For some reason, bringing up one training provider or another with regards to PAMSP (Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program) can illicit feelings of pride, of anger, disappointment or even disgust. This animus may be individual, group or organization related – or a little of both.
Given the fact that PAMSP Instructors, at their zenith, in any given year make up only 0.00416% of the PA population and 0.00015% of the US population over the 35yrs of the Program’s existence, there has been a lot of time to allow the development of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt), to enable people to play “whisper down the lane” or “telephone” with regards to PAMSP training providers for so long that you can’t tell what is fact or fiction.
We’ll break this into 5 separate posts tracking the timeline of the various Administration providers until the last post brings us to the present day. The next posts will be posted over the next few days, two a day.
Focus on the goal…
The goal of all motorcycle training providers contracted by Pennsylvania is to educate motorcyclists, which all do, using various curriculum versions and even different curriculum content and/or curricula over the years.
An added responsibility is for them to also Administer the program’s day to day operations – and do so under the observation of PennDOT.
If the Program is ever going to move forward, it’s time to be objective about motorcycle Training providers in PA, the good, the bad, and the unclear.
In March 1984 Motorcycles were added to the PA Vehicle Code (75 PA C.S. Chapter 79), which required Pennsylvania to implement a Commonwealth-wide Motorcycle safety program.
As a result of that change in the Law, PAMSP was started in 1985, a few years after the famous “Hurt Report” (Motorcycle Accident Cause Factors and Identification of Countermeasures), to train Motorcyclists across Pennsylvania.
PAMSP was born.
Why a training Provider/Program Administrator/Contractor?
Quite simply to “comprehensively and effectively administer the Program” as per the 2017 RFP #3516R09. Also as per the 2013 RFP #3512R12. Seeing a pattern here?
In other words: The Program Administration is to run the whole show… under the oversight of PennDOT. More on the last part in another post.
What does “Comprehensively and effectively administer the Program” entail?
While we look for the older contracts what it meant to Administer the Program according to the 2013 RFP included the following:
– Providing Basic & Advanced motorcycle courses
– Designing course curriculum to teach skills necessary for safe motorcycle operation
– Test students via a skills test and report those to the PennDOT mainframe.
In 2017 – 4 years later, folks – that evolved to:
– Developing on-boarding (transition) planning
– Forecast public demand for training & delivering a program to meet that demand
– Secure Instructor services to deliver training, certify Instructors
– Identify and/or develop training curriculum, deliver training, conduct & report end of course testing.
– Obtain and maintain training facilities and equipment
– Develop and/or implement promotion & publicity activities
– Provide web-based scheduling and class registration
– Provide customer service and support
– Develop and implement a Quality Assurance program
– Develop turnover plans and activities
– Report program results
Not as basic.
As you can see, the Program Administration responsibilities had grown quite a bit in a short period of time.
Administration & Training
There are two key aspects to running the PAMSP – Administration and Training.
Some Companies are better at one than the other, some companies may not be good at either but both will succeed or fail based on the quality of their day to day Administration (Program Management) and especially their Instructor Corps.
Instructors are highly trained, nationally certified, audited, constantly educated and, in classroom or on range, are responsible for decisions made on the ground regarding safety. It’s their professional duty to act accordingly, protect their students, providing a safe learning environment.
They are not pawns, these are the folks boots on the ground directly interfacing with the customer every single day. This means you can’t look simply at the number of students trained as a benchmark as to how well a company was Administering the Program.
Instructors will sign up for classes, teach students and largely ignore what is happening at an Administration level, as long as it doesn’t introduce risk to students or themselves. In other words Instructors can make an Administration look good, even if it isn’t.
Over the years there have been a number of curriculum changes, a few different curricula and a few different Program Administrators. Some of the Instructors are certified in multiple curricula, some only one. Some are recent, newly minted single curriculum Instructors or those who have left the program years ago never to teach again.
Let’s unpack this.
History of Program Administrators in PA:
1984-1993 – Indiana University – 9 years
1994-1998 – Millersville University – 5 years
1999-2003 – Vendor X – 5 years
2004-2008 – Vendor X – 5 years
2009-2013 – Vendor X – 5 years
2014-2017 – Vendor Y – 4 years
2018-2020 – Vendor Z – 3 years
The names of the most recent vendors won’t be used, just keep in mind the common denominator isn’t the Program Administrator…
The Olden days – 1984-1993:
Honestly even though there are some PAMSP Instructors who have been around for a long time most Instructors, Students and/or Administrators don’t recall the period from 1984-1998. In fact, many may not had even been born yet.
In the future, we’ll create a retrospective but for now we’ll just call these the “Olden days” and consider it a time of milk and roses (or a time of “Guns n’ Roses”…).
During these years the program would continue to build, teaching upwards of 20,000 students a year, using a small centrally located Administrative staff augmented by a few staff Mechanics, Trainers, distributed Site Coordinators, Assistant Site Coordinators, Stamp Holders, Examiners, 400-500 Instructors and ~1,200 motorcycles.
We’ll get into exactly how the Program “works”, day to day, in another post.
The Administrator during this time was also the curriculum provider, having started in California in 1973, and would implement curriculum updates a few times over the 15 years they were running the Program. The Instructors were updated/trained as needed. RCP (Instructor Training classes) were run on a regular basis, regimented, well organized, but for many very stressful.
PDW (Professional Development Workshops) were held on an annual basis, indoors, in a seminar format, generally in large hotel conference centers central to Instructors across the Commonwealth.
Instructors could expect an annual QA (Quality Assurance) visit as well as T-Shirts and Hats at the start of the year, each year.
Customer service scores, derived from returned customer surveys, were released on an annual basis creating a friendly competition between sites. Yearly training statistics were released, per site as well as across the Program.
By the end of the term of the Administrator in 2013, Policies and Procedures and Code of Conduct were voluminous, clearly defined and comprehensive; training, while challenging, was conducted on a regular basis and kept up with demand and attrition.
The Program was well staffed with a large number of experienced Instructors and a steady stream of new Instructors was in the pipeline. Instructors were professional, generally, and riding high having one of the best Programs in the Country.
There were some issues – for instance new Instructors may have found themselves locked out of training sites that had become fiefdoms, a rumored gap in insurance coverage for the program/instructors, personality conflicts existed, training was seen by some as too much of an attempt to wash people out but they were the kind of things that Students would never be exposed to.
You may be asking yourself why, if things were running so smoothly, PennDOT would want to change providers. You’d be right, and it’s one of the reasons that more oversight and scrutiny should be brought to bear on PennDOT and their oversight of the PA Motorcycle Safety Program.
By the end of the 15 year run of the incumbent Program Administrator/Curriculum Provider, it was obvious that someone at PennDOT wanted to make a change.
And change was coming to PAMSP.
Next: PAMSP training providers –
Let’s try to be objective: 2014-2017 (Part 2 of 3)
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