Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has announced that existing MOT temporary exemption certificates (TECs) for some vehicle groups will be extended by a further four months.
Existing TECs applied to eligible private cars, light goods vehicles and motorcycles aged 4-9 years will be extended by a further four months from the date the existing exemption ends.
Four year old cars and motorcycles and three year old light goods vehicles due a first time test will have a four month TEC applied from the date their first MOT is due.
New TECs or extensions to existing TECs will be applied automatically to enable vehicles to be taxed and kept on the road.
Minister Mallon said: “Since vehicle testing was suspended due to Covid-19, eligible vehicles have been issued with TECs to ensure that they may continue to be driven legally on the road.
"In May 2020 I announced that eligible vehicles would automatically be issued with a 12 month TEC.
"This ensured that vehicles whose existing MOT certificate expired from 26 March 2020 or will expire before they can book a test would be automatically exempt from testing for a full 12 months.
"For vehicles which have previously been issued a TEC, their TEC was automatically extended to the maximum timeframes set out in legislation, up to a maximum period of 12 months from their last MOT expiry date.”
The Minister continued: “All test centres are operational and the DVA has worked hard to increase its vehicle testing capacity, focussing on testing priority category vehicles including those vehicles that are not able to avail of a TEC and those with TECs due to expire to keep people on the road.
“Given the current situation with Covid-19, in order to keep the DVA staff and customers safe, necessary and proportionate control measures around MOT testing have been introduced.
"Due to these safety measures, the DVA is operating at reduced vehicle testing capacity.
“In light of these constraints I want to ensure that all customers can legally keep their vehicles on the road for their essential journeys.
"For that reason, from 26 March 2021, I have instructed my officials to apply a further four month extension to existing TECs for eligible private cars, light goods vehicles and motorcycles aged 4-9 years and to apply a new four month TEC to those vehicles due a first time test.
“Road safety remains a significant priority. I would like to remind owners and drivers of all vehicles that they are responsible under the law for the roadworthiness of their vehicle at all times.”
TECs will continue to be applied to all eligible vehicles until vehicle testing services return to normal testing capacity.
Testing for older vehicles including all private cars, light goods vehicles and motorcycles that are aged 10 to 39 years old will be brought forward to ensure these vehicles can be tested before their existing TECs expire.
Further TEC extensions will not be applied to these vehicle categories to ensure that any road safety concerns in these older vehicles are tested and rectified through the MOT testing process.
Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd added: “While we understand the continuing need to extend the period of Temporary Exemption Certificates in these unique circumstances, it remains critically important that all drivers take responsibility for the maintenance and condition of their vehicles in the absence of an official testing regime.
“Do not miss regular servicing intervals and regular checks should include ensuring windscreen wipers are in good condition and the washer reservoir topped up with a good windscreen wash solution.
"Tyres must be in good condition and tread depth must meet the minimum legal requirement of 1.6mm and all lights must be clean, working and correctly adjusted.
“If police officers detect any vehicles being used in a dangerous condition, they can consider issuing rectification notices, fixed penalties, prosecution or in the most serious cases, prohibit further movement and seize any offending vehicle.”
Alastair Ross, Head of Public Policy for Northern Ireland at the Association of British Insurers, said: “Insurers recognise that this is a worrying time for everyone and will take a pragmatic view.
"They will not penalise customers for something that is entirely out of their control and where motorists with an MOT exemption certificate applied in Northern Ireland request a quote, they will not be prejudiced by their lack of a valid MOT certificate.
"This applies regardless of whether they wish to renew with their existing insurance provider or are looking to take out a policy with a different insurer.
“Insurers do, however, expect that motorists comply with their legal obligation to keep their vehicle in a roadworthy condition if they are driving it.
"Those affected by the ongoing MOT testing suspension should continue to service their vehicle and carry out basic checks such as looking out for brake wear, ensuring that all lights are working and regularly checking their tyre pressure and tread depth.
"Motorists should also not delay making an MOT appointment when they receive a reminder from the DVA to book a vehicle test.”
As before, extensions to TECs will be added to the DVA system, not issued in hard copy. For all vehicles with TECs applied, the DVA will issue a reminder notice to the registered keeper of the vehicle before the TEC period ends, with instructions on how to book a test.
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