FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. (Sept. 6, 2013) -- For the most part, the moderate Arizona weather makes motorcycle riding a year-round activity. Add to that the freedom that comes with more relaxed laws in regards to protective equipment wear, and it's not surprising to see riders in shorts, T-shirts, tennis shoes and no helmet. While it may be state legal, for Soldier riders it is not.
Department of Defense Instruction 6055.04, DOD Traffic Safety Program, requires service members to wear helmets, eye protection, gloves, sturdy footwear and protective clothing. Not knowing the regulations and effectively emphasizing this requirement is a challenge to leadership… made even harder if the leaders are not riders themselves.
"The biggest challenge that non-riding leaders can face is the problem of how to advise a Soldier on a piece of equipment that they themselves are not familiar with," said Master Sgt. Brian O'Leary, Headquarters Company, U.S. Army Network Enterprise Technology Command. "This is why programs are designed to train non-riding leaders, like the one here at NETCOM, are so important to the safety of Army motorcyclists."
Getting non-riding leaders familiar with the inspections and gear riders use is what O'Leary set out to accomplish Aug. 26, during a training session at the Digital Training Facility in Greely Hall. The training was a combination of classroom presentation courtesy of the Army Safety Center, and hands-on training with motorcycles brought in by volunteers.
A portion of the classroom presentation focused on the kinds of personal protective equipment used by riders, and the kinds of equipment that shouldn't be used. Novelty helmets, O'Leary noted, have far less protection than is required for Department of Transportation certification. Soldiers who use gear that doesn't meet requirements may be in for an unpleasant surprise if something unforeseen happens.
"Soldiers and families can be denied benefits if the line of duty investigation shows they were not following DoD requirements," said Jeff Speer, NETCOM Safety Office.
Additionally, properly worn protective gear can greatly increase the chance of surviving an accident. According to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, study researchers analyzed 3,600 police reports of on-highway Motorcycle crashes and determined that helmets save lives by reducing the occurrence of head injuries, and that the wearing of a helmet does not reduce essential vision or hearing.
Along with the discussion of protective equipment, attendees were introduced to varying state laws, leader and rider responsibilities, and proper inspection and maintenance of motorcycles. It is the inspection of equipment that is most essential, O'Leary said.
"Mechanical failures can lead to a serious accident on a motorcycle," O'Leary said. "Some of the main culprits of these accidents are defective or worn tires, poorly maintained chains, and engine failures leading to seizing or locking while in motion."
Members of the NETCOM team taking the class were given the MSF maintenance checklist -- commonly referred to as TCLOCK (tires, controls, lights, oil, chassis, and kickstand) -- to inspect the individual bikes brought to the class. Not only did the participants inspect the motorcycles, they were able to see four different motorcycles to help them understand the differences between each of them. Along with a sport bike and cruisers, there was a fully customized motorcycle to show the extent riders are able to modify their rides.
Measuring tread depth, checking oil and looking for cracks and corrosion on the chassis, participants looked over the motorcycles with the owners standing by and showing them the locations of the different areas they were to inspect.
"The first thing that caught my attention was the vast differences in the motorcycles," said Sgt. Maj. St. Claire Allen, NETCOM Operations. "Although three of the four bikes for inspection were cruisers, each one was different and each posed different challenges with locating their inspectable items. This training gave me hands-on experience with locating inspectable items and allowed experienced riders to 'school me' on what to look for when conducting my inspections."