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Are motorcycle licence trainers up to the job?

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Since novice motorcyclists have one of the high rates of fatal crashes, have you ever wondered if rider trainers are teaching the right methods?

Last year, the UK struck off 100 motorcycle licence trainers and 18 training companies for a range of offences including granting licences without any training.

Other non-compliance issues were having too many students in a class, granting licences after less than three hours of training and using non-roadworthy motorcycles.

The breaches were uncovered in annual audit checks of licences trainers and facilities.

Aussie trainers

So we contacted the relevant departments in each state of Australia to find out if there were similar quality audits and any breaches.

However, only the Queensland, Victorian and NSW transport departments bothered to reply after more than a week.

Queenslandjake Dolan racer and learner rider at AMA training business Faith restored in QRide system first bike beginner overhaul novice

In October 2016, Queensland Transport and Main Roads introduced the standardised Q-Ride training curriculum and upgraded audit and monitoring program.

The following month, two QRide instructors were arrested for issuing motorcycle licences and 13 falsely licensed riders.

For the next two years, TMR conducted training and support for the industry before introducing compliance auditing in October 2018.

Up to the end of last year, TMR conducted 47 full compliance audits of rider learning facilities and has not cancelled any of the 85 accredited QRide trainers or 35 service providers.

We use a range of investigative methods and compliance tools, including education, suspension and issuing corrective actions,” a TMR spokesperson says. 

NSW trainersLearner rider - Calum demonstrates slow riding techniques safety contract business learn

Transport for NSW accredits five Registered Training Organisations (RTO) across the state and monitors the safety of operations, staff professionalism, compliance with road law and processes around misconduct. 

TNSW has so far carried out 18 quality assurance checks this financial year.

They did not say if there were any breaches.

“Continuous improvement and professional development is provided during the sector’s mandatory annual forum,” a spokesperson says. 

Victoria

The Victorian Department of Transport says it does not release information on assessments of individual accredited training providers.

All they would say is they “constantly review motorcycle training and testing providers to ensure motorcyclists are well prepared before they ride on Victorian roads”.

There are 16 VicRoads accredited motorcycle training and testing providers in Victoria.

Each training location is audited at least twice a year and “five times a year or more as necessary” and can include unannounced audits.

The Department of Transport also reviews motorcycle permits and licences issued to determine if “certain accredited training providers need to be assessed more frequently or if sanctions needs to be imposed should there be assurance issues detected”

CommentLearner rider Mitch Hamrey tackles the HART slalom course austroads competent rewards practise counter steering confidence

Reader comments on this website and our social media pages seem to suggest that novice riders are not getting the right training.

However, statistics show that over the past 25 years, as rider training has become more regulated and licensing more difficult, fatality rates for novices have actually reduced.

While still high, riders under 30 have been surpassed in recent years by those aged over 50, mainly due tothe rapid rise in “returning riders”.

Australian motorcycle fatalities by age group

Age group 1995-99 2000-04 2005-09 2010-14 2015-19
<30 562 454 477 337 312
30-39 227 275 292 231 186
40-49 113 163 206 230 238
>50 30 100 183 280 323

What do you think of the standard of learner rider training? Leave your comments below.

  1. well, that is an interesting discussion indeed. My beef is as follows: “There is no allowance for discretionary powers by the trainers” …. hmmmh I can understand that there is a need for a structured, timed and clear syllabus. Here i Vic it even gives you the times down to the minute when to do what – yet we (the instructors) officially have no digression.
    So, how does one learn? Content such as road safety and how to minimise risk; or skills such as how to operate a clutch or turn one’s head etc etc. Are we all learning in the same way, same speed?? Well, I doubt it! but, if you allow for different learning behaviours (i.e. speed to understand, comprehend, repeat and demonstrate) you just might be nailed onto the cross. … 🙁
    So I certainly vote for “some discretionary powers to be built-in, within a clear boundary (i.e. no more than xyz minutes otherwise it will be a Private lesson) and suggestions for a variety of remedy.

    Seems to me that there is a lot of good stuff (procedures) out there and a lot of good instructors, perhaps ‘picking the eyes’ might create an almost perfect system …?
    I shall live in hope 😉

    1. Axel, good points. I think experienced instructors do use some discretion in the pre-learner course to accommodate different learning behaviours. I do not teach pre-learners anymore but when I did I added a few extra features that took less than a few minutes but had very good effect. For the pre-provisional course where the students are expected to be able to ride with a fair degree of competency I am very pragmatic; if a student poses a danger to themselves or other students they are taken off the course. I shake my head sometimes why students even turn up when they have had less than 500km of riding experience. In NSW a new course manual is about to be released and it will be interesting to see what changes have been made.

