|MOTORCYCLE TEST REVIEW
December 10 2012.
The motorcycle Test Review has resulted in improvements to both the number of tests available and a greater understanding of how to meet future demand.
Despite the Review running for two years beyond its original timetable, with a final conclusion still some months away, the MCIA and MCITA are today highlighting areas where the Review has resulted in significant improvements in access to motorcycle testing and has identified how access could be further widened.
The motorcycle test review was launched by DfT Minister Mike Penning in July 2010. Its remit was to: 'Devise changes to the test which deliver a single event test, carried out on the road where possible, which will maintain riding standards, improve safety and increase accessibility of the test to all candidates' (DfT Report 20/12/2010).
Other related areas were also reviewed; work has focussed on the specified manoeuvres required by EU legislation, in particular the hazard avoidance manoeuvre, and to increase both the number and geographical coverage of locations from which testing is available.
A crisis in the low number of testing sites for the Module One test which was introduced in 2009, (as a result of European regulations under the Second Driving Licence Directive,) underpinned the original review. There were only 39 sites available nationally, with the test virtually inaccessible for people in large areas of the country.
There are now 66 test sites with two more casual sites opening soon. Capacity has improved considerably and the DSA are now better able to meet the demand for motorcycle tests which is created by the current level of motorcycle sales.
Although this represents a marked improvement to the situation which existed in 2010 at the start of the review, the MCIA and MCITA are still concerned that the testing regime will have difficulty in catering for any significant increase in demand. Motorcycles and scooters are increasingly adopted as economic alternatives to the daily commute and the answer to urban congestion. Even a return to the pre-recession level of motorcycle sales would create a further crisis in motorcycle test provision.
Summary of progress to date in test administration
* Examiners were redeployed from car testing to create more motorcycle test slots during 2011.
* DSA is considering whether it should open more Module 2 centres.
* There are now more Motorcycle Examiners trained (or in training).
* The Module 1 test was amended in May 2011, with manoeuvres re-ordered, an extra 'sighting lap' included and 48 and 49kph speeds incurring a minor fault rather than an automatic fail.
* There was an improved understanding of how many tests were required and where, after the DSA's Deployment Team were reorganised, and staff tasked to liaise with all trainer bookers.
* Wasted tests are now reduced. Tests were being lost due to overbooking by trainers, who then handed them back to the DSA at short notice. The DSA have been continually monitoring trainer booking and working with trainers to encourage them to book only what is needed and to hand back early, giving others a chance to use them
* A new internet booking system catering for trainer booking has been developed. Industry representatives have been involved in this process and all trainers have been given the opportunity to participate in meetings and to receive a demonstration of the system.
* There is now more flexibility over changing Module 2 test slots into Module 1 and vice versa, although this is not always possible.
* Priority areas have been identified for test site provision.
What needs to be done now?
The MCIA and MCITA welcome these improvements but more still needs to be done. In particular more Module One sites will continue to be needed if, as a final result of the Review, the test remains unchanged. Trainers have also called for later starting times during frosty days, so that tests do not get cancelled. More tests are called for during August and September - MCI and MCITA are aware that there has been a lack of tests during August in particular with many examiners taking leave at the same time. This has been highlighted to the DSA.
MCIA support an on-road test
The 2009 test changes introduced several manoeuvres including a 'swerve' test, which the DSA chose to implement via expensive new off road test sites. The lack of these created a crisis in provision and so reduced access. Additionally, safety concerns about the off-road test itself became apparent.
The Parliamentary Transport Select Committee expressed concern over the implementation of the new test and subsequently established the Test Review and has been considering how it might be possible to return the bike test to a fully on-road status. This element of the review is still subject to ongoing research by the DfT.
Whatever the outcome of the research, after an unhelpfully protracted period of time, the MCIA considers that an on-road test is a realistic and appropriate way to examine the machine and road skills of motorcycle test candidates. The MCIA feels that if the research concludes that it is unsafe to carry out certain manoeuvres on the road then it might be necessary to challenge regulations in Europe, to find a safer alternative means to test the required skills.
Steve Kenward, CEO of the MCIA said: "The industry's motivation right from the start of the Review process has been to ensure that the test is both appropriate for today's roads and relevant to candidates. Although there are several success factors emerging from the review and the DSA deserve congratulations for their work in meeting the current economically depressed demand for tests, much more needs to be done to meet a growth in the demand for tests.
"We also remain concerned that a number of training businesses situated long distances from the Module One test sites have closed since 2009. This and the inability to respond to any significantly raised level of demand reveal enormous fragility in the training business and testing regime.
"Therefore we conclude that should the current on road test research decide that it is impossible to take certain exercises onto the road, then industry will be calling for government to look again at the way EU regulations are interpreted within a testing framework."