Q Radio News
Motorists in Northern Ireland whose driving licences are about to expire are to have them extended for another seven months.
However, the new measures will not include taxi drivers.
Infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon says the new arrangements will be put in place in the coming days under EU rules.
They apply to licences with an expiry date between February and August this year.
This extension will be automatically applied, so motorists won't have to submit an application.
Taxi drivers will not as they're not covered by the EU driving licence directive.
Taxi drivers who don't have a medical condition will have their five-year licence renewed without a medical report and for those who do, the minister has promised to prioritise them.
Minister Mallon said: “I understand that for many people at this time in particular, having a valid licence allowing them to drive for essential journeys or to ensure they can continue to work, is vital.
"This new EU Regulation provides a practical solution to a very real problem and ensures that those in this situation can remain on the road without having to worry about getting a renewal application processed, which for some requires a medical assessment.
"It will also help any customers who could not access or were finding it difficult to renew their licence online.
“Road safety is my key priority and I would therefore remind all drivers that they have a responsibility to notify the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) if they have a new or worsening medical condition or disability that may affect their ability to drive.”
Addressing the taxi industry, Minister Mallon continued: “I very much regret that the extension provisions cannot be applied to taxi driver licences, as they are not covered by the EU Driving Licence Directive.
"However, for those taxi drivers who do not have a medical condition to declare, I can announce that my Department will renew your five year taxi driver’s licence without a medical report.
"You may be asked to submit a medical report at some future date. For those with a medical condition, I will do everything within my power to ensure that you are prioritised for medical appointments and licence renewal.
"I would ask those taxi drivers in this category, to please contact the DVA email address directly so we can provide you with assistance as quickly as possible.
“As well as helping more customers, these new measures will also free up DVA staff to allow the processing of first time provisional licences to start again and to deal with outstanding postal applications.”
(Infrastructure Minister, Nichola Mallon at an MOT test centre in Belfast earlier this year)
In relation to specialist vehicles, the DVA will introduce ADR authorisations and reinstate IVA testing.
The Minister continued: “The necessary suspension of vehicle testing services due to the coronavirus pandemic has caused significant inconvenience for many customers who use our services, including those that require certification for specialist vehicles such as the carriage of dangerous goods vehicles (ADR) and those vehicles requiring an Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA) test.
“I am pleased to announce that from 1 June, the DVA will introduce a statutory authorisation process that will permit the continued use of ADR vehicles on our roads, provided strict conditions and control measures are in place for these heavy vehicles, the majority of which have been fitted with specialist tanks.”
Concluding, the Minster said: “I also plan to reinstate IVA tests from 1 June, following consultation with staff and unions.
"The provision of IVA tests will be prioritised for those vehicles delivering essential services.
"This will ensure our supply chains and health service continue to be supported during this time of significant challenge. Comprehensive advice and guidance will issue to customers shortly and will be made available on the nidirect website.
“As we work towards recovery from the impacts of Covid-19 I am pleased that we are able to help our customers get back on track by either restoring services or extending expiry dates for driving licences.
"Covid-19 has caused unprecedented difficulties for all of us and I thank our customers for their patience at this very challenging time.
"My team in the Department have worked tirelessly to find solutions and a way forward. I will continue to keep other DVA services under review in line with the latest public health advice. In DfI we remain focused on finding solutions and a way forward that keeps staff and customers safe."