It’s past time to audit the PAMSP

The Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program (PAMSP) was created by legislation in 1984, started operation in 1985 and after 35 years of central operation at over 70 sites across the Commonwealth will be disrupted by the “3rd party” training vendor contract change released by PennDOT in 2020 and 2021.

Comprised of ~500 Instructors at it’s high point, training over 20,000 students a year PAMSP was considered a model of Motorcyclist safety training programs across the US. Highly trained Instructors, central management, single curricula, a well maintained fleet of training motorcycles & training locations.

Due to poor administration & management of the Program by PennDOT instructor numbers dwindled to the low 100s at the end of 2017 (given the mandatory change in curriculum 2018 started with nearly 0 certified instructors) and fewer trained students than the previous years, 13,000 in 2017. In under a decade there were (3) different Administration companies, (2) different curricula and (4) different RFP. Yet there is one constant – PennDOT.

PA’s “Motorcycle Safety Education Account”:

PAMSP is unique within the Commonwealth as it is self-funded.

Monies are collected from every Motorcycle permit, M class license & M class license renewal Commonwealth-wide and put in to an account – the Motorcycle Safety Education Account or MESA – to fund PAMSP. In this PAMSP is funded by motorcyclists, for motorcyclists, throughout the lifetime of their permit/licensure issue/renew cycle.

As part of Title 75, § 7902. Definitions:
“”Motorcycle Safety Education Account.” A restricted receipts account established from fees assessed by this chapter.”


§ 7905. Restricted receipts account.
“The department shall deposit all moneys received from the additional fees collected under this chapter in a restricted receipts fund, which shall be known as the Motorcycle Safety Education Account, and such moneys shall be applied to the costs incurred in administering and conducting motorcycle safety education programs.”

How the “Motorcycle Safety Education Account” (MESA) is funded:

As previously mentioned MESA is funded via the contribution from “original issuance of a Pennsylvania Motorcycle (Class M) Learner’s Permit, initial Class M License and replacement of a Class M License” by all Pennsylvania permit and license holders.

The contribution from each event used to be $2. In 2002 via Act 114 this amount, per event, was increased from $2 to $5.

  • If you acquire your M class permit, $5 goes to MESA.
  • Once you acquire your M class license, $5 goes to MESA.
  • Every PA license renewal (including an M class, every 4yrs), $5 goes to MESA.
  • Receive your license at age 25 and by age 75 you’ve contributed over $70.

Extrapolate that over the life of the average number of PA riders and that is potentially over $59M contributed to MESA!

There is no “free” lunch, kind of:

In PA many like to say “motorcyclist safety training is free”.

While PAMSP classes are provided at no direct cost to the potential or licensed motorcyclist at the place where training services are rendered (for PA Residents) training is not free.

The market cost, for Beginner, Intermediate & Advanced motorcyclist training (compared with taking comparable commercially available classes) would be over $1,000 if purchased elsewhere – and in PA you can take advantage of motorcyclist safety/skills training as often as you like, year after year.

As a relatively small number of registered motorcyclists actually take advantage of PAMSP motorcyclist safety/skills training a few riders have the potential to leverage a very well funded service, provided to them via the motorcyclist community.

Permit fee revenue generation (estimated):

Using $5 as a benchmark there are, on average since 2016, 113K M class permits issued per year. In a single year that generates ~$565K. Over the 5 year life of an administration contract that is, without permit renewals (re-issues, renewals are no longer legally possible) creating duplicates, around $3M over the course of the typical administration contract.

License fee revenue generation (estimated):

According to PennDOT there are, on average since 2010 ~849K, licensed motorcyclists in Pennsylvania. Those riders initially generated $4.2M in revenue. Every (4) years those same riders generate another $4.2M in revenue.

Total potential PAMSP revenue:

Not including funding from other sources, such as Federal or Commonwealth Grants, that would have generated, using the average number of licensed riders and permit holders, in excess of $27M of training revenue has been generated in the last 10 years, an average of +$2.7M per year for Commonwealth motorcycle training.

If you look to the PA Department of Revenue you can find a 2018-2019 report (Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Revenue, Report of Revenue and Receipts) that shows “Motorcycle Safety Education Program” receipts of $2.76M for 2018 and $3.03M for 2019, ending March of 2019.

This is a huge amount of money to be applied to a single task – and is allocated on a yearly basis with no apparent external public oversight – although there is supposed to be a PennDOT resource responsible for this, at an internal level.

