Statistical Press Release – 2015/2016 Annual DfI Driver, Vehicle, Operator and Enforcement Statistics Released

Date published: 26 May 2016

The DfI Driver, Vehicle, Operator and Enforcement Statistics annual 2015-2016 is now available.

Statistical press release

The publication is produced by the Analytical Services Branch (ASB) of the Department for Infrastructure and contains summary statistical 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 ASB website.

Key points

The key points from this annual report for 2015-16 are:

Vehicle Testing

  • The Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) provided 1,075,386 vehicle test appointments across all vehicle testing categories, marking a notable increase of just over 4% on 2014/15. The additional 42,000 appointments provided in the last year now takes the annual total to one fifth higher than the 897,000, recorded in 2008/09.
  • The overall pass rate for full vehicle tests was 80.3%, a small 0.2 percentage point reduction on the series high seen in the previous year. However, it is still 2 percentage points above the pass rate of 78.3% observed back in 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 75% for Light Goods Vehicles.

Driver Testing

  • The DVA provided 58,574 driving test appointments, marking an increase of just over 8% on the previous year. It is the second successive annual increase to be recorded since the five consecutive annual falls from 2008/09 and reflects a similar trend in applications.
  • The overall pass rate for all categories of practical driving test was unchanged from the previous year at just above 58%, and ranged from under 75% for Motorcycles to above 55% for Private Cars.

Theory Testing

  • DVA carried out 69,954 theory tests, over 7% more than in 2014/15, and of which the vast majority (88%) were Private Car tests. The pass rate for theory tests varied from a low of below 22% for Taxis to a high of approaching 78% for the Passenger Carrying Vehicle (PCV) Hazard Perception tests.
  • For Private Cars there has been a strong decline in pass rates, from above 66% in 2008/09 to a little more than 47% in 2015/16. This will, in part, be attributable to the changes in the suite of theory test questions introduced in January 2012, designed to encourage more thorough preparation by candidates.

Vehicle Licensing and Registration

  • From January to December 2015, over 70,500 UK vehicle first registrations were registered with a Northern Ireland address. Private cars accounted for 83%, or nearly 59,000, of these registrations.
  • There were 1,103,082 vehicles licensed in Northern Ireland at 31 December 2015, an increase of 2.0% compared with the previous year. The most popular registered car in Northern Ireland was the Volkswagen Golf with over 35,000 registered variants at the 31st December 2015 and making up almost 4% of the registered Private and Light Goods vehicle stock.

Driver Licensing

  • A total of 280,738 ordinary licensing transactions were carried out by DVA during 2015/16. This figure represented an increase of approaching one-third (32%) compared with the previous year. The increase has primarily been driven by the increase in Expiry/Optional Renewals which is part of a cyclical pattern of renewals and which is now entering a new peak period which will persist until 2018/19.
  • A total of 14,543 vocational licensing transactions were carried out by DVA during 2015/16. This figure represents an increase of 4.3% on the previous year and follows three consecutive annual decreases.

Driver Licence Stock

  • At the 31 March 2016, there were over 1,088,000 Full and Eligible licence holders with Private Cars/Light Vans entitlement in Northern Ireland, an increase of almost 9,000 compared to one year earlier.
  • Based on Mid Year Population Estimates for Northern Ireland in 2014, it is estimated that over three-quarters (76%) of Northern Irelands population aged 17+ had a full and eligible license with entitlement for Private Cars / Light Vans.

Road Transport Licensing

  • As at the 31st March 2016, there were 13,438 licensed Taxi Drivers in Northern Ireland, down by just over 7% from the previous year. There were also 1,704 licensed Taxi Operators at 31st March 2016, down by almost 10% from 2015. Of these, over 4 in 5 (86%) were classified as a small operator providing for up to two taxis to be listed on their licence.

Compliance Surveys

  • The 2015/16 Bus Roadworthiness Compliance Survey estimated the non-compliance rate at just below 21%. This represents a significant improvement in the two year period since the bus survey was last carried out when a rate of above 31% was recorded..This means that, at any given time, around 1 in 5 buses 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).
  • The Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) evasion rate, whilst currently at a very low level, rose from 0.7% in 2013 to 1.8% in 2015. This increase could be due, in part, to recent administrative changes relating to the transferability of road tax when changing a vehicle’s ownership and the abolition of the requirement to display an in-vehicle tax disc.

Enforcement Activities

  • During the 2015/16 financial year, DVA Enforcement staff checked 5,805 vehicles, an increase of 13% on the previous year; of these, the largest volume was for Goods Vehicles, accounting for nearly half (2,589) of all vehicles checked.
  • The 215 School Bus checks carried out in 2015/16 was around double the level of the previous two years. Despite this marked increase in activity, the number of vehicles found to be committing an offence reduced from 30 to 27.


Notes to editors: 


  1. This is the latest annual edition of the ‘DfI Driver, Vehicle, Operator and Enforcement Statistics’ relating to 1st April 2015 to 31st March 2016. The report is written and issued by Analytical Services Branch in the Department for Infrastructure. This is the first edition of the annual publication under its new departmental title having previously been released by the former DoE.

Data sources

  1. 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.

Vehicle Registration

  1. 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, Northern 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 include NI), the latest available NI vehicle first registration figures are up to end-December 2015.

Future publication dates

  1. The ‘DfI Driver, Vehicle, Operator and Enforcement Statistics’ is published annually at pre-announced release dates, which are available from the GOV.UK website

Publication copies

  1. Electronic copies of the DfI Driver, Vehicle, Operator and Enforcement Statistics’ 2015/2016 are available online.

Should this format not be suitable for your needs, hard copies are available free of charge from:

Analytical Services Branch (DVA)
DVA Statistics
Belfast Test Centre
66 Balmoral Road
Malone Lower
Belfast BT12 6QL
Telephone: (028) 9054 7989
  1. All media enquiries should be directed to the DfI Press Office on 028 9054 0403. For out of office hours, please contact the Duty Press Officer on pager 0769 9715 440 and your call will be returned. 

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