Study aims to pinpoint safe young drivers

By Mark Schremmer, Land Line staff writer | 8/11/2017

A study is trying to determine which younger drivers would have a lower crash risk despite their age and lack of experience.

The American Transportation Research Institute released on Wednesday, Aug. 9, the first phase of findings from research investigating the potential for developing a tool that would identify younger drivers who exhibit many of the same characteristics as safe older commercial drivers.

To assess the feasibility of identifying safe younger drivers, the institute reviewed existing scientific literature on driver characteristics and the associated safety outcomes. The research was conducted in conjunction with Monica Luciana, professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota.

The institute’s report identifies personality, health and cognition as individual traits that can reliably predict driver safety outcomes. According to the institute, the next phase of research will involve assembling the relevant measures of the identified predictive factors and conducting a beta test of the Younger Driver Assessment Tool on a small sample of veteran and entry-level drivers. The institute said the results of the beta test will determine whether a larger scale study is warranted.

“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 of workforce development and administration at Roehl Transport. “We look forward to working with ATRI in the development and testing of the Younger Driver Assessment Tool.”

An introduction to the findings suggests there is a shortage of truck drivers in the industry and hints that allowing individuals from the ages of 18 to 20 to receive a Commercial Driver’s License for interstate commerce would combat the shortage.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has long disputed the idea that there is a driver shortage.

“It is true that large motor carrier executives and the chief economist for ATA have perpetuated this myth for a number of years,” the OOIDA Foundation said. “They estimate that the industry will need to hire 890,000 truck drivers over the next 10 years. The fact is that this isn’t a problem, because 400,000-plus new CDLs are issued annually. If that trend continues, then there will be 4 million new CDLs issued in the next 10 years without any new age groupings.”

The OOIDA Foundation also said the study doesn’t give enough weight to a driver’s level of skill.

“Left out of the survey was an assessment of the skill sets that drivers have. While there is some mention of reaction time and cognitive function, drivers whose background included experience with large equipment have much better control and confidence handling equipment that is 62 feet long, 15 feet high and 8.5 feet wide. Driving on a two-lane road or city street takes a person with good spatial relation skills, which is not mentioned either in the research literature or in the assessment proposed.”

The first phase of findings can be downloaded on the ATRI website.

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