Skip to main content

This blog post was published under the 2015-2024 Conservative Administration

Our proposals to improve motorcycle training: a detailed look

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Learning to ride, Motorcycle test, Motorcycle trainers

Improving motorcycle training

We've launched a consultation today (30 December 2016) on proposals to improve the way that motorcycle training works in Great Britain.

I want to explain more about the proposals, and what they might mean to you and your pupils.

This post is a little longer than usual, but I thought it would be helpful to look at each of the proposals in turn.

1. Improving the instructor qualification process

Illustration of a motorcyclist with a 'thumbs up'

A single assessment for instructors

We’re proposing that we replace the current compulsory basic training (CBT) and direct access scheme (DAS) instructor assessments with a single assessment. Instructors would be able to provide training for all categories of motorcycle after passing it.

Having a single assessment may also allow us to offer regional assessments in the future, rather than just at Cardington.

If you’re an existing down-trained instructor, you’d be allowed to continue providing CBT for a time. We’d decide the time limit after the consultation.

An assessment to be allowed to down-train instructors

We’re proposing to offer a bespoke half-day assessment for instructors who want to down-train other instructors.

If you’re already a DVSA-assessed instructor, you’d be allowed to continue down-training without taking the new assessment. We may need to review if we put a time limit on this.

An assessment for down-trained instructors

Currently, down-trained instructors can provide CBT instruction for the 4 years that their instructor certificate is valid. They can renew it, providing that they meet the relevant requirements and criteria.

We’re proposing to reduce the length of time down-trained instructors can provide training. After this period had passed, they'd need to pass the formal motorcycle instructor assessment.

They’d then be qualified to provide CBT, DAS and other types of training.

We’d like your views on how long down-trained instructors should be allowed to provide training for before having to take the assessment.

2. Changing the CBT syllabus

Arrows pointing from 1 to 2 to 3 to 4 in a circle

From 5 parts to 4

The CBT syllabus has remained largely the same since it was introduced in 1990. We think it’s time to update the syllabus to better prepare riders for the realities of riding on modern roads.

The current syllabus has 5 elements. We’re proposing to merge 2 of these (element B - practical on-site training, and element C - practical on-site riding) into one element. This would allow more flexible on-site training.

Renewed focus on equipment and clothing

The CBT syllabus includes the importance of having the right equipment and clothing. You encourage your pupils to wear the best protective motorcycle gear they can afford, but some don’t follow your advice.

So, we're proposing to introduce requirements for:

  • trainess to wear suitable clothing and equipment
  • instructors to make sure trainees are appropriately dressed

Steering and filtering

We’re also proposing that:

  • steering is taught as a specific skill, both in the theory and practical elements
  • filtering is included in the theory element of the syllabus

We're also interested in any other ideas that you have for improving the CBT syllabus.

3. Improving quality assurance of training

Illustration of a clipboard with ticks

Quality assurance of all road-based training

We currently carry out quality assurance and compliance checks on instructors providing CBT courses.

We’re proposing to introduce mandatory quality assurance checks for instructors who provide any road-based motorcycle instruction – not just CBT. This would provide assurance that all training is being provided to the required standard.

Failing a standards check

We’re also proposing that an instructor who fails a standards check would have up to 2 more attempts to reach the standard.

If they failed those further attempts, they’d need to pass the motorcycle instructor qualification assessment before they could provide training again.

4. Introducing a 'progressive access' training course to upgrade a licence

Progressive access training graphic showing a smaller bike with an arrow to a bigger bike

Progressive access training course

Riders aged 24 and over can qualify directly for the most powerful motorcycles by passing a theory and practical test.

Younger riders can progress in stages to the most powerful motorcycles. They take a test on a lower category motorcycle then, after 2 years, they can take another practical test on a higher category.  This is called ‘progressive access'.

It allows riders to progress to the most powerful category of motorcycle by the age of 21, rather than 24.

Under European legislation, we can introduce an option for motorcyclists to take extra training to ride larger motorcycles, without the need to take a further test. This training would need to:

  • cover the same elements as the practical test
  • last at least 7 hours

We’re proposing to introduce this option, with training courses being provided by approved training bodies (ATBs). That's why it's important that we start to quality assure all road-based training, not just CBT.

