Bill Would Add Motorcycle License Requirement in Alabama

1_test_paperLegislators in Alabama, the only State in the Union that doesn’t require adults to take a test to obtain a motorcycle license, are considering a bill to change that distinction.

In Alabama, anyone 16 and older with a regular driver’s license can also drive a motorcycle in the state, said Capt. Guy Rush, chief examiner of the Driver License Division for the Alabama Department of Public Safety.  Rush said an oversight in the 1990s led to the gap in the law and DPS is supporting legislation to remedy that mistake.

The Alabama Senate has already passed a bill requiring a Class M endorsement, however a similar bill in the House of Representatives failed during the first half of this legislative session.

The Senate bill originally required all motorcycle operators to pass a knowledge test for the class M endorsement, however, the bill was amended to limit the testing to only those under 19 years of age.

Rush said he supports a mandatory skills test but observers say that’s not likely to happen anytime soon.

As of 2010, 40 states required a skills test for a motorcycle license, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

As for the Class M endorsement on the license, many Alabama drivers already have the designation and might not even know it. Rush said when new driver’s license classes were assigned in 1995 those who already had licenses were “grandfathered” and given the M endorsement.

Those who don’t have the Class M endorsement are only legal driving a motorcycle as long as they are riding in Alabama, Rush said.

When lawmakers return April 2nd, they will have only 15 meeting days to reconcile the two bills and present a measure to the Governor for his signature.

Political insiders say the bill is likely to reach Gov. Bentley’s desk who is expected to sign it into law.


New Motorcycle Plate To Honor Veterans

BRATTLEBORO — The Vermont Legislature approved a bill during the 2011 session to create a special motorcycle license plate honoring the state’s veterans and active military service men and women.

Gov. Peter Shumlin, a first-term Democrat, signed the bill into law on Tuesday during a ceremony in Rutland.

The license measure, originally a House proposal, was added into a Senate bill later in the 2011 session. It allows the commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue the special plates to veterans and members of the United States Armed Forces for use on motorcycles and similar vehicles.

According to the finalized legislation, the commissioner will determine the type and style of the plate, although there is a requirement that an American flag, or a military-related emblem shall appear on one side of the plate. At a minimum, emblems will be available to recognize recipients of the Purple Heart, Pearl Harbor survivors, former prisoners of war and disabled veterans.

The governor’s office reported the plate will feature an American flag similar to the existing U.S. Veteran recognition plate available for cars and trucks.

“Vermont’s troops deserve our support and recognition,” Shumlin said. “These license plates are one way we can honor our veterans who have served our state proudly in protecting our freedom.”

State Rep. Michael Hebert, a Vernon Republican and Marine veteran, said since there are roughly 20 different specialty plates already in Vermont, it was appropriate to honor veterans with a motorcycle plate as well.

“A lot of vets ride bikes, and I thought it was a good thing to do and I was really happy to sponsor that,” Hebert said. “From my experience being in the military in the 1960s, anything we can do to honor vets, I’m on top of. Being a vet from the 1960s was not always the most pleasant experience, so I really think we should do all we can for veterans, especially the guys who are volunteering now.”

While the legislation establishes a special plate for motorcycle operators, it also permits current Armed Forces members to obtain veteran recognition license plates. Vermont’s law previously required active members to separate from military service before they were eligible for the recognition plates.

Commander Richard Guthrie of Brattleboro’s American Legion Post No. 5 said there are a lot of veteran organizations throughout the state and country who do excellent charity work through motorcycle rides.

“We see the fire department plate, police department, the Blue Knights [a motorcycle club made up of current and retired law enforcement officers], and now we have a lot of veteran riders, too, that do tremendous work for American Legion foundations and so forth,” Guthrie said.

“So anything that brings out significant attention to veterans in front of you, it’s a good way to quietly give them thanks for their service,” he added. “Every little bit helps. Many of these veterans, especially in the later wars of Vietnam, Korea and Afghanistan and Iraq — the toll that it has taken on their mental life and their families, they need all the recognition they can get.”

Other veterans organizations worked for the passage of the legislation, including the Vietnam Veterans of America Rutland Chapter.

“The veterans in Vermont are proud of their service to this country. This is just another way of showing how proud we are of veterans, and how many of us there are,” said president Adrian Megrath of the Rutland chapter.

Shumlin signed the bill at the chapter’s office.

Vermont’s DMV said military personnel and veterans can apply for the new plates beginning July 1.

“We would not be accepting any applications until July 1, and there’s no additional fee for the veterans motorcycle plates,” said a DMV customer service representative. “They will just have to have their form signed by the Veterans Affairs, like they normally would for any other vehicle, like a car or a truck.”

The Office of Veterans Affairs said the plates are a great way to establish contact with veterans who have never applied for benefits, especially Vermont National Guard members now returning from deployment to Afghanistan.

“Within a month of their return, about 10 percent of those who deployed came to our office to get an Afghanistan Campaign Plate,” said Clayton Clark, director of Veterans Services, said in a statement. “This gives us an opportunity to both show our appreciation and talk to them about any assistance they may need.”


