THE NEW MOTORCYCLE TEST
OR LACK OF IT!
This article should be on every motorcycle web site in the UK. I am writing to inform readers of the terrible position many trainee motorcyclists and training schools will be in come October 2008 when the new motorcycle test commences.
You may think this does not affect you unless you are a new rider wanting to get your licence. Think again it is going to affect the whole bike industry. If it becomes too expensive and too difficult to get a licence then the trickle of new bikers will dry up. Look at the housing market take out your first time buyers and it cascades up the chain affecting everyone, owners, trainers, dealers, publishers, even manufacturers.
Most of you may be unaware that this legislation to change the current motorcycle test is not UK legislation. It is being introduced by our government because they allow EU directives to influence our driving test rules and laws. Most of the rider training industry was against it but it was pushed through regardless and the DSA (Driving Standards Agency) were tasked to provide the new test by Oct 2008. The criteria they had to fulfil were that no one was to have to travel more than 20 miles or 30-45 mins to get to a test centre. However in large areas of the country this is not going to happen. By the DSA’s own appalling admission only 31 of the proposed 66 MPTCs’ (Multi purpose test centres) will be online to commence the new test. That is less than 50% and they have had 5 years to arrange this.
So there are vast areas of the country where the new motorcycle test will not be local anymore. It is West Yorkshire (a population of 2.2million people) that personally affects me and my business. There will not be a single MPTC online for October. In fact there is a virtual blackout from Hull to Liverpool (the M62 corridor). I have made a rough estimate that last year there were between 2,600 and 2,900 tests carried out in West Yorkshire spread between 4 test centres. So where are these going to go now? The test centres that are currently running are based around customer demand. They serve the main population areas and are reasonably local to them. The new MPTCs’ are being deployed purely on where they can build the cheapest. Imagine a ski training school setting up on a beach it wouldn’t last 2 minutes. If the DSA was not a monopoly it would not get away with this, however there is no choice there is no other provider.
For my position as a training school in Bradford, the nearest MPTC is 43 miles away in Rotherham. So most individuals and training schools in West Yorkshire are going to have to travel in the region of a 70-100 mile round trip to get to a Motorcycle test centre. That means, no motorways, clogged up city centres, rural B roads and all as a learner rider. It will be at least a 4 to 6 hour turnaround to do a test. In other words a full day. I know many training schools only offer 2/3 hour packages as they believe concentration, resilience and fatigue negate any longer. Unlucky, customer considerations of this nature are not going to be a thing of the past.
The costs for all this are going to be enormous. I envisage my fuel bill will more than double, bike maintenance costs the same, the days of a 2 hour lesson are gone it will have to be a full day or nothing. The test fee itself is rising a massive 30% to £80. Imagine someone failing their test to be told “Sorry mate I know you only forgot to cancel your indicator but to retake here is a breakdown of costs; Test fee £80, full day bike hire and accompanied instruction £150, that will be £230 please sir!” For the poor individual turning up on his own 125 it’s not going to be cases of asking for an hour off from work either. They will need a full day, so a full day’s loss of pay.
It is ironic they are triumphing these new centres as ECO friendly, yet bike schools and individual test candidates are going to be racking up huge mileages, using vast quantities of fuel and oil, squaring off tyres and pouring out clouds of emissions to get to them!
The DSA have declared that the majority of the centres not online by October will be within 3-6 months. I am not convinced if they have only managed 50% in 5 years I doubt the rest will follow so quickly. 9 (This has proved to be true1) The other problem is that they are going to force many training schools out of business. A school travelling an extra 90 miles everyday is going to become uncompetitive to schools in the vicinity of these MPTC’s. They will probably have to close and then when the centre in their area comes online there won’t be any schools around to train with.
My individual problems are great but not as bad as some areas where they don’t even envisage building an MPTC, Central Wales, vast areas of Scotland, most of Cumbria the borders, South London, some areas of the home counties etc…When this proposition of making the new test a single test and keeping the DSA in charge of it was made, most of the motorcycle training industry supported the DSA. The main reason was they assured us of those two main criteria (20 miles 30-45 mins). They are not going to deliver; they have failed as providers to make the criteria they promised. Had the industry known this was going to happen back in 2001 I am sure we would have campaigned for a different option.
This whole fiasco has come about by our Government being weak and allowing European rules to dictate how we as a country do things, by not providing adequate funding to provide the new test they had submitted to. By not monitoring the incompetent Agency they appointed to provide it and by not having the guts to admit it is badly prepared and they should postpone until it is ready to be introduced fully, and within their own stated criteria, nationwide. 9Again proved to be the case!) As usual this government ignores, dismisses and blatantly discriminates against motorcyclists. It would not dare to attempt this with the national car test, what a vote loser!
One final parting shot is that in the December issue of Despatch, the DSAs’ propaganda magazine. Under their Agency performance section they claim they have already met the target of providing the new test, a blatant lie how can they get away with publishing this stuff!
Written in Feb 2008