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August 9, 2017 1:15 PM, EDT
ATRI Produces First Findings for Younger Driver Assessment Tool
driver Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg News

The American Transportation Research Institute has released preliminary findings on a tool assessing whether young people’s characteristics could indicate if they would make good truck drivers.

ATRI released its phase one research investigating the development of a Younger Driver Assessment Tool on Aug. 9. The purpose of the tool is to identify young drivers who exhibit the same qualities as exemplary older commercial drivers.

ATRI reviewed scientific data on how certain driver characteristics correspond with safety outcomes. Such characteristics include age, experience, personality traits, health and cognitive abilities, according to the report. ATRI conducted the research in tandem with Monica Luciana, professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota.

“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,” Greg Koepel, vice president of Workforce Development and Administration at Roehl Transport, said in a release issued by ATRI.

During the next phase of the investigation, ATRI researchers will create metrics of certain identified predictive factors and conduct a beta test of the tool on a sample of veteran and entry-level drivers. The results will indicate whether a larger study is needed.

The purpose of the assessment tool is to redress the truck driver shortage that has plagued the industry for a decade. According to ATRI’s report, the shortage was estimated to be 48,000 in 2015. Drivers younger than 25 are rare, partly because of federal laws that require a person to be 21 before they can acquire a commercial driver license.

ATRI’s report acknowledges that 18- to 25-year-olds are characterized by elevated risk compared with older age groups because of immature cognitive function and high risk-taking behavior rates.

“While the 18-25 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,” the report states. “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.”