Publication of DfI Driver, Vehicle, Operator, and Enforcement Statistics 2020-21 Quarter Three

Date published: 23 February 2021

The ‘DfI Driver, Vehicle, Operator, and Enforcement Statistics 2020-21 Quarter Three’ report, containing statistics for October to December 2020, is now available.

Graphic for DVA Stats 2020/21 Q3

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:

Key Points

The key points in the report are:

Vehicle Testing

The DVA conducted approximately 72,200 vehicle tests during quarter three, roughly a quarter of the usual volume.  Whilst the pass-rate for full tests increased to 84.6% compared to 2019, this was mainly due to the mix of vehicles tested being substantially different to normal.  The restrictions during autumn and winter did not directly curtail vehicle testing, although additional cleaning and social distancing have reduced capacity across the test-centre network.

Vehicle Licensing

DVLA registered just over 16,100 new vehicles in Northern Ireland during July to September 2020.  This is 11.5% higher than the figure recorded for the same period in 2019 and the highest quarter-two total in our time series.  The most popular new private-car was Ford (13%); with grey the most popular colour (21%) and petrol the most popular fuel-type (57%).

There were 1,220,000 vehicles licensed in Northern Ireland at 30 September 2020, an increase of 1.6% compared with June 2020.  The overwhelming majority (82%) were cars.

Driver Theory Tests

Theory testing was possible throughout the majority of the quarter, only closing on 26 December.  Between October and December 2020, the DVA conducted just under 15,500 theory tests, approximately 84% of the usual volume.  The pass-rate for private-car theory tests was 54.5%, a decrease of 1.5 percentage points on the previous quarter pass-rate.

Driver Practical Tests

COVID-19 restrictions severely curtailed driver testing during the quarter, and it was only available for roughly a third of this period.  As such, the DVA conducted just under 6,000 driver tests during the quarter, approximately a third of the usual volume.  The pass-rate for private-car driver tests was 66.1%, up by 11.5 percentage points on the pre-pandemic five-year average.

Driver Licensing

Between October and December 2020, the DVA carried out just under 43,200 licensing transactions, down 34.3% on the corresponding period in 2019.  The number of provisional licences issued during the quarter was 2.5% higher than 2019, and was the highest quarter-three total in our time series, as licensing services resumed following the initial COVID-19 lockdown.

At the 31 December 2020, there were approximately 1,085,000 full and eligible licence holders with private-cars / light vans entitlement.  This was a decrease of 1.1% compared with the previous quarterly total.

Road Transport Licensing

At the 31 December 2020, there were just over 8,920 licensed taxi drivers, down by 8.4% when compared with the same point of 2019, and the lowest figure in our series.  However, the number of licensed taxi vehicles increased by 5.6% to over 9,160, again when compared to 2019.  This is the first time where there have been more taxi vehicles than there are taxi drivers.


Due to various measures introduced in response to COVID-19, DVA Enforcement activities were again extremely constrained during the quarter.  Accordingly, only 305 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.  Please see section eight for details.  For driver licensing, for the 12-months to the end of December 2020, online application performance was 98.0% processed within five days (against a target of 95%), whilst paper application performance was 82.9% processed within ten days (against a target of 80%).

Notes to editors: 

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

  1. This is the twenty-fifth edition of the quarterly report ‘DfI Driver, Vehicle, Operator, and Enforcement Statistics’, relating to October to December 2020.
  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 also covered 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-June 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 majority of the statistics included in this report cover the autumn-period of intermittent restrictions and the beginning of the second COVID-19 lockdown.
  6. The report is written, and issued by, the DVA Statistics Branch in the Department for Infrastructure.  
  7. ‘DfI Driver, Vehicle, Operator and Enforcement Statistics’ is published every quarter at pre-announced release dates, which are available from the GOV.UK website.  
  8. Electronic copies of the ‘DfI Driver, Vehicle, Operator, and Enforcement Statistics 2020-21 Quarter Three’ can be downloaded from our website at:
  1. A detailed User Guidance document is also available on our website.

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.                                            

Further Information

For further information, please contact:

DVA Statistics Branch,
Driver and Vehicle Agency,
Annex 4, Belfast Test Centre
66 Balmoral Road,
BT12 6QL

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