DfI Driver, Vehicle, Operator, and Enforcement Statistics - 2019-20 Quarter Four

Date published: 27 May 2020

The ‘DfI Driver, Vehicle, Operator, and Enforcement Statistics 2019-20 Quarter Four’ report, containing statistics for January to March 2020, is now available.

Driver Vehicle Operator Statistics Quarter 4 - graphic

The publication is produced by the DVA Statistics Branch of the Department for Infrastructure and contains summary statistical, performance, and trend information relating to the main functions of the DfI’s Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) and other vehicle licensing activity.

The publication is available on the DfI website at:


The key points in the report are:

Vehicle Testing

During January to March 2020, the DVA conducted approximately 145,000 vehicle tests, a decrease of 49% on the same period last year, and the lowest quarterly total on record.  Whilst the COVID-19 shutdown prevented any testing during the final week of March, the primary cause for this decrease was the lift-maintenance issues severely reducing testing-capacity for the majority of the quarter.

For the 2019-20 financial year, the DVA conducted just over 999,000 vehicle tests, an 8.3% decrease on last year’s record high.  Excluding the abnormal events of quarter four, the DVA had conducted 5% more vehicle tests during the first nine months of 2019-20 than during the equivalent period in 2018-19.  The pass-rate for full tests in 2019-20 was 82.1%, an increase on the 81.8% last year, and the highest pass-rate on record.

Vehicle Licensing

DVLA registered approximately 50,300 new private cars in Northern Ireland during 2019.  This is 2.5% lower than the figure recorded for the same period in 2018 and the lowest total since 2012.  The most popular new private-car was Ford (13%); with grey the most popular colour (22%) and petrol the most popular fuel-type (59%).

There were 1,212,000 vehicles licensed in Northern Ireland at 31st December 2019, an increase of 2.3% on last year.  The overwhelming majority (83%) were cars.

Driver Theory Tests

The number of theory tests conducted during 2019-20 decreased by 3.5% compared to last year, from nearly 72,300 to approximately 69,700.

The pass-rate for private-car theory tests was 46.3%, a small increase of 0.9 percentage points on the record low in 2018-19.

Driving Practical Tests

The DVA conducted approximately 55,400 driving tests during 2019-20, a decrease of 4.3% from 2018-19 and the lowest total for five years.

The pass-rate for these tests was 57.9%, down by 0.9 percentage points on last year, but broadly unchanged over the past five years.

Driver Licensing

Over 240,000 licensing transactions were carried out by the DVA during 2019-20.  This represents a decrease of 4.6% in comparison with the volume carried out in 2018-19.  As the period of validity of a driving licence changed from 3 years to 10 years in 1985, this has resulted in a significant cyclical pattern with a peak renewal period during the middle of each decade.

At the 31st March 2020, there were almost 1,121,000 full and eligible licence holders with private-cars / light vans entitlement.  This was a rise of 1.3% compared with the total twelve months ago.

Road Transport Licensing

At the 31st March 2020, there were approximately 9,600 licensed taxi drivers, down by 6.6% when compared with the same point of 2019, and the lowest figure in our series.  Similarly, there were nearly 8,600 licensed taxi vehicles, a decrease of 2.1% when compared to March 2019, and nearly 10% lower than March 2014.


During 2019-20, DVA Enforcement staff spot-checked just under 4,500 vehicles, of which 38% were heavy goods vehicles.  This was 11% less than last year, and is the lowest annual total since our time series began in 2012.

DVA Target Performance Monitoring

For the 2019-20 financial year, Agency performance against both the vehicle testing and driver testing measures was below the target level of 92%.  Vehicle testing missed target for the seventh consecutive quarter and finished 2019-20 on a record low of 69.2%.  Driver testing decreased for the ninth consecutive quarter, similarly ending on a record low of 77.4%.

For 2019-20, the DVA has split its driver-licensing target into two categories: online applications and paper applications.  For online applications, performance was 98.0% processed within 5 days; whilst for paper applications, performance was 75.5% processed within 10 days, both against a target of 95%.

Notes to editors: 

Background to Driver & Vehicle Agency ‘DfI Driver, Vehicle, Operator, and Enforcement Statistics’

  1. This is the twenty-second edition of the quarterly publication ‘DfI Driver, Vehicle, Operator, and Enforcement Statistics’, relating to January to March 2020.  The release is written and issued by the DVA Statistics Branch in the Department for Infrastructure.  
  2. The majority of the statistics included in this report pre-date the COVID-19 lockdown, and so are only affected by the final week of March.  The Vehicle Testing section covers the recent MOT disruptions relating to the lift equipment.
  3. Quarterly comparisons are included within the release to give some indication of change since the same quarter the previous year; however, this is within the context that DVA schedules its operations across the business year to meet its business objectives.  Timing and scheduling differences between individual quarters within different years will occasionally produce apparent large movements in trend.  For a better understanding of changes in DVA volumes and performance over time, annual trend data in the tables should be reviewed.
  4. Data sources - The figures are derived mainly from administrative sources held within the DVA and the DfI’s Transport Regulation Unit. 
  5. Vehicle Registration - Although no longer the responsibility of DVA, for completeness and to provide continuity of reporting, detailed figures have been included in this publication relating to vehicle first registrations and vehicle licensing.  DVA statisticians receive, on a quarterly basis, quality assured vehicle registration and licensing extracts from the DVLA/DfT for the purposes of producing Official Statistics.  The DVLA/DfT are, and continue to be, responsible for all vehicle licensing and registration enquiries.  Due to publication timing differences with the DfT, who release the headline UK figures, the latest available NI vehicle first registration figures are up to end-December 2019.
  6. Future publication dates - The Driver & Vehicle Agency ‘DfI Driver, Vehicle, Operator and Enforcement Statistics’ is published every quarter at pre-announced release dates, which are available from the GOV.UK website.
  7. Publication copies - Electronic copies of the ‘DfI Driver, Vehicle, Operator, and Enforcement Statistics 2019-20 Q4’ can be downloaded from: Driver & Vehicle Agency Activity Statistics
  8. Both a companion Infographic, and a detailed User Guidance document, are also available on our website at: Driver & Vehicle Agency Activity Statistics   
    Official Statistics
    This is a National Statistics publication and therefore follows the Code of Practice for Official Statistics. You can find further information about the Code of Practice at: Statistics Authority
     Further Information
    For further information please contact:
DVA Statistics Branch,
Driver and Vehicle Agency,
Annex 4, Belfast Test Centre
66 Balmoral Road,
BT12 6QL

Share this page

Back to top