Here in Ireland the average waiting time for a driving test was seven months in 2003 but has increased to over 10 months by the end of 2005
The crazy thing is - that it is legal for some people who have not passed the test to drive on their own!
You need to pass a theory test to get a provisional licence and you must be accompanied all the time on your first provisional licence .After the first licence expires in 2 years you can apply for a second provisional licence - and you do not need to be accompanied when you have this second licence!
Last year the number of drivers on a provisional licence rose to more than 404,000, with 129,869 waiting to take their test.
At the end of 2005 more than 206,000 drivers were using a first provisional licence, more than 98,500 were using a second provisional and over 42,240 were on their third.
Drivers on their second provisional can drive unaccompanied. The delays have been compounded by the fact that about 16,000 fewer tests were carried out last year than in 2004. To address this the governmant put forward a proposal last year, which included a bonus scheme to encourage driver testers to work overtime and the outsourcing of 40,000 tests to a private company.
This plan was immediately contested by Impact, the Civil and Public Service Union and Federated Union of Government Employees, who objected to the core work of civil servants being outsourced. As an alternative they proposed retraining surplus Department of Agriculture staff to clear the backlog. However, this plan was dependent on a minimum of 25 suitable Department of Agriculture staff being willing to participate and when only eight were identified, the government signalled their intention to return to the private sector.
The Department of Transport has identified the company that operates the National Car Test as a preferred candidate for the contract to provide 40,000 driving tests and Mr Cullen is keen to have the company start work as soon as possible.
"We are going to move to outsourcing immediately. It is a key element in reducing the waiting list for driving tests. I understand the Department is going to arbitration - and hopefully that will resolve it."
Mr Cullen said at the moment he was not looking at outsourcing more than 40,000 tests, as he hoped that the private firm, in conjunction with a bonus overtime scheme for existing driver testers "would make a huge impact".
"I would be delighted if I could get a deal immediately. That would allow us to clear the waiting list in a year or 18 months. Then we can get back to a much more normal situation where you can get a test in a few weeks."