Instructors who could provide training

We’re proposing that all existing DAS qualified instructors would be eligible to provide the training.

5. Restrict learner riders to automatic motorcycles when used for CBT

Illustration of a motorcycle handlebar on an automatic bike

At the moment, learner riders who take CBT on an automatic motorcycle can ride an automatic or manual motorcycle.

This has road safety implications - the skills you need to ride a manual motorcycle are different from those you need for an automatic motorcycle.

We’re proposing that learners who take CBT on an automatic motorcycle will only be allowed to ride an automatic. Learners who take CBT on a manual motorcycle would still be allowed to ride both.

We'll also need to consider how a rider with an automatic restriction could progress to riding a manual motorcycle.

6. Getting 6 penalty points ends a CBT certificate

6 penalty points graphic

As you know, CBT certificates are valid for 2 years. We’re proposing that CBT certificates should be revoked if the learner rider gets 6 penalty points during that time.

They’d need to successfully complete another CBT course before they were allowed to ride again.

This would be consistent with what happens to new riders who have a full motorcycle licence under the New Drivers Act.

7. Digital platform for CBT administration

Phone graphic showing a mock up of the GOV.UK record a CBT result page

We intend to look at the options to turn CBT from a paper-based system into a digital service. This would allow us to do things like:

  • issue a certificate immediately and update the rider’s driving licence
  • send out reminders to riders when their CBT certificate is due to expire, reducing the risk of them riding uninsured

The manual returns that ATBs currently complete would be replaced by electronic records.

8. Theory test before CBT

Motorcycle theory test mock up on a animated computer

Understanding the rules of the road and potential hazards

We want your views on how we can make sure that learner riders get the right understanding of the rules of the road and the potential hazards that they might encounter, before riding independently.

Theory test before the CBT course

One suggestion is to require all learner riders to pass a theory test (multiple-choice questions and hazard perception) before taking CBT. This:

  • would make sure learners have a better theoretical knowledge
  • could encourage more learners to take the practical test, rather than riding as a learner on a CBT certificate, as they’re already one step closer to a full licence

However, it may put some off taking CBT. It could also conflict with theory and hazard perception training taking place in conjunction with practical training.

Theory tested as part of the CBT course

Another suggestion is that learners should have their theoretical knowledge tested by the instructor, as part of the CBT course.

This could be done by making the theory element of the CBT syllabus include a requirement to ‘know and understand’ the relevant theory topics in the syllabus.

This could be assessed using a short theory test as part of the CBT course, or the instructor validating the training.

9. Earned recognition for training bodies

Earned recognition scheme rosette illustration

We’d like to consider the benefits of an ‘earned recognition’ scheme. This would recognise the ATBs whose instructors consistently achieve high standards.

However, we need to identify:

  • the criteria for gaining ‘earned recognition’
  • the benefits that could be made available to those who get ‘earned recognition’

For example, we could highlight them on the ‘find a moped or motorcycle CBT course’ on GOV.UK.

Give your views

I'd really like you to take time to reflect on these proposals, and let us know what you think.

The consultation document has more detail about the proposals. Let us know in the comments if there's anything you need more information about.

Clearly, nearly all of these proposals will need changes to legislation. If the proposals are supported, it will take longer to make some changes than others. We’ll keep you updated after the consultation has closed through this blog.

Like you, we want to help every rider through a lifetime of safe riding. We think that these proposals will help to do that.

Fill in the consultation response form by 17 February 2017.

Sharing and comments

Share this page


  1. Comment by Adrian Jones posted on

    Excellent if we can acheive all of that or just parts, the area that concerns myself is the training of Instructors, especialy downtrained, we need to be at the top of our game as instructors and I know from experience this last two years that some instructors are below standard.
    Adrian Jones
    CBT1 & DAS Cardington Assessed.

  2. Comment by Chapman posted on

    Theory test for sure before you get in a car or on a bike. And it lasts a year only. After 6 points car or bike you have yo resit the theory test within 2mths fail and your suspended until you do. . But please aim for car drivers as well.

