Driving instructors are asking the Road Safety Authority (RSA) to engage with them to ensure the backlog of 90,000 applicants is cleared when Tier 5 restrictions are lifted.
The Unite union, which represents driving instructors across Ireland, is also demanding better conditions amid reports that some instructors are being left out in the rain while their client takes their exam.
Currently, only essential workers are allowed to take their driving test, but this is expected to be lifted in early December.
When Ireland was placed under a Tier 5 lockdown, the RSA asked those who were not essential workers to cancel their test.
The union said the RSA “refused to engage with the basic demands made by the driving instructors in order to ensure their safety”.
Unite regional manager Jean O’Dowd said the union had been seeking to engage with RSA since June and called on them to “recognize that driving instructors are at the heart of road safety”.
She explained that when Tier 5 restrictions are lifted, driving instructors will be key to clearing the backlog of 90,000 applicants and will therefore need additional support.
“As the pandemic continues, Level 5 restrictions mean that driving theory test centers are closed and essential driver training courses have been halted,” she said.
“These measures were necessary but have contributed to a backlog of tests, with more than 90,000 applicants waiting for driving tests.
“Driving instructors will be key to removing this bottleneck. The Road Safety Authority and Department for Transport should engage with instructors, via Unite, to ensure all systems are in place to clear this backlog once the emergency is over and to identify priority candidates such as essential workers.
“This engagement must also focus on instructors’ requests for access to basic sanitation facilities.”
The union is calling for better sanitary facilities for instructors at test centers as currently many physical test centers are closed due to the pandemic.
Sinn Féin transport spokesman Darren O’Rourke TD said it was “outrageous” as many driving instructors are left outside in the rain.
Speaking in the Dáil this morning, the Meath East TD said: “I have been contacted by many driving instructors who have been refused access to driving test centres.
“This means that if a learner driver uses the instructor’s car for the test, which is common, the instructors stand outside the door of the test center for an hour.
“Yesterday I was sent a video of two driving instructors in the west of Ireland, locked out of the test center, while the rain was horizontal, and they just ended up with a folding chair and an umbrella.
“They are in lockdown with no access to toilets, shelter, heat or sanitation facilities. This is a shameful way to treat workers.
“These instructors work up to Level 5 to ensure other essential workers can prepare to take their driving test, so they can get to work.
“We need a bit of common sense here, especially in these winter months.
“Instructors should be allowed inside once they follow rules such as wearing a mask, social distancing and hand sanitizing.”
An RSA spokesperson said: “Approved Driving Instructors (ADIs) are important players in the learning to drive process. Unfortunately, since the test driving service has resumed after being suspended in Due to the Covid-19 health emergency, no one other than a test candidate is permitted to enter a test center.
“This is to manage our responsibilities to prevent the spread of the virus. We regret this and hope to resume access to ADIs at a later date when the threat of the virus has passed.”