscious that ‘progress’ is a word that we must use very carefully in this context.


We are still in pursuit of the culture change that is necessary to eliminate death and serious injuries on our roads.


For example, it’s almost beyond comprehension that some people still see nothing wrong with driving without their seat belt – among last year’s depressing statistics is the fact that almost one-fifth of the drivers and passengers killed on our roads were not wearing seat belts.


And while we have made substantial progress since the days of casual acceptance of drunk driving, hundreds are still arrested every month on suspicion of drink driving.


Clearly, the human capacity for self-deception, and the tragic consequences that flow from continuing careless and reckless behaviours, cannot be underestimated.





The National Car Testing Service (NCTS) has made a significant contribution to road safety in this country since its introduction 15 years ago. The days of having large numbers of unsafe vehicles using our roads are largely gone as cars are tested to the highest international standards.


In recent weeks, Senators will have received an update from the RSA on road safety matters in 2014 and outlining some of the Authority’s priorities for the current year. I understand that this communication was sent to all public representatives.


I mentioned earlier that, prior to the most recent changes to the penalty points regime last December, it was already an offence to use a vehicle on public roads without a valid NCT certificate.


That offence has been in place since 2009 and involved a direct summons to court and the assignment of 5 penalty points on conviction.

The change that I introduced in December simply brought this offence within the fixed charge notice system and actually reduced the number of penalty points to 3 on payment of the €60 fixed charge.


Of course, it remains that case that drivers continue to have the option of going to court where the 5 points will still apply on conviction.


There was no change to the fact that it was, and remains, an offence but changing to the fixed charge notice system should be welcomed by motorists.  It is now be possible to pay a fixed charge fine and receive lower penalty points than applicable on conviction in court.




Senators will be aware that the first quarter is traditionally the busiest time for the National Car Testing Service because the majority of cars are purchased in the first few months of any year.

Many people take their responsibilities seriously and have their cars tested prior to the expiry of their current NCT certificate.  However, many others have been late in doing so.


Although well over 90% get their tests carried out eventually, the RSA estimate that over 200,000 cars out of a national fleet of around 1.9million have an out-of-date NCT certificate at any time.


The publicity around the introduction of Fixed Charge Notices for NCTs has undoubtedly had the benefit of improving the timeliness of testing and I understand from the RSA that they are seeing a substantial improvement in on-time compliance as a result.


During week commencing February 16, for example, 41% of the cars tested were tested early and 29% within 30 days of their test due date. However, 30% of the cars tested that week were late for their test.


I am informed that we have never had such high levels of on-time compliance previously in the history of NCT – even as recently as early December, when the penalty points changes were introduced, 41% of cars were presented late for their test. Compared to this time last year, there has been a 100% improvement in compliance and this will undoubtedly contribute to improved safety on our roads.


So, it is good news for road safety that more cars are now having their roadworthiness test earlier.  As evidence of this, in the last 3 months of 2014 approximately 56,000 more cars were tested than in the same period the previous year, an increase of 26%. This increase has been accommodated by NCTS.




In January last, the NCTS recruited over 65 additional Vehicle Inspectors and it has increased its call centre staff by over 50% compared to last year. They also flex their deployment of staff and work longer hours during this busy period.


To facilitate motorists , tests may be booked up to 90 days in advance of the test due date without affecting the expiry date of the certificate issued.  The RSA has been encouraging customers to use this advance booking option. Over 90,000 people, whose test was due in January 2015, heeded this advice and took advantage of this facility and got their cars tested during the final quarter of last year.


The RSA do concede, however, that there have been difficulties with the on-line booking system during periods of high demand. Last year, over one-third of customers booked their NCT test on-line but this has now fallen to around 20%.


The difficulty in finding suitable test slots on-line has created the mistaken impression that there are in fact no test slots available.


This in turn is what gave rise to confusion among the public that the system was ‘bunged up’ and claims in the media of 3-month waiting lists.


That was never the case for the vast majority of owners.


As the RSA’s recent letter to public representatives explains, the NCTS on-line booking system does not provide a full picture of test availability.


Anyone who can’t find a suitable appointment on-line is advised to request a test booking by making direct contact with the NCTS either by phoning the call centre directly or by logging a request through the website. They will be put on the NCTS priority list for a test and can expect to be contacted within 10 to 14 days with a test appointment. In the vast majority of cases, well over 90%, that appointment will fall inside 28 days of the day they first contacted the NCTS.


The facility to request an appointment online, as an alternative to phoning the call centre, has already been added to the NCTS website and I expect to see further improvements in place in coming weeks.


It stands to reason, of course, that people who leave it until the last minute to book a test cannot expect to be instantly accommodated. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of car owners to ensure that they have a valid NCT certificate for their vehicle at all times.

However, even for those who do turn up at the last minute looking for a test, the NCTS makes every effort to accommodate them as quickly as possible.




The NCTS is currently introducing a number of further measures to improve service to customers. These include the provision of new test lanes in 4 test centres and the extension of opening hours at a number of others, including Galway, Ballina, Enniscorthy and Killarney from 7am to 11.30pm 4 days a week. The majority of test centres have late openings on 3 days a week to 10pm and 20 centres now have extended opening on four days per week.


As I pointed out earlier, Vehicle Inspector numbers have been increased to 580, the highest ever in the history of NCT.


Additional staff and facilities have also been brought on-board to deal with the large number of people contacting the call centre over the past few weeks.

This has ensured that, after a challenging few days at the beginning of the year, the normal high service levels that customers expect are now being achieved again.


A further innovation that was introduced yesterday is the provision, for four days each week, of the first 24-hour NCT service in test centres in Dublin and Cork.  In Dublin, this service will be shared between the test centres at Northpoint and Deansgrange. In Cork, it will be provided at the test centre in Little Island. This new facility will also be available for anyone requiring an urgent appointment.   NCTS already offers a 7 day a week – and in many cases 17 hours a day – service in the vast majority of test centres.


I very much welcome these initiatives. Our public services need to be responsive and as flexible as possible in meeting  public demand and I believe that the offer a full NCT service, outside the normal 9 to 5, serves to better meet that demand.


The RSA expect it to take a few more weeks for the current high level of demand for tests to reduce to more normal levels, as a result of these improvements to service.

Let me be clear- all customers seeking a test, including those who have left it late and require an early test, will be accommodated in coming weeks. Anyone who finds themselves with a test date further out who needs an earlier test should contact NCTS again and ask for an earlier appointment.


The advice from the RSA and the NCTS to customers remains the same – book early for your test and keep your car in a roadworthy condition at all times. If you need an earlier test, contact the NCTS directly again and ask for a test   appointment.




Before finishing, I would like to mention the forthcoming new Road Traffic Bill. The Bill is designed to make a number of further important contributions to improving safety on our roads.


Its principal focus is on the testing of drivers for intoxication due to drugs.


In line with this Government’s policy on pre-legislative scrutiny, I forwarded the General Scheme of the Bill to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications last week and I look forward to the outcome of the Committee’s consideration of these important proposals.




Safety on the road is not just my, or the Government’s, responsibility.  It’s everybody’s responsibility – drivers, passengers, motor cyclists, cyclists and pedestrians.


Changing the culture of careless or reckless behaviour remains the biggest challenge in eliminating deaths and serious injuries on our roads.


I want to thank Senators for giving me the opportunity to speak to them today and look forward to their contributions.