The PSNI is in “discussions” with the Driver and Vehicle Agency about “relaxing” the rules due to a long backlog at MOT testing centres.
Our sister publication, the News Letter revealed on Saturday that drivers are facing delays of up to two months for an appointment at testing centres across the North.
The blame for the waiting lists is being pinned on what the Department of Infrastructure at Stormont described as an “unprecedented” increase in demand at all 15 of Northern Ireland’s MOT test centres.
The motoring organisation the AA, meanwhile, is urging the department to “allow exemptions” until the vehicle inspections backlog is cleared.
They pointed to the temporary solution employed back in 2004 during a major backlog caused by industrial action – issuing temporary certificates to allow motorists to continue to use their vehicles.
Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA, said: “In previous periods of delay, Stormont has allowed exemptions to affected vehicles while the backlog is cleared.
“We hope that this can be repeated again while a long-term solution is sought.”
We asked the department whether any consideration was being given to “certificates of exemption”, but a spokesperson said it is “generally an offence” to drive without a valid MOT certificate unless the journey is to-or-from a place of repair or a testing centre.
Meanwhile, we asked the PSNI whether police were aware of the current backlog.
“PSNI are aware,” a spokesperson said.
“We have written to the DVA asking for their assessment of the situation and whether a relaxation of the rules might be considered.”
Asked whether officers are being “permitted or encouraged” to exercise discretion if a motorist is caught driving a car without an MOT certificate, so long as an appointment has been booked, the spokesperson said: “Discussions with DVA are required. The PSNI will not make such a decision in isolation.”
Asked what advice police could give to motorists faced with long delays for an appointment, the PSNI said: “Keep checking the online booking portal for cancellations. Carry your appointment letter with you.”
Mr Cousens said: “If not quickly resolved, lawful drivers could be unfairly penalised for an issue outside of their control.
“It’s not just the private motorist at risk either, as delivery vans are being caught up in the backlog. As the majority of freight is moved by road, inaction could dent the Northern Irish economy.
“In previous periods of delay, Stormont has allowed exemptions to affected vehicles while the backlog is cleared. We hope that this can be repeated again while a long-term solution is sought.”
Almost 15,000 more tests than normal were made in the first three months of this year.
The Department of Infrastructure has said additional staff are being recruited and “urgent consideration” is being given to the possibility of opening testing centres on Sundays for a limited period of time in order to address the current backlog.