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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
More than a few new Spyder owners are experiencing some trouble finding a suitable three-wheeler training course, or getting their Spyders through the state licensing test. I realize that most of us aren't in this to be troublemakers or political activists, but for those who are interested, I'd like to open a discussion about how we got where we are, and what needs to be done to make it reasonably easy to get a license to drive a Spyder.

Let's note that for many years the Motorcycle Safety Foundation has been the primary "rider training" organization in the USA. The MSF is funded by the major motorcycle manufacturers, and tasked with developing training courses, certifying instructors ("coaches") and helping states to set up their motorcyclist training programs. The buzzword of yesterday was that the industry wanted to "invest" in rider training.

The MSF has provided curricula to the state and private safety programs, under contract. And for many years, "motorcycle safety" meant taking one of the MSF courses from a state or private training organization.

Several years ago, the MSF decided to get into the training business--not just developing courses and certifying instructors, but actually delivering the training courses. The key to doing that was to take over a state's motorcycle safety program. For instance, in Pennsylvania, the MSF first hired the PA coordinator, then (with all the numbers in hand) submitted a bid to PA to adminster PA's motorcycle training program. The MSF won the bid, and ever since has been conducting training and managing fees in PA.

One problem with that is that the MSF has historically been opposed to three-wheeled motorcycles. The training curricula has always been specific to two-wheelers. It's not that a Spyder or sidecar driver can't learn something from taking a two-wheeler course, but that some skills (countersteering for instance) are not appropriate for three-wheelers, and in some situations could be dangerous.

The main reason the MSF has not (until recently) developed any three-wheeler training is that their agenda is to support the needs of the major manufacturers, none of whom made or marketed three-wheeled motorcycles. (except for a brief period of three-wheeled ATVs that were subsequently banned because of safety concerns)

While the MSF was discouraging three-wheeler training, the Sidecar Safety Program developed a novice sidecar course, and this course was subsequently adopted by the Evergreen Safety Council, redesigned to accomodate trikes, and renamed the "Sidecar/Trike Education Program." The S/TEP is administered nationwide by the ESC, with certified instructors, on a parallel basis to the MSF curricula.

BRP is really the first major manufacturer to be making and marketing three-wheeled motorcycles. And, with BRP pressure, the MSF has developed what they call the "3BRC"--a three-wheeled version of the "Basic RiderCourse" used by most states for novices.

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Because state motorcycle safety programs used MSF curricula almost exclusively, many state safety administrators have developed the attitude that they didn't need to offer any other training. Many administrators were shocked by a presentation a few years ago, to learn that the curricula and information provided by the MSF was specific to two-wheeled motorcycles, and might even be dangerous for the operator of a three-wheeler.

Some state administrators realized that they were not serving all the motorcyclists who might wish training--specifically they were not offering training for anyone with physical limitations. And this put them at odds with the federal Citizens With Disabilities act. Some adminstrators decided to look into three-wheeler training; others dug in their collective heels and resisted any implications that they might be in violation of federal law.

Virginia decided early to incorporate three-wheeler training into it's state program. The S/TEP is offered by the Motorcycle Safety League of Virginia, Inc. (MSLVI) as a subsidized course, parallel to the two-wheeler training. Washington State also incorporated the S/TEP into it's programs. And other states have either recognized the S/TEP or are still considering how to handle three-wheeler training and licensing.

So, today, trike traiing is still the exception rather than the rule. The more bureaucratic motorcycle safety administrators don't want to hear about the Spyder, or that operating skills for three-wheelers are different from two-wheelers, or that all motorcyclists who pay taxes or license surcharges should be offered suitable training.

The MSF finally released their new "3BRC" just last year, so it hasn't been adopted by all the state programs. Many state administrators are still in a bit of shock that the MSF has finally developed a three-wheeler course, or that they should start figuring out how to offer it.

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
For the benefit of those Spyder owners who have not been involved in motorcycling, let's note why rider training is such an important issue:

Over the years, most states passed laws that allowed a rider training course completion card to serve as a waiver for the skills test. In other words, once you had passed the test at the end of an approved rider training course, you could take your completion card to the Department of Licensing, perhaps take just a simple written test, and get your license. (or motorcycle endorsement)

And, especially in states where training was administered by the same people who had developed the curricula, it was in the best interests of the system to make the tests simple enough that only a real klutz could fail. That provided many newly-licensed riders to the manufacturers, paying back the industry for their "investment."

The state motorcycle safety administrators almost all belong to a national organization, the State Motorcycle Safety Administrators Association, which holds an annual conference and maintains records. That's handy for Spyder owners, since you can go to State Listing -- National Association of State Motorcycle Safety Administrators and find the contact for the adminstrator in your state.

You can also find other important players in your state motorcycle safety infrastructure, complete with contacts. (which would otherwise be difficult to find in a state's safety web site)

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
To sum up the above, it's not easy to get a license endorsement to drive a Spyder in many states. If you currently have a motorcycle license, you're probably good to drive a Spyder. But stay aware of the laws, so that if your state adopts a three-wheeler law, you can keep your license valid for driving a Spyder as well as a bike.

If you are having trouble getting trained or licensed, be aware that many states are just beginning to realize they have an obligation to deal with drivers/riders of three-wheelers, and that training and licensing needs to deal with the needed skills and knowledge.

I suggest that you first approach your state motorcycle safety program and attempt to register for a training course, either the 3BRC or the S/TEP--definitely NOT the "BRC" for bikes. Completion of the course should get you your license endorsement, plus some added knowledge and skills practice.

If your state subsidizes rider training, request a subsidized course (to reduce your course fees to be comparable to a standard two-wheeler course) Expect the training site to provide the student practice machine--in your case a small trike or sidecar rig, but definitely NOT a bike. You want approved, certified, insured three-wheeler training with a certified three-wheeled instructor, not some cobbled-together brainstorm.

If you can't get anywhere with your safety program, contact the state motorcycle safety administrator and discuss your options. I know of one state where the administrator contacted a specific DOL office and verbally ordered them to allow an S/TEP completion card as a test waiver for one specific individual. Sort of a win-win-win for everyone involved.

So, the going may be tricky at the moment, but the newer Spyder owners will be setting the stage for others, who hopefully will find it easier in the future.

I am in the process of tracking down the PA state administrator and the BRP manager responsible for training/licensing liaison, and will report back on what I learn.

pmdave
 
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