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Deja vu…

November 21, 2011

Worcester, England – The tale of the UK motorcycle test gets more convoluted and there is a strange feeling of déjà vu….

Remember the happy days before the 27 April 2009, when the off-road  manoeuvres required by the European Union 2nd   Driving Licence Directive were introduced.

If  you had a provisional  licence, a compulsory basic training certificate and a theory test certificate you could take the on road pursuit test and if considered competent hey presto get yourself a motorcycle licence.

But then the 2nd  Driving Licence Directive hit town and the mandarins in Brussels and the gold platers at the UK Driving Standards Agency (DSA) had their wicked way, it all got a bit complicated. The two module test was here with the special manoeuvres, in module one, carried out off-road on specially built DSA test sites.

A year on, 2010, and shock horror the number of folk taking the new test, when compared with tests taken in 2009, had more or less halved. Not only that but stories abounded of injuries caused when test candidates crashed will attempting the module one manoeuvres.

Step forward a worried UK motorcycle industry. No new bikers, no new sales OMG. Perhaps an example of getting what you wish for as the industry had lobbied for the 2nd Driving Licence Directive and conducted a successful pre introduction campaign to get prospective riders to take the old test.

Still in true UK motorcycle industry style they started another campaign to get the UK version of the 2nd  Driving Licence Directive toned down i.e. made easier and carried out on road, bye bye module one.

Handily this campaign coincided with a change of UK Government step forward Mike “the bike” Penning, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport. Willing to show that there was a new hand at the UK motorcycling tiller Mike took the industry campaign on board. Yes we make module one easier, yes we make it possible to do all the test on road.

Enter stage left the nasty men from the DSA. Who point out to Mike that there are safety issues with an all on road test. Thus the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) is commissioned to look into safety issues arising from carrying out the hazard avoidance and emergency stop on public roads. Or so the industry thought. The DSA, no doubt sick of the criticism they are getting, pull a flanker and in fact commission research into all the current module one test manoeuvres being carried out on road. Why? Well if the DSA can prove that carrying out the module one manoeuvres on road is not safe that justifies the £80 million they have spent in setting up the off-road test centres.

Time is passing. The UK must introduce the test requirements set out in the European 3rd Driving Licence Directive by January 2013. There now appears to be a planned convergence. If the DSA fail in their mission to keep module one-off road and Mike “the bike” Penning prevails in his attempt to get the UK motorcycle test back wholly on road it will be introduced in January 2013. Just four years and an estimated £100 million after it was taken off-road.


Industry campaign for new safer test and get it.

DSA spend £80 million on off-road testing sites.

Industry discover that test is too hard and campaign for easier test all on road.

Minister agrees but neglects to tell industry that “new” single on road test will start Jan 2013 to align with 3rd Driving Licence Directive introduction.

Industry complain that DSA kept them in dark over TRL research into if certain off road manoeuvres are needed or can be carried out on road as part of new test.

Mean while some trainers lobby for some new test manoeuvres to carried out off-road. Strangely these are trainers not joined to the Motorcycle Industry Association training arm!

Speculation that industry will shortly start a campaign to take your test before Jan 2013. The test being taken will be the one that they say is to hard and unsafe.

Full circle, with the taxpayers down an estimated £100 million.

What a mess!!

And of course this is all the fault of those nasty people in Brussels or is it!

Ride safe.

© Back Roads Rider 2011

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Dave permalink
    November 22, 2011 11:10 am

    You forgot the bit where the test actually still remains a two part test with some slow control bits done off road observed by delegated examiners prior to you doing the main one part test on the road… everything changes but everything stays the same. Perhaps one day someone will admit that what we really need to do is completely change the driver and rider training and testing system so that we have something that is fit for purpose. A system where by you get taught to use the roads effectively and efficiently and safely and not just a system that churns out people who have a licence but no real idea of how to use it.

    Most riders spend the bulk of their current training perfecting the U turn and maybe one other manouevre. How is that equiping them with the skills to ride safely and responsibly?

  2. Back Roads Rider permalink*
    November 23, 2011 5:39 pm


    Good points.

    Thanks for making them.


  3. November 29, 2011 10:24 am

    I believe that the drop in candidates is down to a (flawed) perception that the two part test is too hard and expensive to bother with. Sales of peds and 125s (and litre+) bikes are holding up quite well, it’s the 600cc sector that’s taking a massive beating after candidates and new licensees halved.

    The thing is, there’s nothing hard in the module 1, it’s more of a confidence and performance anxiety issue, which I suspect is the main reason for the much lower pass rate among female candidates. If you just stiffen your lip and crack on, any remotely competent rider on any half decent bike can pass it easily.

    Chin up though, once the full horror of the 3rd Directive really sinks in, training schools and test centres will be beating candidates off with rusty chains for the whole of 2012.


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