  2. I am a QRide Trainer in Queensland. The biggest problem I see within the licensing legislation is the non-standardization of the restrictions of the licensing regulations. Queensland and WA are the only two sates in Australia that require a learner rider to be supervised by a licensed rider. This makes it very difficult for a learner rider to gain the necessary road experience before being able to upgrade to the RE restricted license within the 3 month minimum waiting period.

    Although a supervisor may help a learner rider to identify brake points, road position and general hazards, this is heavily taught within the QRide Pre-Learner two day course. I firmly believe that the requirement for a learner rider to be supervised, only hinders the learner riders development and ability to gain much needed motorcycle and road experience. I base my assumption on returning learner riders sitting for their RE restricted license. At least 50% have been unable to ride on a regular basis to gain the necessary road riding experience due to not being able to ride with a supervisor. This places extra pressure on the trainer to help the student to gain and more importantly, demonstrate the necessary QRide competencies to successfully pass the RE Training and Assessment course.

    Queensland and WA need to come into line with the rest of Australia. There needs to be a National Licensing System which should then be supported with a National Road Rule System! This segregation of licensing rules and road rules only leads to confusion for all drivers.

    In summary, based on firsthand experience, I strongly believe that learner riders would be of better skill if they were allowed to ride unsupervised as in the rest of Australia, with a 6 month waiting period to upgrade their license to RE. This would then increase their skills and confidence, which in turn, should increase their safety on the road, it’s not rocket science.

  3. Matt L
    I was able to use my own bike KLR650 for both my learners and full license in Vic Trailers for learners obvisously and also the instructer took some time to tell me any adjustments needed on hand controls etc…..

  4. Mark, you have misinterpreted a statement.
    “They did not say if there were any breaches, but 18 checks on five facilities seems rigorous.”
    While there are Five RTOs there are much more training centres. There are at least seven centres in the greater Sydney area. Then there are centres in Wollongong, Queanbeyan, Tuggerah, Newcastle, Armidale, Tamworth, Coffs Harbour and Lismore. They are just the ones I know of. I just checked and there are twenty centres in NSW. Some operate seven days a week, some only on weekends and others on a “on demand” basis. A few have lights and operate from 7am until 10 pm. Some centres have up to fifteen or more instructors working on a part time basis with one full time manager or SRI. The audits involve making sure the instructor follows the syllabus; making sure the instructor keeps on time for each activity; making sure students have required breaks and checking the state of the range and the motorcycles. The audit is extensive. Additionally an auditor may secretly monitor a class if there is a suspicion that things are not correct. A few years ago two instructors were fired because they had a 100% pass rate pf pre-provisional students; the state average is a pass rate of between 60 and 70%. Other instructors have been fired for finishing classes too early (one was regularly finishing courses one hour early), behaving inappropriately, being drunk (!!!).

  5. I agree with the first comment by Toby. Why are learners forced to use a rental bike which is (surprise surprise) supplied by the instructors which again…. no surprise, they charged you a built in extra fee for, when attending their pre-learner course. My son has his own registered 250cc road bike which he practices on already and is developing a feel for the controls etc. my other son has no interest in riding a two wheel bike and wants to ride a learner legal automatic can am ryker. Yet, is forced to learn to ride a 2 wheeler manual for the learner course.. seems to me learners are being setup to fail at the start. Going into the weekend course with no idea of the skills they need or what they are expected to master (riding skills) in a weekend and firced to ride a bike they are not familiar with.

    I spoke to a friend who did the course, a mature age lady, she said that she failed the first time she did the course. But .. so did all the other people who attended and they had previously been riding bikes either on a race track or on their farms etc… seems to me that whilst training is given, it is also a money making exercise for some of the businesses that conduct these courses. Learners should be allowed to bring their own motorbike to the training weekend. I even asked this when speaking to the instructor, when inquiring about dates to book my son into a course. The reply was, that my son could not bring his own bike as he cant ride it to the centre…. duhhh…. I then said i would ride the bike there for him to use and then pick it up again at the end of the day. Answer was still no, we had to pay a rental fee and use their bikes.. they said it was all about insurance purposes?? Excuse me? That is just another crock IMHO for them to make more money and fail more people.. if my son fell off his own bike at the course, it is his fault and his insurance that he pays for would cover it. Same as rider training days conducted by professional businesses like Stay Upright. You don’t see them telling you that you can’t use your own bike and have to pay a rental fee and use one of their bikes do you.

