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MP’s Fail Motorcycle Test!!

March 25, 2010

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Bishop Auckland, England – The good news. The UK House of Commons Transport Select Committee has published its report ‘The new European motorcycle test’.


The bad news. It doesn’t really tell us anything that we didn’t already know. However, at least some parliamentarians now support the cause.

A fascinating thing is the way the industry and the user representative groups have represented the TSC report in their press releases. Plenty of ‘totally supports’, ‘vindications’ and ‘damming’. Any excuse to get the boot into the Government, the DfT and the Driving Standards Agency (DSA), and of course plenty of queuing up to claim bragging rights on getting the TSC interested in the first place. Yes, it does appear that in the general ‘look at me’ rush mention of the reason the new test was implemented i.e. to improve rider safety and produce confident riders has been forgotten.

A few pragmatic thoughts on some aspects of the 145 page TSC report.

The failure of Ministers to negotiate derogation (exemption) from the EU requirement that parts of the test should be performed at 50 km/h (31.07 mph). This is the core issue as failure to obtain derogation meant that the Government and DSA were committed to the setting up of the Multi Purpose Test Centres. The TSC said that ‘it is both bizarre and confusing that tests should be performed at speeds not permitted on the public highway in built-up areas, and that it should be measured in units not commonly used in the UK’. An interesting aspect to the derogation is the possibility the DSA saw it as an excuse to modernise and focus its business onto a small number off test sites. In fact a cut from 200 sites to fewer than 50.

The Multi Purpose Test Centres (MPTCs). The TSC report is highly critical of Government’s decision to introduce MPTCs with the subsequent loss of many small and convenient motorcycle test sites. Committee Chair, Louise Ellman MP said, “many candidates and trainers now have to travel too far for their motorcycle test. This adds to the cost, and in some cases, exposes candidates to fast and dangerous roads on the way to a test site-before they have even

taken their test. The Driving Standards Agency needs to give much greater priority to customer service and convenience for test candidates and trainers.”

An issue outside the remit of the TSC report is the way the MPTC’s were financed. Many were built using Private Finance Initiatives (PFI) were the site is built and maintained by a private developer and then leased to the DSA. This mean that the DSA is paying rent to a property company for the next twenty-five years, often on an ascending scale with the costs simple passed to future test candidates.

On gold plating the test. The TSC broadly agreed with the approach the Government has taken to the test and did not agree with some witnesses that the EU Directive has been ‘gold-plated’. Introducing too many or too taxing exercises in the UK version of the test. This supports evidence given to the TSC by road safety interests but goes against statements made by representatives of the training industry. So the question remains is the test to hard to pass thus putting off people taking it or worse either riding illegally or continuing to ride on the basis of their CBT. Could the problem be lack of proper test preparation by some training organisations?

Safety. There is considerable controversy over the safety of Module 1, the off-road practical test which includes the swerve and brake manoeuvre. The TSC was told that extensive trials with motorcycling interest groups investigated different sizes and layouts of areas needed to conduct assessments of the manoeuvres. Over 300 volunteer riders, including trainers and representatives from motorcycling industry bodies, with varying skill levels from complete beginner to expert rider took mock tests in a variety of weather conditions and on different sized motorcycles. This leading to the conclusion that manoeuvring area was ‘fit for purpose’. An intriguing fact emerged when the DSA claimed that the locations where the incidents on Module 1 test occurred had been the ones where very little or no use had been made by trainers of the opportunity to try out the test for themselves. The TSC concluded that: ‘it is important to take account of concerns expressed by the motorcycle industry, and consider what adjustments might be required’. And that: ‘the off-road motorcycle test effectively bars candidates from adapting their riding to reflect the prevailing weather, road and other circumstances affecting their stopping distances. This cannot be appropriate, and we urge the Government to amend the regulations on this point as soon as possible’.

So where does this leave us?

Well both the Government and DSA are heavily criticised for their implementation of the test, but not its overall content.

We will almost certainly get a requirement that the registration of motorcycle instructors be made mandatory.

The statement that: ‘The Government needs to support the industry better in alleviating these problems, and assist it in developing and harnessing the opportunities that also arise from the new test regime’. Could be interpreted as the industries wish to set up independent testing facilities coming true.

And the user groups? The ‘industry’ is mentioned 168 times in the 145 page report. The ‘user groups’ 37. Just an observation, but don’t fool yourselves its obvious who’s running this show.

The Transport Select Committees (TSC) report will be submitted to the Department for Transport (DfT) for a response. I can’t wait to see how the civil servants attempt sidestep this one, unless of course the whole thing disappears down the plughole of the next up coming General Election. I hope not.

View the full TSC report here…

© Back Roads Rider 2010

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Dave permalink
    March 25, 2010 1:51 pm

    Sadly most of the civil servants and elected officials who are responsible for the whole debarkle are either about to retire, have retired or moved office. It’s unlikely anyone will really be held to account. The TSC report confirms what we knew all along but wont change very much.

  2. April 4, 2010 4:53 pm

    I doubt that many even ride or know about bikes. In much the same way as I KNOW that professional consultancy companies employ Road Designers that don’t even hold a driving licence, let alone know about driving and handling a vehicle in any advanced situation (HGV, PSV, Motorcycling etc)


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