Who should run PAMSP?

For many decades PennDOT has run the PA Motorcycle Safety Program, PAMSP for short.

PAMSP has traditionally been run by a single contracted “Program Administrator” selected by PennDOT who runs the day to day operations of PAMSP during 5-year contracts, teaching a single Commonwealth-wide curriculum.

That all ended in April 2020 and with the introduction of new “3rd party” contracts in 2020 (to cover the abbreviated 2020 season) and 2021-2025 seasons.

Until 2013 PAMSP was run efficiently by the same Program Administrator (MSF) but frictions that developed between MSF and PennDOT eventually led to their replacement. Since that time a number of terrible decisions that had destabilized the program, on an upswing for the last few years but with the sudden April 2020 Administration contract termination and then the implementation of the “3rd party model” most involved keep wondering how it will get worse, not better.

Perhaps it is time to have a new Department or Organization run PAMSP.

Here are a few possibilities, in no particular order.


Keeping PAMSP in PennDOT would be sustaining what has amounted to a shocking level of poor administration and nearly 10 years of compounded mistakes and missteps culminating in the 2020 and 2021-2025 “3rd party” contracts.

PennDOT lacks the expertise and oversight to continue to run PAMSP – oversight the PA Legislature as well as the Riding public, taxpayers generally, refuse to provide.

While this is the shortest path forward without significant reform, oversight, simplification, experienced management and the replacement of current key players PennDOT will continue to make the same mistakes with impunity.

When 3rd party Administrators capable of running PAMSP were permitted to do so the Program flourished.

As PennDOT got more involved, added more constraints, now making a hodge-podge of 3rd party vendors the Program has continued to suffer.

Today, with the 3rd party vendor arrangement PennDOT is now the de facto Program Administrator for the first time in 35 years.

For PennDOT to continue to manage PAMSP there have to be considerable changes made, asap.

A.B.A.T.E. of PA:

Handing over PAMSP to an unaccountable member organization would be a potentially poor decision, as well as a conflict of interest.

ABATE of PA leadership is not subject to the general election or legislative oversight. ABATE of PA is a small, private, member-only organization representing far less than 1% of all licensed PA motorcyclists and has zero experience running motorcycle safety training operations such as PAMSP.

Problems have existed with PAMSP for a long time now, problems ABATE of PA has largely been inactive in addressing. For instance in 2020 ABATE of PA did nothing effective to challenge, communicate or educate their own membership or the riding public about the 3rd party model that was introduced after the 2020 PAMSP contract cancellation – missing an essential call to action. They were silent, publicly, organizationally.

See our previous post about the “E” in ABATE of PA (here) for more details on why this failure to communicate must be resolved if ABATE of PA is to be effective.

If, as ABATE of PA has stated, has had access to review the Motorcycle Education Fund one has to ask why has there never been a public audit or review produced by them – especially given the administration issues over the last decade – and only idle threats to do so during times of PAMSP turmoil. Pennsylvania rider training has suffered for years now and “leading from behind” is no longer an adequate response.

ABATE of PA has had a ‘seat at the table’ for a long time now, remark on their own web page their ‘successes’ with regards to PAMSP, including increasing Program funding derived from PA license and permit holders. Funding provided, then increased, all without audit. ABATE of PA has been part of the problem either by being engaged or disengaged, it can’t be both.

You’ll find no public position on the new 3rd party contract format, or PAMSP generally, on the ABATE of PA web site – positions going back to 2007. So other than taking credit for some PAMSP accomplishments (marketing) they’ve no position on what has taken place to PAMSP over the last decade. This silence is deafening.

ABATE of PA has not been a neutral arbiter when it comes to curriculum companies. As had been mentioned in previous posts ABATE of PA officers and members have been antagonistic to specific program administrations and/or curriculums. Any entity administering PAMSP should demonstrate that they are able to remain impartial when selecting vendors as part of a +$3,000,000 per year budget derived from public funds.

Any organization running PAMSP should be as transparent as possible. If an organization can’t be answerable to its members it is difficult to expect them to be answerable to the public.

Should ABATE of PA run PAMSP, no.

ABATE of PA has clear organizational goals and objectives and attempting to run PAMSP would be an additional distraction at a time where ABATE of PA is facing unprecedented financial, membership, and organizational challenges.

ABATE of PA is an important resource with an opportunity almost no other organization has. Hopefully they are now focused on addressing their own issues and getting more engaged in a way that benefits PA Motorcyclists.

What ABATE of PA could – and should – do is to provide oversight for PAMSP. While it is something in the history of the Program they have not yet provided with any regularity, visibility, timeliness, effectiveness or relevance it is something they are uniquely positioned to do.

ABATE of PA can provide this oversight without legislative entanglements or mandates but as a potentially neutral 3rd party oversight organization serving as the voice of PA motorcyclists, an alliance of members aimed towards education.

If only they would – they then would be unique within the Commonwealth.
And it appears that they might be.

PA State Police:

The PA State Police (PSP) could be a viable option for PAMSP operational oversight.

The PSP organization has stated core values that align to those that people expect from PAMSP. It is also separate from PennDOT providing a natural bastion between license services and motorcycle training.

