The number of people on the waiting list for a National Car Test (NCT) appointment is more than eight times higher than it was in the year prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, new figures show.
The NCT roadworthiness test is conducted every two years for vehicles between four and nine-years-old. For vehicles 10 years or older, an annual inspection is required.
However, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, a four-month deferment was granted on March 28th, 2020 for cars registered before August 1st, 2016.
Applus+, the company which runs the NCT, said coping with demand for testing this year has been “especially challenging” due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Quarter one each year is the busiest time for the NCT, as the NCT is due on the anniversary of the vehicle’s registration date and most people like to purchase new vehicles at the start of the year,” a spokeswoman said.
“This year has been especially challenging with the impact of the Covid Omicron variant, which caused significant absenteeism levels for staff and many customer no-shows or late cancellations.”
The NCT test center network conducts approximately 46,000 tests each week, the spokeswoman said.
“At present, we have approximately 8,500 customers waiting for a test appointment. In 2019, for the same period, the numbers waiting for an appointment would have been less than 1,000.”
However, the spokeswoman added that the NCT releases “significant volumes” of booking slots on a weekly basis as they “become certain of staff availability”.
“The average lead time for an appointment is 20 days currently, and customers who add themselves to our waiting list, either on line, or through our call center can expect to receive an appointment within 28 days,” she said.
“Before the pandemic occurred, we would normally see the lead time for an appointment to be less than 12 days.”
The NCT is also training a new batch of vehicle inspectors and plans to recruit further in April.
A spokesman for the Department of Transport reiterated that the first quarter of the year is the busiest time of the year for the service.
Coinciding with this very busy period, is the need to manage the impact of Covid-19 on test center staff availability. The department understands that all NCT test centers are operational and that the current average waiting time for an NCT test is 20 days,” he added.
The spokesman added that appointment slots are released continually, with “many slots” becoming available through cancellations or rescheduling of appointments.
“Some customers may only find dates that are beyond the due date for their NCT,” the spokesman said.
“If a customer requires an appointment sooner than those available online, they should contact the NCTS directly or place themselves on the priority waiting list online. The NCTS will do its best to accommodate all customers on the priority list within 28 days of application.”