Controversial Governor Selected Motorcyclist of 2010 by AMA

The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) announced today its AMA Motorcyclist of the Year. Awarded annually, the AMA Motorcyclist of the Year designation recognizes the person(s) who has had the most profound impact on the world of motorcycling, for better or worse, in the previous 12 months.

For 2010, that distinction belongs to outgoing California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose signature on a controversial law will have far-reaching and potentially harmful effects on the motorcycling community nationwide.

With no fanfare, Schwarzenegger signed a poorly crafted bill on Sept. 28 that fundamentally changes how California will regulate motorcycle exhaust systems. The new law also maps a path for the rest of the country, as other state and local lawmakers look for their own answers to address excessive motorcycle sound. The full story is in the January 2011 issue of American Motorcyclist magazine, the journal of the AMA.

“Gov. Schwarzenegger signed a piece of legislation that has rocked the motorcycling world, and will impact motorcyclists in other states as well for years to come,” said AMA President and CEO Rob Dingman. “This makes him the logical choice for the 2010 AMA Motorcyclist of the Year.”

The legislation, California Senate Bill 435, the Motorcycle Anti-Tampering Act, requires every new motorcycle or aftermarket exhaust system built starting in 2013 to carry a stamp on the exhaust certifying that it meets federal Environmental Protection Agency sound requirements. For most motorcycles, the law is a de-facto OEM (original equipment manufacturer) exhaust mandate because the federal standard was not designed for aftermarket manufacturers, and compliance for the scores of low-volume production models now on the market is extremely problematic.

The AMA has long advocated reasonable measures be adopted for the regulation of excessive motorcycle sound, and cites the Society of Automotive Engineers J2825 motorcycle sound testing procedure as the most fair, economical and practical solution to the problem vexing communities nationwide.

“The California law is a poorly crafted piece of legislation that’s discriminatory and does little to address the core problem of excessive sound from all sources, not just motorcycles,” Dingman said. “Rather than objectively regulate offensive noise, this law creates all sorts of problems for riders, law enforcement and aftermarket manufacturers.”

An EPA certification label is no guarantee of sound compliance, and the lack of a label is no guarantee that an exhaust is too loud. The only way to know if a motorcycle exhaust is compliant is to test its actual sound output, Dingman noted.

“As a motorcyclist, Gov. Schwarzenegger should have known better,” Dingman said. “Now California’s motorcyclists, as well as key segments of our industry, are going to be negatively impacted.”

Currently, only two aftermarket manufacturers offer EPA-sound-stamped exhaust systems for a handful of late-model Harley-Davidsons. The process of certification is complex and expensive. For the millions of owners whose motorcycle models were made in relatively small numbers, the requirement to replace an aging exhaust system with an expensive OEM system is onerous and discriminatory. Owners of automobiles and trucks don’t have to meet the same standard, and they can buy less expensive replacement exhaust systems at local muffler shops.

Schwarzenegger’s selection as AMA Motorcyclist of the Year was reinforced by California’s position as a role model for the rest of the country.

“In many cases, we’ve seen other states follow California’s legislative lead on a number of issues,” Dingman said. “There’s no reason to think that trend won’t continue with respect to S.B. 435. With the stroke of his pen, Gov. Schwarzenegger significantly altered the motorcycling landscape for motorcyclists everywhere, and this is the reason why his selection as AMA Motorcyclist of the Year is so impactful.”

The full story of Schwarzenegger’s involvement with motorcycling goes beyond S.B. 435, and is detailed in the January issue of American Motorcyclist. Schwarzenegger has, during his tenure, been an ally of motorcycling with key appointments to decision-making committees that deal with off-highway riding issues, as an example. In addition, as a known motorcyclist himself, Schwarzenegger has drawn attention to motorcycling and, after a high-profile crash in 2006, the need for proper motorcycle licensing.

“We will continue to work with municipal governments and state legislatures to implement reasonable measures, such as the SAE J2825 standard, to address excessive motorcycle sound,” said Dingman. “But we now have the added burden of showing how California’s new measure is not an effective solution, and we have Gov. Schwarzenegger to thank for that.”

About the American Motorcyclist Association

Since 1924, the AMA has protected the future of motorcycling and promoted the motorcycle lifestyle. AMA members come from all walks of life, and they navigate many different routes on their journey to the same destination: freedom on two wheels. As the world’s largest motorcycling rights organization, the AMA advocates for motorcyclists’ interests in the halls of local, state and federal government, the committees of international governing organizations, and the court of public opinion. Through member clubs, promoters and partners, the AMA sanctions more motorsports competition and motorcycle recreational events than any other organization in the world. AMA members receive money-saving discounts from dozens of well-known suppliers of motorcycle services, gear and apparel, bike rental, transport, hotel stays and more. Through its support of the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum, the AMA preserves the heritage of motorcycling for future generations. For more information, please