The Committee says that the implementation of the new MPTCs was bungled, and that it delayed the introduction of the new test. Almost eleven months after the introduction of the new test, it is unacceptable that the Driving Standards Agency has failed to get all 66 planned centres operational, inconveniencing motorcyclists and trainers and driving up the cost of doing a test.
Launching the report, 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."
In its report, MPs conclude 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'.
Mrs 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."
The new motorcycle test was implemented following European legislation. The Committee accepts the industry’s argument that Government has 'gilded the lily' by adding more manoeuvres to the test than is strictly required by the Brussels Directive, but believes the Government was right to do so.
The test employs two practical elements: one consists of technical exercises off-road and the other is a road-based test of traffic handling skills on the public highway. The Committee believes the new test needs to be very comprehensive, if it is to help reduce deaths and serious injuries among motorcyclists.
Committee Chair, Mrs Ellman said:
"Motorcyclists make up just 1 per cent of road users but account for 19 per cent of all deaths and serious injuries on our roads. The risk of death and injury has not declined nearly as much for motorcyclists as for other road users, and this needs to be addressed as a high priority.
"The new combination of tests is likely to help improve road safety, provided that the Government and the industry work together, and that training for other road users to improve their awareness of motorcyclists on the road is improved too."
The Committee condemns Ministers’ failure to negotiate an exemption from the EU requirement that parts of the test should be performed at 50 km/h31.07 mph. MPs argue that 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.
The Committee believes the Driving Standards Agency and the motorcycle industry now need to work together to raise the standard and consistency of motorcycle training. MPs also reiterate their 2007 recommendation that the current voluntary registration of motorcycle instructors be made mandatory.
To ensure that the new test is working, the Government must collect robust and reliable data on the number of deaths and serious injuries among motorcyclists, the number of unlicensed motorcyclists, and the length of time between riders training to ride a bike and taking the test. It must also monitor carefully the number of accidents which occur during the test. The DSA must react quickly to modify the test if incident rates do not decline.