A client recently inquired about the availability of research on amount of driver experience and involvement in crashes. Specifically, his company was considering whether to downgrade its minimum requirement for “in-type” driver experience from two years to one in an effort to find more drivers.
The client wanted to look at objective data, rather than rely on intuition and observation, since his firm was facing a very difficult cost/benefit decision. For example, the Operations Department, concerned about revenue shortfall brought on by the shortage of qualified drivers, was challenging the firm's requirement that new drivers have two years of experience. Consequently, upper management asked the Safety Department to estimate the increase in crashes that might result from hiring less experienced drivers.
There was a time when I could have easily rattled off the most current data — in a prior life I was a researcher at Iowa State University's Center For Transportation Research. Unfortunately, however, age has left more than a few tangled cobwebs in my own hard drive.
So I asked the client whether he had checked either the Transportation Research Board's (TRB) Commercial Truck and Bus Safety Synthesis Program (CTBSSP) or the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) Center for National Truck and Bus Statistics (CNTBS).
After a long pause, he answered that he wasn't familiar with either of these programs and depended on industry press sources for this kind of information. As a member of that group, I felt partly responsible for not doing a better of job of getting the word out on these important sources of truck safety data.
With that in mind, I'd like to provide a quick overview of these important safety resources.
The “Commercial Truck and Bus Safety Synthesis Program” is a cooperative research endeavor sponsored by FMCSA. Its purpose is to provide a synthesis of all relevant truck safety research. I know that before this program was set up, research on truck safety — which is both credible and costly — was virtually ignored. Such an oversight is tragic, given that trucks are involved in over 145,000 reported crashes each year.
CTBSSP publishes three or four reports a year summarizing existing “practice” in a specific technical area. The information is compiled from search of the literature, as well as a a survey of government and industry organizations and best practices.
The following reports are available online at http://trb.org:
Effective Commercial Truck and Bus Safety Management Techniques
Individual Differences and the High Risk Commercial Driver
Highway/Heavy Vehicle Interaction
Reports scheduled for release in 2005 will address such topics as seat belt usage; alternative truck and bus safety inspection strategies; and health and fatigue issues related to driver hours of service.
The second resource, the Center for National Truck and Bus Statistics, was established by the University of Michigan Truck Research Institute to provide a comprehensive resource of truck crash data. The center is best known for its annual reports on fatal truck crashes, which are published in fact-sheet and in-depth format.
CNTBS is also one of the primary research affiliates of the “Large Truck Crash Causation Study,” which analyzes serious and fatal heavy truck crashes that occurred between 2001 and 2003. CNTBS reports can be accessed online at www.umtri.umich.edu/cntbs.
I urge you to explore these sources of truck-safety research.
By the way, our client used the research cited in TRB's 2004 “High Risk Driver” synthesis report to convince management to maintain the company's two-year experience requirement for drivers.
Jim York is the manager of Zurich Service Corp.'s Risk Engineering Transportation Team, based in Schaumburg, IL.