Publication of ‘DfI Driver, Vehicle, Operator, and Enforcement Statistics 2020-21 Quarter Four’

Date published: 26 May 2021

The ‘DfI Driver, Vehicle, Operator, and Enforcement Statistics 2020-21 Quarter Four’ report, containing statistics for January to March 2021, is now available.

The publication is produced by the DVA Statistics Branch of the Department for Infrastructure (DfI), 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: Driver & Vehicle Agency Activity Statistics

Key points

The key points in the report are:

Vehicle Testing

The DVA conducted almost 157,000 vehicle tests during quarter four, roughly half of the usual volume.  For the 2020-21 financial year, the DVA conducted approximately 252,000 vehicle tests, approximately a quarter of the volume in the preceding year and the lowest annual total in our time series.  The pass-rate for full tests during this period was a series-high of 82.7%, an increase of 0.6 percentage-points on 2019-20.

Vehicle Licensing

DVLA registered just under 9,760 new vehicles in Northern Ireland during October to December 2020.  This is 0.2% lower than the figure recorded for the same period in 2019 and the lowest quarter-three total for eight years.  The most popular new private-car make was Volkswagen (13%); with grey the most popular colour (23%) and petrol the most popular fuel-type (57%).  More significantly, this was the first time that alternative-fuel cars out-sold diesel cars.

There were 1,219,000 vehicles licensed in Northern Ireland at 31 December 2020, an increase of 0.9% compared with December 2020.  The overwhelming majority (82%) were cars.

Driver Theory Tests

COVID-19 restrictions during the quarter meant theory testing was limited to critical workers only.  For the 2020-21 financial year, the DVA conducted just over 30,400 theory tests, a decrease of 56% compared to last year and the lowest annual total in our time series.  The pass-rate for private-car theory tests was 55.2%, an increase of 9 percentage-points on 2019-20, and the second-highest pass-rate in our time series.

Driver Practical Tests

Similarly, COVID-19 restrictions severely curtailed practical driver testing, and only off-road motorcycle and LGV tests were conducted during the quarter.  During the full financial year, the DVA conducted just over 9,500 driver tests, an 83% decrease on 2019-20, and the lowest annual total in our time series.  The pass-rate for private-car driver tests for 2020-21 was 65.4%, up by 10.8 percentage points on the preceding year, and the highest pass-rate in our time series.

Driver Licensing

The DVA carried out approximately 182,000 licensing transactions during 2020-21.  This represents a decrease of 30% when compared to last year (260,000), and 42% when compared to the series-high in 2017-18 (314,000).  Just over 5,800 licences were converted from provisional to full during the year, a fifth of the 5-year average, reflecting the decrease in practical driver testing.

At the 31 March 2021, there were approximately 1,084,000 full and eligible licence holders with private-cars / light vans entitlement.  This was a decrease of 0.1% compared with the previous quarterly total.

Road Transport Licensing

At the 31 March 2021, there were just over 8,780 licensed taxi drivers, down by 8.4% when compared with the same point of 2020, and the lowest figure in our series.  However, the number of licensed taxi vehicles increased by 5.1% to just over 9,000, again when compared to 2020.  This is the second time where there have been more taxi vehicles than there are taxi drivers.


DVA Enforcement activities were extremely constrained by COVID-19 measures during 2020-21.  Accordingly, only 1,346 vehicles were spot-checked, approximately a quarter of the usual volume checked.

DVA Target Performance Monitoring

For 2020-21, in response to the pandemic, the DVA has developed new performance targets.  For driver licensing, for the full financial year, online application performance was 98.1% processed within five days, successfully meeting the target of 95%.  For paper applications, the performance was 79.5% processed within ten days, missing the agency target of 80%.

Notes to editors: 

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

  1. This is the twenty-sixth edition of the quarterly report ‘DfI Driver, Vehicle, Operator, and Enforcement Statistics’, relating to January to March 2021.  Final statistics for the full 2020-21 financial year as also included.
  2. The release covers six main DVA business areas: vehicle testing, theory testing, driver testing, driver licensing, road transport and taxi licensing, and enforcement.  Also included in the quarterly report are monitoring results for two key DVA performance targets.
  3. Vehicle licensing statistics are included in the report; however, they are no longer a DVA business area: responsibility for vehicle licensing transferred to DVLA in July 2014 and DfT now publish these statistics on a UK-wide basis.  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 2020.
  4. We derive the majority of statistics from administrative data sources held within the DVA and the DfI’s Transport Regulation Unit. 
  5. The report is written, and issued by, the DVA Statistics Branch in the Department for Infrastructure. 
  6. ‘DfI Driver, Vehicle, Operator and Enforcement Statistics’ is published every quarter at pre-announced release dates, which are available from the GOV.UK website at:
  7. Electronic copies of the ‘DfI Driver, Vehicle, Operator, and Enforcement Statistics 2020-21 Quarter Four’ can be downloaded from our website at:
  1. A detailed User Guidance document is also available on our website.
  2. Official Statistics
    This is a National Statistics report and therefore follows the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.  You can find further information about the Code on the Statistics Authority’s website at:
  3. Further Information

    For further information, please contact:
DVA Statistics Branch,
Driver and Vehicle Agency,
Annex 4, Belfast Test Centre
66 Balmoral Road,
BT12 6QL
  1. All media queries should be directed to the Department for Infrastructure Press Office at:
  2. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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