2020 PAMSP revenue:

You might be thinking:
“What about 2020 when there is no PA Motorcycle Safety Program?

Funny you should ask.
There IS a Motorcycle Safety Program in 2020 – it is defined by law.
While PennDOT had cancelled the Administration contract – the Program still exists… and they can still spend money…

PennDOT may offer little or no classes in 2020 but motorcycle permit and license fees have already generated $381K from PA Motorcyclists to add to to the Motorcycle Safety Education Account …

PAMSP training budget – from the Governor:

While we can estimate the amount of revenue generated each year by contributions to the “Motorcycle Safety Education Account” (MESA) we can’t estimate the amount the Commonwealth Budgets for Motorcyclist Safety/Skills training.

In the PA budget office’s “Executive Budget” report we can see that in excess of $5M was budgeted for Motorcyclist safety/skill training in 2006-2007, current numbers from the same report after that point are unavailable (they are not included in the report).

In 1996-1997 the PAMSP budget was $2.5M.
In 1997-1998 the PAMSP budget was $2.75M.
In 1999-2000 the PAMSP budget was $3.0M
In 2006-2007 the PAMSP budget was $5.5M

PAMSP yearly expenditures, actual vs budgeted:

How much does PAMSP actually spend per year?
Don’t ask the Budget office…

If you are looking at the PA Budget site for the information they stopped posting the “Motor License Fund” “Motorcycle Safety Education” budget/expenditure information in the 2007-2008 time frame. Then it was around $5.5M.

If you are looking to find how much PAMSP actually spent you need to go back to 2006-2007 when the program spent $4.44M.

Reviewing PennDOT reports while they favor marketing their motorcycle training ‘accomplishments’ missing are any facts and figures about PAMSP expenditures.

Given that the “Motor License Fund” had been raided to pay for other departmental costs what does that mean to PAMSP? Who is reviewing that? Unknown.

How training vendors are paid:

In the past RFP vendors were paid a fixed price per student based on the number of students trained within a certain period by class type plus any additional expenses.

The additional expenses to be factored into the per student cost (from the most recent RFP) include “Items required to deliver motorcycle training, including but not limited to any costs associated with curriculum (instructor curriculum certification, fees, materials, etc.), instructor salary and overhead, insurance, supplemental equipment purchases, storage of equipment, new instructor training, program promotion, customer service, scheduling, storage of equipment, quality assurance activities including reporting, monthly reporting, end of contract reporting, incident management and reporting and any other costs not enumerated below.”.

In 2021 the reimbursement is essentially the same as in years past, with an additional 3% allowances for items such as Instructor Certifications, motorcycle fuel, facilities rentals & motorcycle maintenance.

It’s audit time:

There is a PennDOT employee who is supposed to be managing MESA expenditures, an entire Budget office that used to at least include annual total PAMSP expenditures yet there are no published reports relative to PAMSP expenditures on a regular basis made available to the public.

ABATE of PA says that they have access to the MESA expenditures but there appear to be no public audits or reports available to illustrate they’ve provided any financial oversight to PAMSP, especially over the last 10 years which have been among the most consequential in the history of PAMSP – and when the expenditure numbers have fallen off of the annual Executive budget report.

Auditing PAMSP should not be a threat made when things are not going well or to be used as political leverage but an ongoing effort made by an organization with oversight as a service to the community, commensurate with their mission and access to this information.

Why no one in the legislature is paying attention to PAMSP is both an educational problem (many Legislators simply aren’t aware of PAMSP, how it works and/or is funded) and a size/scope of Gov’t problem.

Most legislators contacted have no idea what PAMSP is or where it receives its money from. None have demanded an audit or passed a law to ensure that this is done on a regular basis. For a +$60M program you’d think they would know better.

Moving forward:

There should be regular operational and yearly summary audits of the PAMSP MESA account. This will be even more important with the PennDOT initiated change from a single service provider to multiple contracts, multiple vendors across the Commonwealth, a more complicated scheme of reimbursements, purchases, and expenses.

This not only increases complexity and potential number of PennDOT employees but also increases the risk of illicit practices and/or errors which may cost the Program additional money for decreasing returns.

In Pennsylvania, Motorcyclists pay to train other motorcyclists – but they have little say in how the program is run, or how the money is spent. Auditing may not change how the Program operates but it can certainly provide a level of transparency that is sorely lacking.

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