October 10 2008.

After successful lobbying resulted in the last minute postponement of the new motorcycle test, the RMI Motorcycle Rider Training Association (MRTA) is continuing to work closely with Government to look for innovative solutions for future motorcycle testing.

However, the MRTA has warned that due to the weakened state of the training industry, any further changes to testing must not be introduced until the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) infrastructure is sufficient to properly service the industry and those going to test, even if this means further postponement.

A new motorcycle test was due to be introduced on 29 September 2008 as a result of new requirements included in the Second EC Driving Licence Directive (Directive 2000/56/EC). 66 new Multi Purpose Test Centres (MPTCs) were supposed to be established around the country prior to that date to enable the new 'off-road' portion of the test to be taken before the usual 'on-road' test. However, only 38 Multi Purpose Test Centres (MPTCs) would have been operational by the implementation date. These major gaps in the network of test centres and further test booking delays meant that implementation of the new test was delayed until 29 March 2009.

Kevin Bryan, MRTA Chairman commented: 'When it became clear that DSA plans to introduce the new test were flawed and that not enough test centres had been built, postponement was the only option in the interests of road safety and protecting the industry from lasting effects. Since the deferment, regular meetings with DSA have continued but the motorcycle training industry still has concerns about the viability of the interim split test due at the end of March 2009 and is in discussion regarding alternative testing options. If a workable alternative is found, the DSA must only introduce this when it is full ready to avoid irreparable damage to an already beleaguered industry, even if this means further postponement.'

'The MRTA believes possible further deferral does need to be seriously considered now, not later when the training industry might find itself in similar circumstances with insufficient time for manoeuvre. Those in the training business know that many of the problems currently faced are a result of late notification of postponement of the new test and this can't be allowed to happen again. The current situation is critical with some ATBs considering closure and most having seen business levels drop dramatically. As a body exclusively representing training interests, MRTA is urging DSA to consider future options very carefully to ensure there are sufficient MPTCs to properly serve the needs of all parties when it finally implements the new test elements required under the Second Driving Licence Directive.'

Bryan continues: 'The training industry was effectively brought to its knees by recent events and has suffered significantly due to inadequate test capacity and booking issues. Any future changes to testing including the introduction of interim casual testing sites must be fully trialled, complete and operational before introduction to avoid the recently experienced problems. The next couple of months will be crucial. During this time, the MRTA will continue to work with the DSA and other stakeholders to identify potential sites for new facilities and plans for further improvements to the trainer booking system.'

Bryan concludes: The MRTA appreciates that some of the circumstances leading to this situation have been out of DSA's control, and that there are other factors to be considered but road safety is paramount and the continued existence of a viable training industry must not be compromised. We must say "No" to any unworkable interim plans when it is clear the current network of MPTC's is inadequate and will remain so for many months.'