    • Replies to Chapman>

      Comment by Andrew Mr berwick posted on

      I like the ideas but all road users must be treated the same when learning.
      But how much more money will this cost to get a licence

  3. Comment by Alan Summerfield posted on

    "Introducing a 'progressive access' training course to upgrade a licence"
    Excellent opportunity to use those on the Register of Post-Test Motorcycle Trainers.
    You know - RPMT! That body of motorcycle trainers who took extra tests set up by you for just such 'post test' training. Ignored until now?

  4. Comment by Russ Stevenson posted on

    Looking forward to submitting detailed opinions. Some potentially good stuff here. Russ Stevenson, RoadcraftNottingham

  5. Comment by Kev posted on

    I have been on a cbt for 4 years because I can not afford to take the full bike licence.i need my bike to get around so if this makes the cbt harder to pass or cost more money that's the end of my biking.i can just about afford to keep my bike on the road.i love riding but looks like it will be taken from me,and put others of sitting there cbt.thats our country you must not enjoy yourself for to long.??

  6. Comment by Rick Stowell posted on

    Exactly my comment that l made also

  7. Comment by Mike the Bike posted on

    I am experienced rider with 50 years riding and driving virtually every conceivable machine, off road, race track, etc. I am also an advanced driver of over 20 years with the ambulance service and have had to deal with some appalling motorbike accidents, most of which were avoidable with rider foresight. MAKE NO MISTAKE - the most dangerous place to ride or drive is the, "Queen's Highway", not the racetrack or a motocross event. I have witnessed first hand the gradual reduction in motorbike accidents, because of the introduction and ongoing developments of the stringent training systems carried out by the DVSA. Many a life and limb has been saved because of this stringent training. It is about 25 years since the last major update to the DVSA motorbike training scheme.Think about how the machines have changed, and how the road networks have altered in this time? The training must be seriously improved to match these changes...!

    • Replies to Mike the Bike>

      Comment by Sarah Cooper posted on

      Agree with changes to the bike test system if thought through properly, however, it does feel like new CAR drivers require changes in line with the approach that has been taken with motorcycle riding. It currently feels like the focus on change is only on motorcycles. You have to remember that they are able, once passed their test and have enough money, to use a far more powerful and heavy vehicle with little life or road experience. I would like to see changes in line with this approach to biking attached to new car drivers especially with vehicle capacity linked to age.

  8. Comment by William Rodwell posted on

    To be fair there have been a huge number of changes in the past 25 years:
    1997 - CBT is reduced to a 2 year life span and everyone has to do it. Plus a mandatory 2 hour road ride, e-stops & U-turns on the road and training area. Changes also to Elements A and D
    1997 - Direct Access Scheme & Accelerated Access is introduced with a reduction in the number of trainees. Plus huge changes to the categories - A1, A2 & A
    1997 - Theory Test is introduced for Provisional Licence holders
    2001 - Theory Test is introduced for everyone with changes like the introduction of the Hazard Perception Test and more questions (from 35 to 50)
    2003 (or about then) - length of motorcycle test increased
    2009 - Introduction of the Module 1 Test
    2009 - Motorcycle test includes "Independent ride". Size of minimum test vehicle goes from 500cc to 600cc. Show me/Tell me questions added to the start of the test
    2011 - Tweaks to the Module 1 test
    2013 - Categories A1, A2 & A changed significantly. Introduction of Progressive Access. End of two automatic upgrade
    2017 - Further proposed changes to power and weight of DAS motorcycles

    These are the few I can remember off the top of my head. Obviously as a trainer we have completely ignored all these changes - not! Training has improved beyond recognition; CBT's done today are nothing like those done 25 years ago. Bashing trainers is missing the point - we've changed; what's taken a much longer time to change is attitudes.

  9. Comment by Andi Springthorpe posted on

    I think you should also introduce filtering elements to the car theory test. There's lots of drivers that don't know what it is and that it's legal. Car drivers often try and cut you off on your bike by closing the gap. I've also been beeped at whilst filtering (at about 10mph in stationary traffic.)
    Make more road-users aware - car and motorbike.

    • Replies to Andi Springthorpe>

      Comment by Dave Harrington posted on

      Yes I agree. Motorcyclists have a freedom of movement which can irritate drivers stuck in queues. Education around the legality of filtering is essential to remove any sense of queue jumping. However there are times when it is appropriate and times when it is not and there is also a manner in which it should be done in order to preserve relations between drivers and riders. Tuition on filtering techniques would be very beneficial.

