Can PAMSP be run competitively, with innovation. Yes.
For the Program to run well it needs minimal oversight and day to day engagement from PennDOT, less focus on onerous reporting, chasing reimbursements, contract management, etc. and ability to focus its energies on doing what it is supposed to be doing – setting the stage to train Students (and the Instructors to train them).
If it wants feedback on how the Program is running, ask the Instructors.
Better yet, build a council of them, 5 per Region, and meet 2-4 times a year.
Who runs PAMSP?
What you may not realize is that PennDOT doesn’t run the PA Motorcycle Safety Program – they select a contractor, an Administration Company, to run the PAMSP. The way PennDOT does this is by writing an RFP (Request for Proposal) they put out to bid.
While RFP aren’t always the greatest way to select vendors every 5 years or so PennDOT puts out to bid the opportunity for Program Administrators to run PAMSP. The RFP will eventually become the contract, with some addendum, and during the RFP period companies will review it and if they meet the criteria, and want to bid on it, they put their name in the hat.
Along with that bid comes the two sides of the business – Administration and Training.
Keep in mind that in the last decade PAMSP has now had (3) of the largest Motorcycle program administration organizations in the Country service the contract which provided multiple versions of curricula as well as multiple vendor curricula.
While the program can be run well, it hasn’t always been.
Administration – the key to keeping things running:
The Administration side of the house manages the central scheduling, finances, HR, leases & other agreements with sites and other vendors. There are a ton of moving parts in the PAMSP across 3 Regions, +70 sites, and all of them need to be managed – in addition to managing the relationship, expectations and demands of PennDOT.
While the RFP mandates certain positions with regards to staffing it’s up to the Administrator to select and organize the staff and their work. As years have gone by and the PAMSP contracts have become more complicated and the Administration overhead has grown.
In 2007 the Program had 9 full time staff. The 2017 RFP lists 6 full time staff – before adding 2 more positions, listing office staff, customer service representatives, mechanics and any additional staff required.
The incumbent Administrator from 1999-2013 wasn’t perfect but they had a lot of time to get things right. As an organization they had a very long tenure, focused staff, sound Instructors, found a cadence, delivered a centralized model with cooperative decentralization at a site level and kept things running.
Until they were replaced, by PennDOT, with another vendor who administered the Program from 2014-2017.
The key to blowing things up: Poor Administration
AKA: Why 2017-2018 really, really matters.
We’re going to mention 2017 many times on this site when referring to what happened in 2020. It’s that important.
While the 1999-2013 Administrator left PennDOT with a well running program the next Administrator did not do as well. At all. By the time 2017 rolled around the Program was in disarray.
The Administration problems had impacted the Training side of the equation, creating issues with sites, Trainers leaving (or dismissed), issues with staff, and departing Instructors had decimated the program from the inside out.
This is what the 2018-2020 Provider inherited.
Both sides of the house, damaged severely.
And on top of that in 2018 the new Administrator wasn’t just taking over the Administration and Training – they were bringing in a new curricula as well.
2018: The ripple effect of 2014-2017
It just so happens the Administrative tenure of the most recent provider was cut short so we’ll never know how things would have worked out as PennDOT decided to cancel the contract – but 2020 was shaping up to be the best year ever in quite a while. Something, unfortunately, we’ll never know.
2018 opened with a lot of enthusiasm as a new Administrator, with experience assisting California move its Motorcycle Program from one curricula to another in a very short time, was coming to Pennsylvania to take over PAMSP Administration, Training and bring in their Curricula. They were excited, but many Instructors were apprehensive given their previous experience the last few years.
Was the 2017 RFP great.
Was it full of onerous additions, liquidated damages and other punitive measures?
Did the new Administrator have very little time to get the 2017 season organized.
You are probably asking yourself “Why?” to the questions above.
The short Answer:
The longer Answer:
PennDOT and a few others got together and put together the 2017 RFP with teeth in it to attempt to prevent another 2014-2017. In doing so it took longer, made the RFP more unpalatable and would have a lasting impact on the operation of the Administrator from 2018 on.
2018: Rebuilding Administration
With new staff the Administration company started rebuilding the Program Administration, the “Office” in 2018 – with just a few months until the training season was to open!
Keep in mind that at the same time they were also bringing in new curricula (a program first) and setting up Instructor training to teach it – there were NO certified Instructors in PA when they took over – setting up a new office in Harrisburg, relocating people to PA, trying to inventory all of the sites, get ready for the launch of a new season, print range cards and training books, arrange all of the HR and other infrastructure to manage staff, deal with PennDOT – a massive undertaking with only a few months to open the season.
In 2018 the Administrator brought back the good bones of the program and started to organize the field for training. This was widely accepted by the Instructors who had previously been with the Program, a draw for some of them to sign up with the new Company.
Communications would suffer through staffing changes and growing pains but this was worked on in 2019 and again in 2020. The contact information for Program Management, Trainers, Regional Managers and Site Coordinators were all posted from day one, information moved from field to Office via various avenues (chain of command or direct). Newsletters and other mechanisms were rolled out, a content management system, etc. Still, improvements were coming for 2020.
