Safe training, safer roads?

Last month, the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) released a technical report that examined the relationship between driver training and new-entrant driver safety performance. Surprisingly, the study found little linkage between the length and content of training and new-entrant driver safety performance as defined in that study. ATRI researchers examined the new-entrant driver training

Last month, the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) released a technical report that examined the relationship between driver training and new-entrant driver safety performance. Surprisingly, the study found little linkage between the length and content of training and new-entrant driver safety performance as defined in that study.

ATRI researchers examined the new-entrant driver training programs and safety outcomes that were utilized by six for-hire motor carriers. Researchers define a “new-entrant driver” as an individual with no previous professional driving experience prior to being hired.

First, the participating firms provided researchers with demographics (e.g., age, gender and attended driver training program) and safety records (e.g., as measured by the number of crashes and driver violations) of about 17,000 drivers following the completion of a new-entrant training program. The scope of the safety data was self-reported and limited to those instances which occurred while under the employment of the participating motor carrier, researchers said.

Next, ATRI researchers surveyed each of the ten identified driver training organizations to gather detailed information regarding the length and content of their programs. Using this data, researchers then utilized statistical techniques, such as regression modeling and “odds ratios,” to compare the nature and extent of training programs with their safety records. The findings include:

  • No measurable link between the total number of “contact hours” and safety performance.

  • No relationship between the type of training (e.g., classroom vs. behind the wheel) and driver safety records.

  • No correlation between trainer credentials and safety performance.

  • No statistical link between individual instructors and driver safety records.

ATRI researchers did find a strong relationship between “accident scene procedures” training and driver safety performance. More specifically, researchers determined that every hour of accident procedure training decreased the odds of a new entrant driver safety event by a factor of 1.4.

These findings will, no doubt, be widely circulated and quoted. First, these findings will stir a spirited debate in long-held beliefs regarding the validity of driver training as a method to improve driver safety. Second, the study results may be incorporated into the debate over minimum training requirements for “Entry-Level Commercial Vehicle Operators,” which the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is rewriting.

Given the potential impact of these findings in the public safety forum, I would urge further discussions among the industry and public safety stakeholders. For example, I would encourage researchers to conduct a study of driver safety outcomes, similar to the approach that was employed in the landmark October 2005 “ATRI Truck Crash Predictor Study.”

ATRI researchers have confirmed their commitment to further the area of research regarding the relationship between driver training and safety performance outcomes.

The driver training report is available on ATRI's web site at www.atri-online.org.


Jim York is the ass't. vice president of technical services for Zurich Services Corp. Risk Engineering in Schaumburg, IL.

TAGS: Safety
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