Obtaining Your Motorbike Licence – Pennsylvania, USA

I am always interested in how things are different around the world and getting your motorcycle licence is one thing which varies from country to country.  So I asked Ralph, one of my friends who is a motorcycle instructor in Pennsylvania, to write this to explain how you get your licence there.  

Thanks Ralph, brilliant job!  

 

How to Obtain a Motorcycle License

Pennsylvania offers two different ways for riders to obtain their motorcycle licenses.

Both ways require you to get a temporary license from the PA Department of Transportation (PennDOT). An applicant has to answer 15 out of 20 multiple choice questions correctly to get a temporary license which is valid for the duration of 365 days.

The first way to receive your license is by passing a driving test at your local driving license center. This option is for riders that have prior experience riding and are able to ride any maneuver a rider might encounter on the road.

The second way which is chosen more frequently not only by novice but also experienced riders is either the Basic Rider Course or the Experienced Rider Course. Riders who pass either of the two courses will get licensed by the Rider Coaches instructing these courses.

Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF)

Since March 1973, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) has set internationally recognized standards of excellence in motorcycle rider education and training. The MSF works with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), state governments, the military and other organizations to improve motorcyclist education, training and operator licensing.

The MSF is a national, not-for-profit organization sponsored by the U.S. manufacturers and distributors of BMW, BRP, Ducati, Harley-Davidson, Honda, Kawasaki, KTM, Piaggio/Vespa, Suzuki, Triumph, Victory and Yamaha motorcycles.

Objectives and Strategies

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation is the leader in championing the safety of motorcyclists by:

  • Developing and maintaining a high quality, comprehensive, research-based Rider Education and Training System  (MSF RETS) and its individual curriculum products.                   
  • Establishing national trainer and site certification standards and providing technical assistance for training and licensing programs.                   
  • Promoting model or enabling legislation to create state-funded rider training programs.                   
  • Actively participating in government relations, research and public awareness                   
  • Partnering with other motorcycling and public organizations to make the nation’s streets and highways safer for motorcyclists.

The MSF does not deal with motorcycle design or manufacture; its programs focus on the motorcycle operator.

The Five Main MSF Messages for Motorcyclists

To enhance the enjoyment of motorcycling, MSF recommends that riders:

  • Get trained and licensed.                   
  • Wear protective gear.                   
  • Ride unimpaired.                   
  • Ride within your limits.   
  • Be a lifelong learner.              

The MSF Rider Education and Training System  (MSF RETS)

Since 1973, more than 3.5 million motorcyclists have graduated from basic or experienced Rider Courses .  Each year throughout the nation and the military, there is an average of 7,000 MSF-certified Rider Coaches  actively teaching, each trained by one of a team of 210 MSF-certified Rider Coach Trainers.

  • The number of Rider Course students trained both nationally and overseas, at civilian and military sites, has exceeded 350,000 annually in recent years.                   
  • Rider Courses are available at over 1,500 sites in all 50 states, including 47 state-legislated programs. The MSF RETS is a comprehensive curricula system with supporting materials, technical assistance, Rider Course insurance, Rider Coach certification and training-site/training-sponsor standards. Several of the MSF member companies loan training motorcycles through their local retailers.  A national toll-free hotline, (800) 446-9227 links callers with the nearest Rider Course training site in their area.                   
  • The MSF staff work with a number of enthusiast groups nationwide to encourage and support MSF-recognized state motorcycle safety training programs.                   
  • In 1997, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation began operating the MSF Dirt Bike School  (DBS). Designed as an introduction to off-highway riding, the course is administered by Dirt Bike School Coaches nationwide. The Dirt Bike School is MSF’s fastest growing program, and is already used by both federal and state agencies to train peace officers, search and rescue personnel, volunteers and others on the safe operation of off-highway motorcycles. In 2001, the Dirt Bike School also became available at various motorcycle retailers across the country.

Operator Licensing

Another important activity for the MSF is operator licensing. The MSF model Motorcycle Operator Manual and written tests were created using the same research-based development process as the curricula; they also serve as a complement to the education and training information contained in the MSF RETS. 

  • More than 30 state licensing agencies use one of five different MSF skill tests as part of their motorcycle endorsement procedures.                   
  • More than 40 states use MSF’s Motorcycle Operator Manual, and many incorporate the related knowledge test.                   
  • Sharing the Roadway, a six-page insert for state driver’s manuals, informs car drivers about differing vehicle characteristics and asks them to expect to see motorcyclists on the roadway and respect their right to be there.                   
  • MSF licensing assistance to states includes conducting examiner-training programs, qualifying motorcycle license examiners, and providing technical expertise on motorcycle operation.                   
  • The MSF partners with the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to update and improve motorcycle operator licensing systems.

