As part of an effort to explore the potential to identify the safest drivers among 18- to 20-year-olds, the American Transportation Research Institute completed a beta test of its young driver assessment tool, which shows promise for differentiating safer drivers from less safe drivers.
Truck drivers who participated in the assessment represented a broad range of ages (20-60 years old), driving experience and safety performance. Among the measures tested in the assessment were personality traits, reasoning, impulsivity, sensation-seeking, sleep quality and cognitive control.
Participating drivers' safety performance was evaluated using motor vehicle record and pre-employment screening program data on safety violations and crash involvement.
Among the statistically significant findings of the beta test, the drivers in the safest group based on their motor vehicle record and pre-employment screening program data had the highest scores in the conscientiousness and agreeableness categories, and the lowest scores on experience-seeking.
Additionally, drivers in the "less safe" group exhibited marginally greater sensitivity to conflict in the multi-source interference task, indicating difficulties with cognitive control.
While ATRI's beta test only included 16 drivers under the age of 30, the assessment did show sensitivity to age-related variations in performance. The age sensitivity relationship to safety also materialized in older drivers with fewer years of experience, so the assessment tool is attempting to identify younger drivers with the cognitive and mental attributes of mature, experienced drivers.
Based on the success of the beta test, ATRI is embarking on an expanded pilot test of the assessment to increase the sample of younger drivers and expand the range of participating driver safety performance.
The potential for an assessment tool to identify the safest drivers among 18-to-20-year-olds is a critical component of expanding interstate Commercial Driver’s License eligibility to younger drivers.
A driver recruitment challenge faced by the industry is the federal requirement to be 21 years old before obtaining a CDL in order to operate across state lines. This creates a three-year gap following high school during which potential new entrant drivers seek employment in other industries.
The DRIVE-Safe Act, reintroduced in 2021, would provide an avenue for 18-to-20-year-olds to drive in interstate operations. Many in the trucking industry view this legislation as a clear pathway to safely integrate younger drivers into trucking careers, ATRI officials wrote in the beta test result document.
However, one of the concerns with opening the labor pool to younger drivers is that young people engage in numerous driving-related higher risk behaviors. Moreover, adults between 18 and 25 years old are associated with levels of immature cognitive and socioemotional function and with higher rates of risk-taking behavior relative to other time periods in life.