Due to the current national truck driver shortage, the industry is focusing on recruiting eligible drivers in the 18-to-20-year-old range, and new efforts will help industry experts determine the safest drivers in this group.
This new assessment tool is in development through the American Transportation Research Institute and will aim to find the best interstate commercial drivers in this young age range. Still in beta testing, the Young Driver Assessment Tool is an initiative meant to help identify which drivers are the most likely to be especially safe. These determinations come at the hands of specific safety profiles that focus on mental health, physiological traits, and personality aspects of a driver.
“ATRI’s Young Driver Assessment Tool can potentially identify those new entrant drivers who share the same personality attributes as safe, mature, veteran drivers,” explained Rebecca Brewster, President of ATRI. “We look forward to expanding our pilot test to include more younger drivers to further validate the tool’s accuracy.”
In the original assessment initiative, drivers of differing experience levels, ages, and overall safety performance were analyzed during the testing of drivers with a median age of 47–16 drivers were under the age of 30. As of now, drivers 21 and younger are federally prohibited from working across state lines and must only work within intrastate commerce with various freight restrictions also in place.
During initial testing, drivers underwent a myriad of evaluations involving aspects such as sleep quality, cognitive control, impulsivity, reasoning, sensation-seeking, and other personality traits. Then, their overall safety performance was determined by analyzing pre-employment screening data as well as their state motor vehicle records. These records offered data regarding past accident involvement and other safety violations.
The safest group of commercial drivers, according to ATRI’s findings, included those who scored the lowest in the “experience seeking” category and the highest in the “conscientiousness and agreeableness” category. Those who were found to be not-so-safe demonstrated particular cognitive control issues and had much larger reactions regarding “multi-source interference task” conflicts.
“Given all the internal and external pressures on driver recruitment and retention, it is safe to say that the driver shortage crisis is not going away,” said Joyce Brenny, CEO of Brenny Transportation.
Within the beta test, it was made clear that age-related differences regarding safety were prevalent in terms of a driver’s overall performance, although the safety differences were also visible among older drivers who had been driving for shorter periods of time. Still, the assessment tool’s overarching goal is to find the drivers between the ages of 18 and and 21 who have the qualities of highly-experienced and safe drivers.
“We need to find ways to expand the pool of safe truck drivers, and ATRI’s preliminary research indicates that safe, younger drivers can be found,” Brenny continued.
Because of this belief, Brenny Transportation has established an apprenticeship initiative to be able to train young drivers entering the trucking world more efficiently.
“At Brenny, our young-driver apprentice program has a proven track record,” Brenny explained. “Proper training and mentoring of young individuals who want to become truck drivers does work.”
With current projected freight growth, the driver shortage could rise from 60,000 to 100,000 by 2023, ATRI estimates. Employer competition and oncoming retirements of older truckers affect these numbers as well. For instance, 27.4% of the trucking workforce is over the age of 55, and the trucking industry’s present reliance upon those particular workers means employers will need to boost numbers of potentially qualified drivers.
ATRI has been working on solving the problems surrounding driver recruitment for six years by finding methods of determining which young and qualified people would be the safest and best candidates to enter the trucking workforce. ATRI also plans to expand its beta testing to a larger driver sample and to also expand safety performance attributes and qualities for drivers being tested.
The DRIVE-Safe Act, a federal initiative to allow young drivers to operate vehicles across state lines following apprenticeship programs and strict training (while operating special safety technology-equipped trucks) has been backed by American Trucking Associations and many other groups throughout the industry.