Government Relations

The MSF Government Relations office, based near our nation’s capital, is the Foundation’s advocate for motorcycle safety before the United States Congress and federal regulatory agencies as well as at state legislatures and state regulatory agencies. The Government Relations Office also serves as a clearinghouse for information on federal and state legislation and regulation relating to motorcycle safety, rider education and licensing issues. MSF-developed model Motorcycle Safety Education Program legislation has helped state legislatures craft rider education program laws that have enabled millions of riders to participate in motorcycle safety courses. Staff also works with the motorcycle safety coordinators for the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines and Navy, recognizing nearly 150 military Rider Course sites.

Awards Program

In 1979, MSF began an awards program to recognize Rider Coaches, licensing examiners, state motorcycle safety and licensing programs and administrators, independent Rider Course sites and all supporting sponsors such as motorcycle dealers, school districts, community colleges, and journalists, among others.

National Motorcycle Safety Fund

Tax-deductible contributions to the National Motorcycle Safety Fund (NMSF) will help build a stronger, safer motorcycling community. This charitable organization [501(c)(3)] was created in 1981 to supplement the work of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. One hundred percent of contributions to the NMSF go directly toward worthy motorcycle safety projects; there are no administrative, fund-raising or other costs paid from donations. Customary NMSF projects include:

  • Supplying helmets to rider-training sites.                   
  • Assisting in the development, production and distribution of educational materials on helmet use and the perils of alcohol/drug use in riding.                   
  • Producing rider-awareness seminars and videos.                   
  • Developing and distributing safety materials like an off-highway motorcycle riding tips booklet.

State Program

Pennsylvania is one of the states using the MSF manuals and requirements for licensing. Currently Pennsylvania offers two different classes for riders. Both classes are free for state residents.  

The primary goal of the Basic Rider Course (BRC) is to provide an introduction to the fundamentals of safe, responsible motorcycling. The BRC is designed to prepare riders for entry into the complex world of traffic. It consists of classroom and on-cycle instruction, and includes a variety of learning activities. Classroom experiences consist of 5 hours of Rider Coach-led discussions and the utilization of interactive multimedia. On-cycle instruction is conducted on a paved area away from the street. The riding portion of the curriculum consists of approximately 10 hours of instruction. Evaluation for the BRC consists of a written, multiple choice knowledge test and an end-of-course skills test. Students are using motorcycles that are supplied and usually range between 200 and 500 ccm.

The Experienced Rider Course (ERC) was developed to address the critical skills and knowledge needed for relatively low risk, enjoyable on-street motorcycling. The course is for experienced motorcyclists of all ages and is usually completed in one or two days (total 6 hours). The course is ideal for graduates of the Basic Rider Course. It provides a structure for them to further refine their riding skills. The course is informative, enjoyable and valuable. We recommend that riders refresh and hone their riding skills every year with an ERC. The students use their own motorcycles for this course.

How to Sign Up

To sign up you will need:

1)     Valid PA Motorcycle Permit from the PA Department of Transportation

 

2)     An online profile at Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program Site.  

Classroom documentation will be supplied. If you want to study ahead of time you can download the student handbook here. 

The rider coaches will review the complete rider handbook with their students. Most likely the classroom portion is divided into 2 2.5 hour classes. The first class gives the students an insight on types of motorcycles, available gear, risk, strategy, and motorcycle controls. These insights will be helpful for the first range portion which usually is schedules between the two classroom portions.

After the second classroom portion the students have to pass a 50 questions multiple choice test.  Eighty percent of the questions need to be correctly answered to pass.

On the range, the students start with motorcycle familiarization, clutch control, start and stop, shifting, and breaking exercises. During range two the students train quick stops, tight turns, cornering, etc exercises.

The environment the rider coaches promote is low thread – high performance. Students will get challenged to develop their gross skills. This means that students will develop their fine skills on their own in a controlled environment. Rider coaches promote a fun but challenging and safe environment.

At the end of the second range portion the students need to pass a skills test. There are no new skills on the test. All skills were trained during the two range portions. Each students starts at 0 points and points will be added for mistakes during the test exercises. A student can have a maximum of 21 points to pass.

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3 Responses to Obtaining Your Motorbike Licence – Pennsylvania, USA

  1. FB says:

    In addition.. the BRC is $250 for out-of-state residents and the ERC is $150 but I need to check on the ERC cost.

    There is much more info that I can supply. Just ask if you have specific questions.

  2. petedamighty says:

    Information on the skills test would be helpful. This seems more like an advertisement for MSF.

  3. Raven says:

    I will see what I can sort out for you 🙂

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