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Blog of events happening to and around Lightning Motorcycle Training (now on Twitter and Facebook)

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Motorcycle training blog




NOVEMBER 2011 - Some good news this month; firstly big congratulations to Emma & Ross for the birth of their son Harry. Well done guys! Secondly, welcome back Terry Welch who sloped off to Wales for a bit but is now back instructing full time with us and is fast approaching his 20th year as an instructor. Equally welcome is the news from the DfT that 600cc for the purposes of 3DLD will mean motorcycles of 596cc and above. This is handy as our CBF600's are nominally 598cc. Common sense - always welcome to any situation, but so often otherwise engaged when civil servants are turning EU legislation into domestic law.

Unfortunately the gloom over motorcycle training in generally continues to darken with the DSA's utterly arcane approach to the Qualification and Quality Assurance process for new instructors. Their proposals are regressive, ill thought out and divisive. Potentially they will lower standards and weaken the ability of training schools to exist as schools and provide decent facilities. Fundamentally the root of this lies with the DSA's unwillingness to see motorcycle trainers as different from car driving instructors. Again there is a long fight on everyone's hands to turn the proposed nonsense into something fit for purpose.

OCTOBER 2011 - The MCITA committee have submitted to both the DfT and DSA a solution to doing the slow manoeuvres required for 2DLD on the road. The manoeuvres can be videoed by trainers off-road and then "up-loaded" to the DSA to examine. This is a technique done in many other areas of education. It will be interesting to see how this is received, but potentially it could mean more test centres and fewer trips to them. 

Less satisfactory is the DSA's proposals for the Quality Assurance of instructors and the Qualification process. This could potentially wreck the existing training school industry to no advantage other than the self-aggrandisement of the DSA and their perceived desire to break the hegemony of the ATB's. DSA see motorcycle training as an add-on to driver training; an approach they adopt with their own examiners. Their own QA process is widely criticised for its inflexibility and inefficiency. Based on a bottom up approach examiners are frequently more up to date than their immediate supervisors (Test Centre Managers) and as a result confusion and conflict are not infrequent. A similar approach to instructors will leave ATB's with no power over their own staff which, coupled with DSA proposals to go from four supervisions a year to one every four years, is hardly going to produce a better regulated industry with improved standards. Condemned from all sides by the motorcycle industry and trainers, counter proposals have been ignored by the DSA as this is apparently what the minister wants.

SEPTEMBER 2011 - Somewhat belatedly trialling has begun for the changes to the motorcycle test. Unfortunately those bloody people from the DSA have decided to once again try and gerrymander the process by adding bits that were never agreed and as a consequence try and produce a skewed result. The original concept was to trail the new Hazard Avoidance manoeuvre and to see if this was suitable for the road. Instead it has been decided to simply trial all the existing Module 1 manoeuvres and see if they are fit for the road. Frankly this is absurd as clearly doing a figure of eight and slalom is impractical and unnecessary. The various groups representing the motorcycle training industry protested long and hard about this but it went ahead anyway, so some of the £100,000 put aside by the DfT for the trialling process will be spent on "proving" something that a nine year old could have told anyone was a bloody stupid idea.

At this rate of progress and with this sort of mind-set it is difficult to see how motorcycle testing will ever be conducted on the scale it used to be at affordable local test centres. We will forever be shackled to two distant visits to overcrowded test centres, until such time as the DSA's interpretation of the next EU Directive means that everyone has to speak Chinese before riding a motorcycle in the UK. 

AUGUST 2011 - Planning ahead this month; in January 2012 the 3rd European Licence Directive (3DLD) will hit our shores and once again the world of motorcycle training will be turned into turmoil. So to anticipate this we have started to buy Honda CBF600's to use for training (Direct Access will go from 500cc to 600cc and the age will go up to 24). These bikes run the same chassis as our existing Honda CBF500's and many of the same cycle parts which should save on the number of levers etc. that we need to buy. First impressions are good and most students have not noticed the increase in both power and weight.

