Dessie Elton, who runs car registration company ‘Speedy Reg’ in Lisbellaw and also facilitates MOTs for motorcycles, claims he has been forced to send 20 vehicles to Scotland per week for the annual safety test due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Back in March, in the interest of public safety and to tackle the spread of Covid-19, the Driver Vehicle Testing Agency (DVTA) suspended all vehicle testing at DVA test centres across Northern Ireland for three months, until June 22.

The continued closure of MOT centres due to the pandemic is having a “negative impact” on some companies in Fermanagh, the businessman has claimed.

“Therefore, as a result of this we have been sending our motorcycles to Scotland for MOT which involves considerable haulage and ferry costs as well as man hours.

“The problems that we incur are also shared by many second hand car dealers who have vehicles on their forecourt that they can’t put on the road once sold as they are unable to MOT the vehicles as they are out of MOT by more than one year,” Mr. Elton told The Impartial Reporter.

He says his business operates under a weekly block booking system in Enniskillen MOT centre as it does “a large amount of motorcycle MOTs”.

“Some years ago when the MOT centres closed due to industrial action, the DVTA issued MOT exemptions to all vehicles in Northern Ireland. We believe that in doing this they set a precedent.

“This time, even though a statement was issue on the homepage of the DVTA stating that all motorcycles would receive an exemption and all motor vehicles out of MOT inside one year would also receive an exemption, this has proven not to be the case and the terminology was changed around one month into the Covid crisis,” he said.

Meanwhile the use of vehicle lifts at 12 MOT centres were suspended earlier this year after faults were identified at some sites.

“The issue is exacerbated by the lift problem,” said Mr. Elton. “On the official DVTA website they advise that they are reopening on June 22, I do not believe this reopening date will take place.

“There is no clarity and no official announcements as to any delays on reopening. As a result we cannot do any forward planning for our business without any clear direction from DVTA headquarters.

“I am asking for the exemptions rule to be changed to cover all vehicles in Northern Ireland in view of the above crisis in the MOT system, until such times that the centres reopen,” he said.

Mr. Elton has outlined his concerns in a letter to First Minister Arlene Foster, which has been seen by this newspaper.

Asked to clarify the situation, a spokeswoman for the Department for Infrastructure said: "The latest info on DVA services is on NI Direct and we have also issued several press releases and social media messages since the Covid-19 outbreak. We hope to be making further announcements in the coming days re: resumption of services, but this will not meet your deadline."