THE NUMBER of vehicles without an MOT due to the continued backlog in testing is not known, the Department of Infrastructure has said.
Thousands of MOTs were first cancelled early last year after cracks were found in a number of Driver Vehicle Agency (DVA) test centre lifts.
The backlog was subsequently exacerbated by the Covid pandemic.
Testing schedules returned to normal at the end of July but according to Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon demand remains high and "in some cases customers may not be able to get their vehicles tested before their current MOT expires".
The PSNI has effectively been turning a blind eye to enforcing valid MOT certificates but has stressed that vehicles must still be roadworthy.
"Throughout the MOT difficulties, the PSNI advice and enforcement focus has been on vehicles which are being driven with serious faults or in an un-roadworthy condition," a PSNI spokesperson said.
"We will deal with this category of vehicle as our priority."
Motorists have been advised to book a vehicle test appointment as soon as possible though many are concerned that their vehicles may not be insured without a valid MOT.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) said its members would "take a pragmatic view" until the delays are resolved.
"Where motorists in Northern Ireland have a confirmed MOT appointment, they should not be prejudiced by their lack of a valid MOT certificate," a ABI spokesperson said.
"This applies regardless of whether they wish to renew with their existing insurance provider or are looking to take out a policy with a different insurer."
The ABI stressed that motorists should "comply with their legal obligation to keep their vehicle in a roadworthy condition if they are driving it".
The DfI has conceded that it does not know the full extent of the backlog and how many vehicles are affected.
"The DVA does not hold vehicle testing and vehicle licensing data in an accessible format that would enable them to accurately estimate how many vehicles are using Northern Ireland’s roads with an expired MOT certificate due to delays in testing," a spokesperson said.
"There are a number of reasons why vehicles may not be presented for test before their MOT certificate expires which are not due to delays with testing, such as; they have been sold; they have been taken off-road; or the customer has opted to choose a later date that suits them."
Alliance MLA Andrew Muir said "grey areas around MOTs" that left motorists in "limbo" needed to be addressed.
He said PSNI confirmation that motorists would not be penalised so long as their vehicle is roadworthy was "cold comfort for those who cannot book a appointment".
"Inability to get a straight answer over what happens if someone is due to renew their vehicle road tax but unable to book an MOT appointment due to the waiting lists isn't acceptable," he said.