JULY 2011 - Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. The nice people from the MCIA thought it would be a good idea to get together the motorcycle training schools, the DSA, MAG, the minister (Mike Penning) and some other worthies from the motorcycle industry all in one room. The idea is that we would all thrash out our differences and take the totally impoverished state of motorcycle training in England, Scotland and Wales onto new and sunlit uplands. In the event the DSA got an absolute shoeing and came away even more angry than normal. The minister made even more friends by telling everyone that he thought the job done to date by the DSA was pretty poor, and the MCIA came away even more surprised than normal by the fickle nature of trainers and of how they were going to word an apology to the DSA that didn't sound like "well if you weren't such a bunch of ...". Chances of DSA/Trainers having lasting change and harmony - 0%, chances of sneaky, underhand revenge in due course - 100%.

JUNE 2011 - Flogged all the way up to Sheffield to see some screen shots of how the DSA's new, but unfortunately named, IBS3 (Internet Booking System 3) will work. Came away with mixed feeling - firstly would you really trust someone to do a good job on something that has such an awful name? On the other hand this is the future coming and hopefully it will make our lives easier by being able to book tests online rather than spent a fraught 15 minutes speaking to someone in a call centre. Anyway it is early days as the system is not due to be launched until September 2012.

MAY 2011 - Hurrah it has not all been in vain and some of the fruits of the Technical Group have at last shown fruition in the form of a modified Module 1. This is to be applauded and hopefully will turn out to be much safer. All the slow manoeuvres done first followed by a "sighting lap" - the controlled stop, a modified bend and slight relaxation on the speed. There can be no doubt that this is a response to the appalling number of accidents that have taken place during Module 1. No matter how the DSA dress it up the truth is, from their figures, that every 1 in 150 students will have a reportable "incident" during the module 1 test. Fingers crossed that the "tweaks" will help improve this, and it is interesting to note that some of the things that have been changed (the speed) were absolutely impossible to change less than 12 months ago. So a big thank you to MCIA, MCITA, MAG and two very dedicated trainers from the Midlands and Wales, and a big thank you is also due to the DfT for having the presence of mind to push this through.

APRIL 2011 - Relatively quiet month news wise but a busy one for us as the weather has been very kind. This pattern of lovely spring weather followed by a sopping wet summer is very irritating but perhaps this year will be different. Let's hope..

MARCH 2011 - At long last the newts have been moved and the diggers have gone and now the Greenham Multi-Purpose Test Centre (MPTC) is open. It is near enough to our centre in Reading to call it local - only 45 minutes away. But the ride there is pretty straight forward. The facility is very nice as one would hope when £2m is spent on something, but you have to question why trees have been left hanging over one side of it. We look forward to seeing how the DSA will react to loads of leaves on the emergency stop area in the autumn. Hey ho..

FEBRUARY 2011 - Bit of mixed month; on the one hand the DSA have had a kick up the proverbial by the minister for lack of progress (and in the process have dropped their objections to the hazard avoidance manoeuvre) but on the other hand have declared that the potential tweaks to the existing Module 1 will take weeks to complete and will involve cancelling tests. Unsurprisingly this has been met with dismay by the training industry and once more the process has failed to produce consensus or frankly common sense. Equally frustrating is the utter lack of progress being made by the Trainer Booking Group which is seeking to make the procedure by which training schools block book tests fairer and less wasteful. Fundamentally the mind-set of people in the public sector and those in the private is so diametrically opposed that it is little wonder these meetings are so fraught. 

JANUARY 2011 - Thank the stars but the weather has seen fit to stop snowing and even be mild, so that once more the wheels of our training fleet start turning towards the open road. It's been a busy month clearing up all the cancelled courses from December which is just as well as the past 12 months have not been kind to motorcycle training (let alone the wider economy).

This month has been marred by a very ugly meeting with the DSA at the Technical Group meeting at Cardington. Having been part of a process that has tried to develop a new hazard avoidance (swerve) manoeuvre for the road they have now declared the one that has been completed as non-compliant with the 2nd European Licence Directive. Without a shadow of doubt this is the most underhand and devious attempt to derail a process that has seen a great many people give their time free of charge. A real low for the DSA and for those that should know better.


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