Photo via ATRI

Photo via ATRI

The American Transportation Research Institute released the phase one findings of its research into whether safe younger drivers can be identified through certain characteristics – a key step in developing ways for trucking companies to be able to hire younger drivers in the face of a driver shortage.

The research was conducted in the hopes of developing a Younger Driver Assessment Tool that would identify younger drivers who exhibit many of the same characteristics as safe, older commercial drivers. While younger drivers are typically less safe than drivers in other age groups, ATRI’s report examines the underlying characteristics of the age group to find if there are individual traits that can reliably predict driver safety outcomes.

“The potential to screen for the safest candidates among younger new entrants is an exciting step in the industry’s workforce expansion,” said Greg Koepel, vice president, workforce development and administration, Roehl Transport. “We look forward to working with ATRI in the development and testing of the Younger Driver Assessment Tool.”

Traits that can reliably predict which drivers might be prone to safer driving, including personality, health, and cognition, are identified and discussed in the report.

Personality traits that can indicate a propensity for unsafe driving behavior include low agreeableness, low conscientiousness, impulsivity, aggressions, and sensation seeking. Because of the relation between these traits and unsafe driving, ATRI would try to develop a tool to screen these characteristics out.

Health also plays a vital role in safety, as sleeping disorders, attention-related disorders, substance use, instability, and obesity can all correlate with increased driving risks. Even health related problems such as obesity, which doesn’t have an obvious connection to driving, can be an indicator because of its association with increased fatigue.

Cognition concerns patterns of thinking, understanding and remembering, all of which come into play during complex tasks like driving. This can cover a variety of traits, such as attentiveness, intellect, and flexibility, all of which are needed in commercial driving to make crucial decisions, multi-task, and react quickly to dangers.

While young drivers are far more prone to traits that indicate unsafe driving behavior, ATRI concludes that “by selecting for younger drivers with specific physical and psychological characteristics, it may be possible to identify young drivers with the same characteristics as a safe, veteran driver.”

The next phase of ATRI’s research will involve assembling the relevant measures of the identified predictive factors and conducting a beta test of the Assessment Tool on a small sample of both veteran and entry-level drivers.  Results of the beta test will determine if a larger scale study is warranted.

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