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Off-road tests cause test centre chaos

The DSA have in the last few days confirmed the planned off-road exercises WILL go ahead next year as scheduled.

Unfortunately, they’ve also finally admitted they won’t have the “supercentre” sites to carry them out.

So, they are apparently looking for:

– short term “motorcycle only” sites out of town centres

These will presumably be a bit of tarmac or concrete in some farmer’s field, with no luxury facilities like toilets – probably just bare shelter from the elements! Bizarrely, the DSA are actually putting a positive spin on this by claiming that the ride from the off road site in the country to the town to complete the test with some urban riding will be valuable because trainees often don’t get trained on rural roads.

or….

– use the training school’s premises – use school playgrounds and the like on Saturdays and Sundays!

Both of which of course will make it a 2 part test!!

Quite honestly it’s well past time that this was kicked firmly into touch and back to the EU as “unworkable”. It might be fine in a rural French town where they can and will put a concrete pad down a mile from the town centre in a field but in the UK with our planning regulations prohibiting just about anything and everything? I’d love to know how far along the other EU countries have got in implementing this.

I don’t know that much about planning but I seem to recall some legislation that went through a year or two ago about restricting the use of farmers’ fields for motorsport activities. And I’m pretty sure that the neighbours will kick up a stink about bikes zooming round the local school playground all weekend. Which leaves the Approved Training Body (ATB) site. Unfortunately many have a site barely bigger than the CBT minimum which is far too small for the exercises proposed.

If planning regs can be worked round, the “out of town centres” option might work, but the cost and logistic problems for training schools and trainees clearly haven’t been thought through – or more likely ignored as “not the DSA’s problem”.

The ATB will have to provide bikes and an instructor to get the trainee to the off-road test site. Whilst this may not be a problem if the off-road site isn’t too far from the school, and the on-road test follows straight on, if the test becomes a two-parter, then it’s going be a significant extra burden. Not least, given the DSA’s awful booking system, there’s a fair chance that the ATB will be unable to conduct back to back tests with trainees, so if the school isn’t going to bite the bullet and send the instructor up with the trainee 1:1, then there will be a lot of hanging around for both trainees and instructors – more time and expense.

Then there’s the examiner’s time – how many are going to want to do overtime on a weekend? Not to mention the fact that I suspect it would be near impossible to keep up with the throughput of on-road tests if the off-road test is conducted on just a couple of Saturday mornings from a school playground? Result – test delays and waiting lists on the up.

One solution would be to issue a “CBT” style card to the DAS instructor to carry out the off-road manoueuvres where the sites are big enough – after all, we already do that for CBT and are check-tested on whether or not we can carry out the tests to the correct standard. The only qualification would be that the DSA would have to make sure the training school has facilities to cope safely (and drop the radar speed gun perhaps!). That would actually get the cuckoo out of the DSA’s hat and devolve responsibility onto the training school – so perhaps I better keep quiet on that one?

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