PSP is familiar with Commonwealth procurement processes, contract management, inter and intradepartmental cooperation, and managing personnel and budgets.

The PSP’s scope is Commonwealth-wide, with resources serving constituents in all PA locations and is a front line organization dealing directly with the real-world impact of motorcyclist injury and death.

PSP provides safety-oriented resources as well as coordinating training across a wide array of topics, vendors, and resources. This could provide a necessary focus on reducing accidents and fatalities, not simply a total number of students trained.

PSP could move back to the previous PAMSP model, contact a 3rd party Program Administrator with a single curriculum and ensure they are doing the best job across the Commonwealth via regular reporting, etc.

PSP is, as an organization, answerable to the legislature who maintains an oversight responsibility. With this move could come a clarified oversight process – quarterly reporting, fiduciary responsibility, etc. – that is lacking from PennDOT today.

PSP provides the best alternative to PennDOT to run PAMSP.

Total 3rd party:

With the 2020 and 2021-2025 RFP (request for proposal/contracts) PennDOT has fundamentally changed PAMSP and its +30 year operation from a single Program Administrator/single Curriculum to a “3rd party” model – multiple contracts, multiple curricula, multiple scheduling & customer management systems, etc.

PennDOT is, at this point, essentially selecting winners and losers. Any vendor can teach any curriculum at any site at any time, receiving funding from PAMSP/PennDOT via the Motorcycle Safety Fund & PAMSP to do so.

But only if PennDOT selects them.

Pennsylvania has Wawa, Rutter’s, Butters, Royal Farms, and other fueling stations across the Commonwealth. They secure their own locations, business licenses, customers, advertising, hire & train their own employees and manage their own businesses day to day in a market-based scenario.

Why not do the same with motorcyclist training in PA?

In this model, PA would allow vendors to establish their own motorcycle training using a curriculum that meets basic motorcycle training standards, like NHTSA’s, and runs as a for-profit business.

Additionally PAMSP & the Motorcycle Safety Fund, as a revenue-generating entity could potentially be disbanded which would remove the permit and license tax that the riding public incurs today and enable a market-based system to take over.

If motorcyclists would like to receive training on how to properly operate a motorcycle they can follow the same path they do when learning how to drive – locate a driving school, then visit a PennDOT location to take the driving competency test.

The exception for motorcyclists could be that at the end of their course, if successful, they receive a license waiver from the motorcyclist training provider that they can redeem at PennDOT for an M class license.

While this could be the worst option it is the elephant in the room.

Return to “Status Quo”, pre-2020:

Since the inception of PAMSP, PennDOT has contracted a single Program Administrator to actually run the day to day PAMSP Operations – Administrative, logistics, training delivery, etc. This model has worked very well with a few notable exceptions.

Not only is this method legislatively consistent (according to Title 75’s text & construction) it also reduces the operational burden on PennDOT and allows them, being outside the day to day operations, to provide oversight of Program Administration delivery, efficiency, cost consciousness, etc.

PennDOT, as with most of Pennsylvania Gov’t, does not run its own email system – they outsource it to a 3rd party operator. The reason for this is simple: There are other organizations for whom email hosting, management, and services delivery are their area of expertise. For over 30yrs this is the model PennDOT had been following with regards to PAMSP – well before the general curve of other organizations outsourcing things outside of their area of expertise.

Does Pennsylvania use 70 different email hosting companies to provide Commonwealth-wide email services to the organizations operating under it’s Information Technology umbrella? No.

Pennsylvania uses a single email provider model allowing consistency in operations, information management (virus & malware scanning, logging, availability, archiving, content control, etc.), etc. PennDOT could continue to do the same for PAMSP – leverage a single provider, as it has since the inception of the Program, delivering a uniform curriculum across the Commonwealth reducing confusion, administration load, PennDOT administrative overhead, purchasing complexities, contract management, Instructor training consistency & portability, equity in training availability.

Adding more complexity and engaging PennDOT to assume more of the day to day operations of PAMSP, who is now effectively now the Program Administrator, is not the way to run the Program and will increase complexity while decreasing transparency. The Status Quo – leveraging a 3rd party Program Administrator – has worked effectively in the past, and could work well again in the future and is consistent with the spirt, construction and text of Title 75, 7911, a.

Moving forward:

PAMSP, no matter who runs it, should receive far more oversight than it has.

Poorly run, not meeting its stated goals, consuming funds from PA taxpayers, lacking any type of financial or operational audit.

The legislature should get involved in providing oversight and review of PennDOT operations, including PAMSP.

The silence is deafening:

In 2020 PennDOT cancelled the PAMSP contract for the first time in 35 years – violating 2 PA statues in the process. The response from the Legislator, or Judiciary? Complete and utter silence.

PAMSP provides a valuable community service but, as an entitlement, it is being abused. Abused by poor management, lack of oversight and now for for-profit gain. As the Program becomes more complicated these issues will continue to worsen, but in the end no one may care about that aside from a few activists in the motorcycle community.

Who should run PAMSP? That is an open question.

Who owns PAMSP? That’s an easy question:
The absentee owners known as the PA motorcycling public.

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