Can you measure a good attitude?

Avatar photo
Greg Ford, CEO of TalentClick, says it’s possible to measure driver behaviors.

MILTON, Ont. – Fleet managers are always on the lookout for employees who demonstrate a good attitude — the intangible qualities that play a big role in safe practices and workplace relationships alike. But such things are often judged on gut instinct alone.

Greg Ford, the CEO of TalentClick, believes factors like these can be measured and charted through a formal behavioral assessment, helping to predict problems to come.

“Some of this will seem to some people as a little bit out there,” he admitted during a presentation in the offices of ISB Canada in Milton, Ont. But an ongoing study that has already reviewed more than 1,000 commercial drivers – from fleets including Challenger Motor Freight, Zavcor Trucking, and Pacific Western Transportation – has shown a direct link between various traits and problems on the road.

Drivers shown to have a tendency to resist rules were 53% more likely than an average driver to have been involved in at-fault crashes. Those who were more easily distracted were 3.9 times more likely to have had past traffic violations. Highly impulsive drivers, meanwhile, were 1.7 times more likely to have been involved in equipment damage.

Factors like past experience, skills, education, appearance, background and reference checks show up in a traditional interview. A behavioral assessment can offer insights into natural tendencies, urges, impulses, hard wiring, and default settings. “This,” said Ford, “is where we get fooled time and again.”

The attributes were measured through a tool that asked a series of questions in different ways, with the drivers responding to each question on a scale of one to five. The scores expressed as a Driver Safety Quotient showed whether people were more resistant or accommodating, anxious or calm, impatient or patient, distractible or focused, impulsive or cautious, thrill-seeking or apprehensive.

It’s a dramatic shift when compared to typical HR tools like reference checks that focus on what candidates have done in the past, Ford said. These scores are meant to identify the likelihood of challenges to come.

The different scores and attributes don’t mean someone is a bad person, but they can help to determine who would be a fit for a particular job, he stressed. “We all know people who just seem to be hard-wired differently.” Distractibility, for example, is seen as a bigger problem for long-haul drivers than their short-haul counterparts when it comes to the likelihood of tickets and crashes. And those who drive steep logging roads might actually need to welcome thrills. It doesn’t mean that they can be reckless, but neither can they be apprehensive.

Ford shared the story of a Canadian Freightways driver who was a “disaster” on the road, and didn’t fare much better when driving a forklift. But his personality and fit with the workplace culture led him to a role where he excelled – dispatching.

Geoff Topping, Challenger’s vice-president of human resources, said his fleet used the assessments as a tool to identify training and coaching opportunities rather than make hiring decisions. “I’m looking at taking it to the next level where I’m using it to benchmark the hiring decision,” he said. “Are they a good match for us, compared to the industry, and compared to Challenger?”

“Don’t use a tool like ours as a pure pass or fail,” Ford told the group. “It’s just one piece of the puzzle.”

Still, it can be an important piece.

“The stakes are high,” he said, citing data from Markel Insurance (now Northbridge Insurance), which concluded that human factors play a role in 93% of crashes.

Refined hiring practices can do more than avoid collisions, too. Once Pacific Western began testing job candidates, it reported a 20% drop in driver turnover overall, and a 25% increase in the ability to retain high performers. The right people were more likely to be hired. And they stayed.

It’s all made possible – and more affordable – thanks to increases in computing power, Ford said, noting that 70% of Fortune 500 companies now use behavioral assessments. Costs which once hovered around $200 to $300 per assessment have plunged dramatically.

“Personality is definitely linked to driver behavior and road incidents,” he said. “Personality is measurable. Personality can be used to hire and train safer drivers.”

Avatar photo

John G. Smith is Newcom Media's vice-president - editorial, and the editorial director of its trucking publications -- including Today's Trucking,, and Transport Routier. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

Have your say

This is a moderated forum. Comments will no longer be published unless they are accompanied by a first and last name and a verifiable email address. (Today's Trucking will not publish or share the email address.) Profane language and content deemed to be libelous, racist, or threatening in nature will not be published under any circumstances.