Payroll, previously administered by an outside staffing firm, was replaced by the Administrator, providing a raise for all of the Instructors. Initially only 1099 employment was to be offered but after hearing from the Instructors that they wanted another option the Administration company came up with a W2 option and administered payroll for all of the Instructors.
Instructor Training was arranged and new Instructor Trainers were trained by out of State contractors while PA Instructors were being trained. New HR paperwork and training manuals were being rolled out and again while there were initially issues with logistics they would be addressed in 2018-2019, and by the time 2020 had arrived nearly 30 Instructors were already being trained before the season had even started and Training staff was present in all regions, offering expanded Instructor training opportunities.
Scheduling was reverted to the field again, a distributed model that leverages contacts at each site to act as a force multiplier for the Office. By 2019 enough sites had Instructors and Site Coordinators that schedules were posted and being staffed in advance, the process becoming more efficient into 2020.
The Staff & Instructor feedback was being delivered to the Office as well as to the Administrator HQ in California and additional changes were being made to address any outstanding issues – while planning to roll out an update to the Beginner Riding Clinic curriculum in 2020.
The 2018-2020 Administrator wasn’t the 2014-2017 Administrator.
They listened, they cared, they made changes, the admitted when they made mistakes.
They wanted to do the best for the Instructors and the Students.
With more time, and a little more help from the PAMSP Instructors, and PennDOT, perhaps they would have been remembered a little more fondly for their efforts.
Site Coordinators – the key to keep Training running
Think of PAMSP sites as a large national burger chain.
You have +70 sites – many where the seating is in a totally different location from where the food is cooked.
You have 250 or more employees who can work at any site, at any time.
You have 250 or more employees and they set their schedules. Some may only work in April, some only work on Saturdays, etc. You don’t get a say.
This is how PAMSP works.
You have the main office, Corporate HQ of PAMSP.
You have classroom sites where students are trained by an Instructor using AV equipment.
You have Range sites where students ride motorcycles – keep in mind that riding sites are not always co-located with the classroom.
Classrooms can occur on weekday nights, weekdays, weekends, etc. – on separate days from Riding. Some classrooms alternate on the same day as their associated Riding portions.
Instructors can work classroom, range or both.
At any site.
Teaching any one of 6 types of class.
Sometimes, multiple classes at the same time, at the same site.
It’s organized chaos.
So how does it work?
At a site level you have a Site Coordinator.
What is a Site Coordinator?
A Site Coordinator is usually an Instructor, but doesn’t have to be, who runs a site – they manage the day to day relationship with the site owner(s), make sure the site is properly stocked, deal with any down motorcycle issues, get fuel for the classes, mentor Instructors, address any site level issues, double check all of the classroom/range paperwork (the “Packet”) & sends it to the office and, most importantly:
Handles the scheduling of the site, all of its classes and Instructors.
The Site Coordinator works with the Regional Manager (there are 3, and we don’t want to underscore how important they are) and through them to the Office.
The Site Coordinator is the bridge from the Field to the Office, Training to Administration.
Why is the Site Coordinator critical to running PAMSP well?
Look to 2014-2017 for the answer to that question.
That Administrator got rid of the Site Coordinator position.
Sacked all of them. Assistant Site Coordinators as well.
Lets say you have 60 sites, 20 per Region.
Normally: 20 Site Coordinators, 3 Regional Managers.
2014-2017: 0 Site Coordinators, 3 Regional Managers.
60 less people, or, 3 people now doing the work of 60.
They went from Site Coordinators as a force multiplier to forcing more work onto Regional Managers. And it failed.
The Site Coordinator should treat the site like their home.
They want Instructors to work there.
They want the site owner to want them there.
They want their equipment to function properly.
They want students to train there.
In order for students to train at their site they need to schedule Instructors to cover classes. Classes that the Site Coordinator has set in the schedule nearly a year earlier. A schedule coordinated with the Office who has contracted with the site and works with the site owner and the Site Coordinator to ensure the days selected are open for classes.
The Site Coordinator takes the blank schedule and schedules courses at their site – classroom and range – for the entire year, sends that back to the office. Once approved that schedule is then sent to Instructors for review.
At that time the Instructors select their classes, report back to the Site Coordinator who keeps track of who is working when and then reports that to the office via the Regional Manager/RM Assistant who populates the central scheduling system.
When enough Instructors are scheduled the class is open for public registration.
Without Site Coordinators the system is incredibly difficult to manage – think of them as the burger chain store managers. Without them, chaos.
2020 and on
As we mentioned earlier the 2017 RFP was not a good contract.
It was within PennDOT’s ability to amend it, at any time.
They chose not to.
They also chose later to cancel it.
The impact of 2017 will continue to reverberate.
2020 was a good opportunity to move past that, even with COVID, and continuous improvement would continue to be introduced to improve Program Administration.
Site Coordinators were back, Instructors were being trained and gaining confidence in the Program, again 2020 would see more Instructors scheduled for more classes than in recent memory.
PAMSP was on the upswing again.
Yes, PAMSP can be centrally run, effectively and efficiently.
It just takes the right Administrator, with the right amount of time, an ability to listen, the assistance of the staff & Instructors, and perhaps the benefit of a more amenable contract, to do it.