Researchers look to ID safe, young drivers

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ARLINGTON, VA – Is it possible to develop a tool that identifies young drivers who match the characteristics of safer, older commercial drivers? That’s something the American Transportation Research Institute is trying to find out – and it has unveiled the first phase of related research.

“As a group, younger drivers are at higher-risk than other age groups. However, 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 newly released findings conclude.

The search for a potential assessment tool is driven largely by the fact that drivers from 18-25 are a relatively “untapped” group of potential employees in trucking. U.S. regulations require drivers to be 21 before earning a Commercial Driver’s Licence to operate across state lines. While people from 20-24 represent 9.8% of the workforce, they represent just 5% of those employed in trucking.

“While the 18 to 25 year age group is high-risk as a whole, there are likely to be individuals within this age group who are more similar to safe, experienced drivers than their peers,” researchers found.

So far the research conducted with Dr. Monica Luciana, a psychology professor at the University of Minnesota, has included a review of scientific literature on driver characteristics such as personality, health and cognition, and safety outcomes. The next phase of the research will involve a beta test of an assessment tool on a small sample of veteran and entry-level drivers.

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

You can download this technical memo from ATRI’s website at

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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.

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