Changes to motorcycle training are needed
Professional advanced motorcycle trainers are pretty hard to find, after all, there are less than 2,000 professional instructors in the training industry. The instructors are spread around the country operating out of around 500 Approved Training Bodies (ATBs).
It is estimated that probably less than three-quarters of instructors are advanced qualified. Even more startling, is the fact that there are ATB owners running businesses who do not hold any advanced qualifications at all! What does that say about a professional training body and the motorcycle training industry, to someone who is looking in from the outside?
Take solicitors for example, in their industry, there are tens of thousands of them throughout the country. They charge between £100-£450 per hour, they are professional, give advice to customers and charge a lot of money for their services.
Ask this question
Motorcycle trainers have a similar role, they give advice and professional information. So what’s the main difference between them?
The answer is, if the motorcycle instructor makes a mistake, it could be life-threatening to their student.
The other and more important difference is the qualification process. A solicitor takes years to qualify and spends many more learning their trade. Unfortunately, in some cases within the motorcycle industry, instructors have become qualified in less than 2 weeks of training and are then let loose to train to pay customers!
There is a world of difference in the qualification process between a professional solicitor and a professional motorcycle trainer. In fact, the professional motorcycle trainer tag is hardly worth its name.
Well paid jobs demand a high level of education, knowledge and understanding. You can argue that being a motorcycle instructor is hard work, demanding and an extremely important job but the qualification process in comparison to corporate life is worlds apart.
I have heard educated people state that becoming a motorcycle instructor was harder than doing a degree. That’s the level of effort required to become a proficient trainer. Not just doing it as a hobby or because someone fancies riding a bike for a living.
Trainers not bikers!
In order for an ATB to be able to offer a higher level of professional education, there has to be some bigger changes to the qualification process to become a motorcycle instructor.
This is not to say that all instructors are unqualified to teach (in other disciplines), but there are a vast number of trainers who are ‘bikers’ and want to extend their hobby to become ‘instructors.’
On the whole, ‘want to be instructors’ undergo a very short qualification period and are at the coal face before they know it. So the industry ends up with the worst instructors training the most vulnerable road users. In many cases, they can train 4 students in the CBT training area, and then take 2 at a time on the road.
Learner riders, who are just starting out, really do need good, thorough, proper, and professional education. Newly down-trained instructors have the most important role to play and are the least equipped and experienced to deliver such an arduous training program.
GET Regular RIDING TIPS
Sign up to get Riding Tips and advice directly to your inbox
Stack ‘em high, sell it cheap!
In many cases throughout the country, locally down trained instructors are expected to train multiple learner riders during a CBT. They may be qualified but are certainly not experienced enough to do this with their lack of knowledge and experience.
An unscrupulous ATB is using old outdated training methods to train their trainers. They use high student to instructor ratios to turn training into a numbers game. They prefer to ‘stack ’em high, sell it cheap’, as their preferred business model.
Corners will inevitably be cut to deliver a CBT within a day to four inexperienced riders. Safety will not be the first priority if the instructor needs to get all four students through the CBT with one day’s tuition (limited at that).
We must clean up our act
In order to be professional and give the best service possible, the motorcycle training industry must clean up its act. Proper and thorough training programs should be given to all instructors and a robust and strict induction strategy should be applied and adhered to.
A longer and more thorough instructor training structure must be used in order to get the right trainers into the industry and only then can ATB’s start to improve the standard. This is because it is almost impossible to reinvest into a business that charges low training fees to entice customers through their door and not on their reputation of providing high training standards to learner riders.
By allowing substandard trainers to continue and training schools that don’t have customer safety at their forefront, some training standards will remain low.
Where to start
Outlining a structured approach at entry level for new instructors, would be a great start. A more robust and proper induction criteria (this is on the cards) with better guidelines, could pave the way for a better future within the motorcycle training industry.
For new training schools, having a good Business Plan and model would help those who are about to enter the arena. Having a short, medium and long term strategy and better qualifications to open a training school should be mandatory.
Showing a commitment to do well with the proper credentials will ensure a good start for any new ATB (not starting with a couple of old tatty bikes and working from a pub car park just to get going.) Nor delivering training from a shipping container plonked at the side of a car park.
This is not the training standard that should be experienced by learner riders. But these organisations exist, they set up and disappear regularly and do not elevate the profile of the motorcycle training industry.
It is demanding work
Being a motorcycle instructor is a very demanding role with a whole list of qualities needed by them. They need to get a rapport with their students very quickly, and understand their training needs in order to formulate a training plan (off the cuff). They have to read the students’ behaviour to maintain their confidence.
They have to be understanding, supportive, psychologists and much more. Instructors also need to ride their own bike safely and look after others, who are only in radio contact – they do not have dual controls, like car instructors do. They need to know all the legislation, rules and regulations to reach the standard required, and what route learner riders must take to get there.
There are a lot more skills required than just teaching someone to ride a motorcycle! The days of the ‘hobby motorcycle instructor’ are disappearing quickly. Old school training methods that are archaic have no place in the future. Client Centred Training is required and a much longer CBT program is needed for the majority of learner riders.
Learner riders are responsible for a lot of accidents and incidents on our busy and congested roads. For every accident that is reported, there are ten or more that are not. That’s because people pick up their bike and repair it without logging the incident.
In summary, the industry needs to change if it wants to improve. Most ATB owners have never been business people before starting a motorcycle training business. They have to do everything, from washing the bikes to booking the tests, administration to actual training and much more. The stress and strains of running a small business can be overwhelming and very difficult.
But whilst all this is going on they are not focusing on running the actual business. They might not have the ability or time to upskill and educate their trainers with regular development training days. It is a difficult game to be in, with influences from outside affecting everything within their training school.
The reality is that there are some good, highly skilled motorcycle instructors out there, with a real passion to teach learner riders. It is a tough job and if the training standard is raised there is no reason why this shouldn’t be recognised within the industry with better employment conditions for instructors.
There are some still with substandard facilities, providing substandard training. They are incapable or unwilling to change or raise their game, they should stick to motorcycle riding as a hobby and not a career and struck off the register.