Motorcycle Test Fiasco

By Kevin Ash - 30/10/2010

The Transport Select Committee has confirmed what the bike world has been tearing its hair out about for years, that the new bike test regime is a fiasco.

In a report called ‘The New European Motorcycle Test‘, published at the end of March, the committee expressed shock at just how poorly managed has been the new test‘s introduction.

The new test was driven by a European directive to standardise motorcycle testing across the EU, but the UK‘s Driving Standards Agency (DSA) has been bungling and incompetent in its interpretation of the directive.

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In the first instance though, government ministers also are to blame for some of the problems in failing to negotiate an exemption from the requirement that the emergency stop test takes place at 50kph. The Committee says about this: “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.”

But this was one of the excuses trotted out for the introduction of a raft of Multi Purpose Test Centres (MPTCs), where much of the test could be carried out off-road. The DSA promised 66 centres by the time of the introduction of the new test last April (after a six month delay) even though previously around 220 test sites existed.

But far worse, less than half the 66 were up and running when the new test started, meaning many learners had long distances to travel, sometimes on fast and dangerous roads. 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.”

A second excuse for the creation of MPTCs was to facilitate the now-controversial brake and swerve test. Although both of these tests are required by the EU, only the DSA of all European countries has combined the two into a single manoeuvre. And not only have other European countries not found a need to build new centres, the brake and swerve test has been responsible for a series of accidents.

The DSA has budgeted £72 million for the test centres, yet many more have to be built and it is highly likely to run significantly over this amount. In the meantime, test applications have plummeted. The Committee concludes that the Driving Standards Agency was slow and dogmatic in its approach to test centres, failing to listen adequately to the motorcycle industry. Smaller test sites could have been retained, saving millions of pounds.

No other country in Europe has found it necessary to build 'super test sites'. Louise Ellman adds: "A more pragmatic approach would have cost far less for all concerned. Problems with the new test booking systems and opening hours, have been bad for business. If the new test brings financial ruin to the motorcycle training industry then we will have gone backwards."

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