      The attitude of many riders is frankly offensive and the superior attitude by terming drivers 'cagers' is unhelpful. The biker culture which the motorcycling fraternity seems willing to belong to has a responsibility to itself for public relations with other road users. Poor relations breeds anger and adverse and dangerous behaviour.

      Drivers, should also be educated on the care which riders need to exercise while approaching bends and cornering - particularly in the wet. Drivers seem to be unaware that riders have to adjust speed to allow sufficient time to react before steering which drivers tend to get away with whereas non-ABS riders certainly would not. The perception that bikes are generally a more rapid vehicle and should not be a cause of a hold-up will cause problems if drivers lack basic understanding of the greater dangers that motorcyclists have to anticipate. All to often riders are tailgated into bends and corners which only serves to 1. distract the rider from looking where they are going and 2. significantly reduce the survivability from an off while steering.

  10. Comment by Dave Harrington posted on

    When the UK implemented 3DLD without offering the training progression route (which was clearly permitted in Article 7.1.c and Annex 4 of the Directive) it introduced a direct and disastrous disincentive for the youngest riders to qualify for A1 because they faced compulsory re-testing. This was counter to the aims of 3DLD and the Council of Chief Police Officers 'motorcycle framework' - both of which sought greater training take-up and qualification rates.

    It cannot be co-incidence that in the year after implementation the number of under 20's taking tests dropped to 504 from over 6,000 over the same period in the year prior to implementation. That is shocking. It also cannot be coincidence that after implementation DVSA's own killed and seriously injured (KSI) statistics show an 8% increase.

    This disincentive absolutely has to be removed. Responsible riders who go to the trouble of qualifying for A1 or A2 regardless of age should be afforded some dispensation to avoid repeated tests in order to progress to the next licence and a training option was obviously recognised in 7.1.c as a means of doing this.

    I am not convinced that 'two' years holding the previous licence is necessary though if they meet the requisite age and will be assessed via such progression training. Accelerating progression will provide stimulus to motorcycle sales too.

    I would hope that the insurance industry would also be held to account for their part in creating a disincentives. Premiums are actually increased upon qualifying because the rider will now be likely to ride more and therefore increase the risk - with no recognition that they are now better trained than a CBT rider who pays less insurance for the same machine.

  11. Comment by Allan Green posted on

    Are drivers of other types of vehicle tested in any way about their knowledge or awareness of Motorcycles/ Scooters etc. ? Designated 'vunerable road users' include Motorcyclists and Scooterists as well as pedestrians and cyclists so they should be.

    • Replies to Allan Green>

      Comment by John (DVSA) posted on

      Hi Allan

      Yes, they are.

      The multiple-choice questions part of the theory test assesses the driver's knowledge of vulnerable roads users. The hazard perception part of the theory test assesses how well candidates can spot 'developing hazards' (hazards that would require them to take some form of action, such as slowing down or changing direction), which could include vulnerable road users.

      The driving test assesses the candidate's behaviour in traffic, including observations, signalling to other road users, positioning and use of speed, keeping a safe distance between other road users, and their actions in overtaking and meeting other vehicles, and crossing the path of other traffic when they are turning to the right.

  12. Comment by Dave Harrington posted on

    There is a somewhat bizarre issue relating to the validity/expiration of theory tests when already qualified and hoping to take higher category (e.g. DAS) depending when you are planning to take it. A theory pass is a theory pass and if you are qualified (say for A1 as a mature rider) then it cannot be right for that theory pass to cease to be deemed valid by the DVSA for a higher licence category and yet remain valid for the lower category you are licensed for. This absurdity needs to be addressed when considering the theory testing.

    I'll try to explain.

    If a mature person say a 40 year old who has taken to riding a 125cc for commuting, then choses to get qualified for A1 to ditch the L plates and takes and passes the theory - say - six months 'before' they pass the actual A1 practicals (when the licence holding clock starts ticking) then that 6 month gap can cause that theory certificate to be temporarily deemed invalid for DAS if that was subsequently attempted before they had gained the 2 years minimum experience in the lower licence category - even though it remains valid for the A1 bike which they are still entitled to ride under it.

