LOCAL motorists are still facing lengthy delays in getting MOT tests and are often unable to get their vehicles tested before their current MOT certificate expires.
Test centres across the North are struggling to tackle huge backlogs of drivers seeking appointments, with Covid shutdowns and equipment issues – MOT tests were suspended in January 2020 after concerns emerged over cracks in lift equipment – causing the delays.
Many drivers have been left facing long waits for appointments, in some cases up to six months, while others have had to travel hundreds of miles just to secure an appointment.
Enniskillen Councillor Paul Blake of the SDLP said the backlog due to Covid was understandable but the equipment failure was another matter.
“I’m sure staff at the MOT centres are doing their level best to get as many applications done as possible, but many people will be getting desperate,” Mr Blake said.
“The lift equipment failure is something that should never have happened.
“Not maintaining them properly wasn’t good enough and it has only added to the problem. None of this is the fault of any motorist.”
Mr Blake said it may be worth looking into the way MOT tests are carried out in England where garages can be used as well as MOT centres for tests.
“It would be worth at least trying this for the interim, but with the Northern Ireland Executive still not operating there’s no hope that any changes will be made soon, so the can will be kicked further down the road,” he said.
Sinn Féin councillor Chris McCaffrey felt drivers in Fermanagh were being affected the most.
“Rural areas are the most disadvantaged and people here have had to make huge journeys outside the county to other MOT centres to have their cars tested,” he said.
“The DVA [Driver and Vehicle Agency] need to get to grips with the problem. Their method is clearly not fit for purpose.”
The DVA has said it is still experiencing “significant demand” for vehicle testing services as MOT centres across Northern Ireland continue to tackle the backlog in appointments.
Drivers are encouraged to check on the booking system for any cancellations.
However the PSNI assured drivers they would not be prosecuted.
“In the event police encounter a vehicle with no current MOT, so long as we can ascertain that a vehicle is roadworthy, has a forthcoming MOT test date and is not SORNED [register as not in use], then police will not take any further action,” a Police Service spokesman said.
As of August 3, almost 231,000 vehicles have a vehicle test booking appointment up to 30 November, and around 80,000 further appointment slots are available across the DVA’s network of test centres for the same period.
Cars are due their first MOT after four years.
For those drivers who do manage to get an MOT test appointment, illegally tinted windows are now a major factor in test failures.
Figures from the Department for Infrastructure showed that almost 2,500 motorists in Northern Ireland failed MOTs in a 15-month period, from April 1 last year to June 17 this year, for this reason.
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