    1. Matt, first of all yo do not state what State you are referring to. I can only speak about NSW.
      The pre-learner course in NSW is subsidised by the state government. The fee the student pays is a fraction of the real cost of a lesson. The government insists that ALL pre-learners use company bikes UNLESS the rider requires a specially modified bike e.g. all controls on one side due to fingers/hand missing. Many students attend who have never ridden before and most pass. If a person fails day one they are entitled to receive up to three hours of remedial tuition free of charge. If a person fails day two they are entitled to re-do day two at no charge. Those are the rules in NSW. A student had the right to withdraw from a course if they feel unsafe, it does happen but rarely.
      I assume your son is practicing on private property.
      In NSW ALL riders have a choice of a manual or automatic machine but it must be a two wheeler. Both the Ryker and Can-Am require machine specific training and skills which cannot be taught under the NSW system.
      ALL Pre-Learner students must use company machines due to the public liability insurance. All the company bikes are well maintained and roadworthy; if someone was to bring their own machine in the instructor would have to carry out an exhaustive inspection to make sure it was legal and roadworthy and there is no time allowed in the syllabus for this to happen.
      If your son fell off his own bike on the training centre the instructor would be deemed responsible as it is his/her responsibility to make sure everyone is safe. While the speeds on the training range are relatively low we have had some serious injuries (broken shoulder, fingers, arms etc) and a couple of spectacular crashes where bikes have been written off!!
      If your comments do not relate to NSW then sorry to have wasted both your and my time.

  6. I have used two different Q ride providers in SE QLD and found the standard of training to be very high.
    The focus of the pre-learners course on riding skills/ bike handling is not only mandatory but is clearly an area the instructor’s value.
    There is also a great deal of focus on rider attitude, i think this is a model that is effective in reducing risk taking, prepares riders with knowledge and skills, and encourages personal accountablity for safe riding.
    A similar model would be very effective in Car drivers if adopted as a mandatory 5 year licence refresher

  7. A major issue is that people can maintain a licence without re-testing. There are many people out there that last rode a Honda Four or even a Suzuki 250 back in the 1980s and are getting onto Harleys and Bandits. Most of these are men who believe they are good, competent riders. Most of them are deluded. At the moment there is nothing that can be done. A lot of these men are also in a club consisting of similar men and they feed off each other. They swap stories, hints and tips. Sadly most are wrong, dangerous or outdated. Stories I have heard include, ” I never use the front brake, it is dangerous”, “I never use the back brake because it is useless”. Then there those that cannot reconcile a motorcycle engine can rev to over 10,000 revs safely so trundle along at 80 kph in top gear at 3,500 revs. If they need to apply power they are three gears too high. And that is why I will never ride with a bunch of old riders even though I am 66 y.o. and a qualified rider trainer.

  8. Overall rider training in NSW presents as being satisfactory, the main issues seem to be with interpreting legislation and teaching certain basic procedure that are contra to makers’ advice. Examples are refusing to allow riders of the learner legal Can Am Ryker to be tested on these machines, which is contra to NSWRMS Guidelines. A similar situation exists with riders doing age or disability related tests on both Spyders, trikes and some sidecars. One testing Centre apparently suggests the rider hire one of their bikes. That is not much help if you are riding a specially modified 3 wheeler because you can no longer ride a 2 wheeler.

    1. That is a very interesting observation. When the Ryker was announced there was no-one in the RMS who could quantify the changes required for the MOST to account for the Ryker. I believe that has no been addressed. If you know of someone who has been refused testing you should report it to the RMS. Regarding age testing; the company I work for has tested aged riders on outfits and Spyders. Again, the centre should be reported to the RMS. A few years ago a gent had issues getting an aged test on his Spyder and contacted his local MP. It was all to do with the lack of an RMS person who could sign off the changes required. Again, I think this has now been rectified. ALL NSW training centres are governed by the same rules and follow the same teaching syllabus. There is no allowance for discretionary powers by the trainers.
      All training centres have to abide by the RMS guidelines and are often secretly monitored by the RMS without notice. On top of that all trainers have to be re-accredited on a regular basis to maintain quality assurance. Trainers not abiding by the guidelines can lose their accreditation and then need to go through the re-accreditation process at their cost (which is substantial). Most of the trainers I know have an empathy for the older riders BUT we also realise we need to be the last point to decide whether they are safe or not to be on the road. The oldest rider I have seen pass his test was 93 years old and the youngsters were just gobsmacked when he passed on zero points.

  9. Parr of the problem is the training but also another part is how fast the bikes can go. New riders should be restricted to non highways for at least a year, if you get a ticket or are in an accident it gets e tended for 2 additional years.

    If you’re on the hwy before your allowed time and get cough you loose your bike license for no less than 3 yrs.

    No court, this would be automatic.

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