    That 40 year old is entitled to take DAS whenever they want of course but if they don't complete it by two years after passing the original theory they took for A1 then it will expire for DAS and they either have to take the theory again or wait for six months until they have two years as and A1 licence holder at which point the original theory test pass magically becomes valid for DAS again.

  13. Comment by Steve posted on

    Whilst I agree that any improvements will be welcome surely this course of action penalises bike riders in comparison to car drivers.

    As I understand it a driver can legally pass his test in ANY CAR and then drive that car on public roads, this would allow a young novice to drive a Bugatti Veyron if he so chose, scarcely the ideal vehicle for such an inexperienced driver who has only proved that he can exceed the minimum standard as set down by law

    A graded scheme based on power to weight ratio would be far more appropriate for all learners. This would allow road users to drive decent sized vehicles with limited power, surely a better way than we have at present

    • Replies to Steve>

      Comment by Olivia (DVSA) posted on

      Hi Steve,

      Thank you for your comment. The position for motorcycle licences comes from an EU Directive, and we have no plans to limit the engine capacity that young or novice drivers are able to drive. We are instead undertaking work to investigate what behavioural, technological and educational interventions are most likely to have a positive road safety benefit for young drivers.

      Kind regards,

  14. Comment by Chris Powdrill posted on

    The reaction to filtering by motorcyclists I think varies with age of driver. Many older drivers started 'on the road' using two wheels and have that experience and subsequent empathy with filtering.
    Newer drivers who have gone straight into cars will be frustrated by traffic delays and, without m/c experience, regard 'bikers as arrogant etc. They also lack the information/experience of acceleration and manoeuvrability of m/c riders and are more likely to misjudge a m/c resulting in a SMIDSY.
    Encouraging more people to ride PTWs first will raise general awareness and add experience to road users early on as older drivers have done.
    A greater availability of lower powered m/cs and their contribution to cheap commuting with lower emissions will mean a new approach to m/c rider training is needed. Fuller training to cope with all traffic and road conditions inc filtering possibly through a two level licence based on skills not engine size would be my suggested route.

  15. Comment by Dave posted on

    Having just reviewed article 7.1.c of the 3rd EU Driving Licence Directive (3DLD) I think there is a very important point to make.

    The introduction of the 3 main motorcycle licence categories which are ostensibly aligned with age entitlement, has created an assumption that any rider who qualifies will naturally have elected to qualify for the highest licence category that their age permits. But this is not necessarily the case. Mature commuters may have simply decided to eventually qualify for A1 for their 125cc commuters having trained themselves under a CBT and L plates over many years. But they could easily meet the age requirement for full unrestricted A and have held the licence for the requisite time.

    It would therefore seem absurd and an unnecessary hindrance to only let them upgrade through progression training to A2 (the next step according to the Directive). Especially given that 500cc A2 bikes have the same weight and handling characteristics as a 600cc A class bike and while the later is naturally more powerful they can both only be ridden within the same limits of the law.

    The progression training upgrade which is mentioned in 7.1.c therefore seems to be framed around this flawed assumption that age is the limiting factor dictating what the next progression is because it assumes there is only only going to be a single licence step between what you have and what you are entitled to. But this is incorrect.

    Mature (eligible for A) A1 licence holders with the minimum 2 years experience should not be forced to only progress to A2. Therefore the training progression product needs to be designed accordingly otherwise this opportunity to rectify many absurdities in current UK motorcycling legislation will have been missed.

    I would also challenge the notion that if a rider is already qualified and is going to undergo a training and assessment upgrade day, would they even need to have held the previous licence for 'two' years? After all, new DAS candidates can be let loose on a class A bike upon passing a test of competence after 12 hours tuition. But such competence is equally evident if someone already holds a licence of one form or another and demonstrates so during upgrade training.

  16. Comment by Lisa Mather posted on

    I am in favour of being able to complete a course to upgrade your licence. I took my A2 licence 2 years ago (at 48 years of age). I only did the A2 licence because my instructor didn't have a 600cc bike that I could get my feet down on. I bitterly regret it . I ride every day {including through winter} and consider myself to be more competent than many of the men I know who have an A licence. I would really welcome the opportunity to upgrade my licence without the stress and expense of re taking the whole test. Any idea when the changes might take place?