Publication of DfI Driver, Vehicle, Operator and Enforcement Statistics Annual 2016-2017

Date published: 25 May 2017


The DfI Driver, Vehicle, Operator and Enforcement Statistics annual 2016-2017, containing statistics for the 2016/17 financial year, is now available.

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The publication is produced by the Analysis, Statistics and Research Branch (ASRB) 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 ASRB website at:

Key Points

Key Performance Targets

  • The vehicle testing performance target was to appoint 92% of vehicle test applications within 21 days or, on request, at a later date. During the year, the Agency achieved almost 99%, well in excess of target levels and an 11 percentage point improvement on performance in the previous year.
  • The driver testing waiting time performance target was to appoint 92% of practical driving test applications within 28 days or, on request, at a later date. The Agency was around half a percentage point below the target although it was still 10 percentage points higher than the level achieved in 2015/16.
  • The driver licensing processing times performance target was to process 95% of complete applications within 10 working days. During the year, the Agency achieved approaching 76%, significantly below target levels and a reduction of nearly 21 percentage points on performance in 2015/16. The fall in performance can primarily be attributed to issues associated with the introduction of a new Driver Licensing IT system in November 2016.

Vehicle Testing

  • The Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) provided around 1,078,000 vehicle test appointments across all vehicle testing categories representing a small increase of around 2,500 test appointments, on 2015/16. There were over 909,000 appointments provided for full tests (84%) and nearly 169,000 retests (16%).
  • The overall pass rate for full vehicle tests was almost 81%, just over half a percentage point increase on the previous year and is a new series high dating back to 2008/09. The testing pass rate varied by test category, with those in the larger volume tests ranging from in excess of 93% for Motorcycle tests to under 76% for Light Goods Vehicles.
  • The most popular booking method for vehicle test applications was the internet booking system which received 62% of all applications, up by 6 percentage points on the same period last year.

Driver Testing

  • The DVA provided around 62,000 driving test appointments. This marks an increase of just under 6% on the previous year and is the third successive annual increase since the downward trend reversed in 2013/14.
  • The overall pass rate for all categories of practical driving test was less than 57%, down around one and a half percentage points from the previous year, and ranged from over 72% for Motorcycles to less than 54% for Private Cars.

Theory Testing

  • DVA carried out over 76,000 theory tests, approximately 9% more than in 2015/16, and of which the vast majority (87%) were Private Car tests. The pass rate for theory tests varied from a low of below 19% for Taxis to a high of approaching 84% for the Passenger Carrying Vehicle (PCV) Hazard Perception test.
  • For Private Cars there has been a strong decline in pass rates, from above 66% in 2008/09 to less than 47% in 2016/17.  Part of this longer term reduction will be attributable to the changes in the suite of theory test questions introduced in January 2012, designed to encourage more thorough preparation by candidates.

Instructor Registration

  • At 31st March 2017, there were over 1,100 Approved Driving Instructors (ADIs) registered, and a further 52 Approved Motorcycle Instructors. This represents close to a 3% reduction on ADI numbers and is the fifth successive annual fall from a series high of over 1,300 ADIs in 2011/12.

Vehicle Licensing and Registration

  • From January to December 2016, over 71,300 UK vehicle first registrations were registered with a Northern Ireland address. This was just over a 1% increase on the 2015 figure. Private cars accounted for around four in every five first registrations.
  • There were over 1,131,000 vehicles licensed in Northern Ireland at 31 December 2016, an increase of almost 3% compared with the previous year. The most popular registered car in Northern Ireland was the Volkswagen Golf with close to 38,000 registered variants and making up almost 4% of the registered Private and Light Goods vehicle stock.

Driver Licensing

  • More than 262,000 ordinary licensing transactions were carried out by DVA during 2016/17. This figure represented a decrease of nearly 7% compared with the previous year.
  • A total of 14,000 vocational licensing transactions were carried out by DVA during 2016/17. While this represented a reduction of nearly 4% on the previous year, it is interesting to note that vocational provisional licences did not follow this trend, with increases of 12% and 17% in each of the last two years respectively.
  • At the 31 March 2017, there were nearly 1,074,000 Full and Eligible licence holders with Private Cars/Light Vans entitlement in Northern Ireland. Males accounted for 51% of this total.
  • Based on Mid Year Population Estimates for Northern Ireland in 2015, it is estimated that approaching three-quarters (74%) of Northern Ireland’s population aged 17+ had a full and eligible license with entitlement for Private Cars / Light Vans.

Road Transport Licensing

  • As at the 31 March 2017, there were over 12,000 licensed Taxi Drivers in Northern Ireland, down by nearly 9% from the previous year. There were also around 1,700 licensed Taxi Operators, down by 0.6% from 2016. Of these, well over four in five (86%) were classified as a small operator providing for up to two taxis to be listed on their licence.


  • The 2016/17 Random Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) Compliance Survey estimated the non-compliance rate at just under 22%. This does not represent a significant change in the three year period since the HGV survey was last carried out. This rate means that, at any given time, around one in five HGVs on NI roads are estimated to be in breach of compliance legislation, either because they are committing a traffic offence and/or have a roadworthiness defect (estimated at 1 in 10).

Enforcement Activities

  • DVA Enforcement staff checked almost 6,000 vehicles, an increase of 3% on the previous year; of these, the largest volume was for Goods Vehicles, accounting for nearly half of all vehicles checked.
  • DVA enforcement officers issued over £230,000 worth of Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) during the year. Nearly four-fifths (77%) of these were issued to HGV's.

Notes to editors: 

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

  1. Background - This is the latest annual edition of the Driver & vehicle Agency ‘DfI Driver, Vehicle, Operator and Enforcement Statistics’ relating to 1st April 2016 to 31st March 2017. The report is written and issued by Analysis, Statistics & Research Branch in the Department for Infrastructure. This is the second edition of the annual publication under its new departmental title having previously been released by the former DoE.
  2. Data sources - The figures are derived mainly from administrative sources held within the DfI’s Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) and its Transport Regulation Unit. Compliance and Evasion surveys provide the source for information related to compliance and evasion in Section Eight of the publication. 
  3. 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 NI vehicle first registrations and vehicle licensing. DVA statisticians receive, on a quarterly basis, north of Ireland specific 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 (and now includes NI); the latest available NI vehicle first registration figures are up to end-December 2016.
  4. DVA Key Performance Targets have been included in the publication for the first time. Historically these have been first published in the DVA annual report and statement of accounts. These will now be reported quarterly on a continuing basis.
  5. 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.
  6. Publication copies - Electronic copies of the ‘DfI Driver, Vehicle, Operator and Enforcement Statistics’ 2016/17 is available 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.

Further Information

For further information please contact:

Analysis, Statistics and Research Branch (DVA)
DVA Statistics
Belfast Test Centre
66 Balmoral Road, Malone Lower
Belfast BT12 6QL

All media queries should be directed to the Department for Infrastructure Press Office on 028 9054 0007 or email: Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07623 974 383.




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