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Driving experience, not age, impacts crash rates

Aug. 3, 2020
A study from Virginia Tech investigates the role of age in commercial vehicle crashes.

Virginia Tech Transportation Institute’s National Surface Transportation Safety Center came out with a study about the role of age and experience in safety risks of drivers of commercial vehicles.

I bet many of you would have assumed that age was the most important factor in determining risk and therefore that younger drivers were more likely to be at higher risk for unsafe driving behavior and accidents.

Well, it seems that this is and isn’t true. Before I explain that, let me give you a little more detail about the study. More than 9,000 people completed a questionnaire that asked about their age and CDL driving experience among other things. Driver safety performance metrics from the Motor Carrier Management Information System was cross-referenced with the survey data along with crash data from fleets and from the Commercial Driver’s License Information System.

Study results indicated that while both the age and commercial vehicle driving experience play a role in driver risk, driving experience is more important than age.

Here are a few more specific findings:

  • For all crash types combined, the average carrier-recorded crash rates were highest for drivers with less than one year of commercial vehicle driving experience, regardless of age.
  • For drivers with seven months to one year of commercial vehicle driving experience, crash rates were higher for drivers aged 55 years and older compared to their younger counterparts.
  • For all crash types combined, commercial vehicle drivers with less experience driving a commercial vehicle (i.e., less than 1 year) had higher proportions of crash involvement than drivers with longer commercial vehicle driving experience, regardless of age.
  • Preventable crashes showed the same pattern of results, with less-experienced CMV drivers having higher proportions of crash involvement across the majority of age groups.

According to the study team, “These results seem to indicate that [commercial vehicle] driving experience has a greater impact than age on crash rates and crash involvement in the carrier-recorded crash data. The results of all crashes combined also indicate that [commercial vehicle] driving experience may be more important for drivers over the age of 55. Older CMV drivers with less than one year of [commercial vehicle] driving experience had up to 3.7 times higher crash rates and four times the odds of being involved in a crash than more-experienced drivers in the same age category.”

The study offered the following conclusions:

  • Older inexperienced [commercial vehicle] drivers (i.e., over the age of 55) have more difficulty learning to safely drive a [commercial vehicle] than their younger counterparts or
  • Older inexperienced [commercial vehicle] drivers may be overconfident in their abilities to drive a [commercial vehicle] safely since they presumably have greater on-road driving experience from their years driving a light vehicle compared to their younger counterparts.

I think the findings from this new study can be useful in developing driver training programs for drivers of all ages and experiences.

Jane Clark focuses on managing the member services operation at NationaLease as vice president of member services. She works to strength member relationships, reduce member costs, and improve collaboration within the NationaLease supporting groups.

About the Author

Jane Clark | Senior VP of Operations

Jane Clark is Senior Vice President, Operations for NationaLease. Prior to joining NationaLease, Jane served as Area Vice President for Randstad, one of the nation’s largest recruitment agencies, and before that, she served in management posts with QPS Companies, Pro Staff, and Manpower, Inc.

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