Research on drivers and safety!

For those of us in the trucking industry, we are all aware of the data suggesting that crashes involving commercial trucks are overwhelmingly caused by the non-professional driver.  Or, as we like to call them, the four wheelers.

There have been numerous studies about reckless behaviors for automobile drivers, but I recently came across a paper that explored the attitudes of truck drivers to those who aren’t operating a commercial vehicle.

The study interviewed 167 adult men (you read that right, no women were part of the research.)  Seventy of the respondents were not truck drivers, but the remainder were employees of a concrete manufacturing company.  The research was conducted in Israel, which has very few female drivers. However, I found the data very relevant and wanted to share the results.

The study began by citing US research revealing that accidents caused by truck drivers were typically rear end crashes or those involving blind areas surrounding the tractor trailer. Accidents caused by the automobile drivers were more deadly head on collisions.

As you can imagine, the researchers reported that professional drivers are less likely to exceed speed limits and when they do, it is at much smaller margins than those operating automobiles or pickup trucks. They commented on the fact that professional drivers are assumed to be safer drivers because of their attention to their speed and the activity around them.

The respondents ranged in age, from twenty to over fifty, as well as their years driving and the type of vehicle they were operating. The cargo and vehicle class were noted as well and the type of roads and area of the country were also considered.  Each person completed a “Reckless Driving Self Report,” which described driving scenarios and asked for an assessment of what would happen next.

For example, one question describes a situation where a friend is late for a job interview. Both the commercial driver and the automobile driver are asked to estimate the chances that the friend would exceed the speed limit to get to the interview on time.

You don’t need a crystal ball to determine the results of the study.  The conclusion was that truck drivers have a more cautious approach to driving than their non-professional counterparts.  However, they delved into the data a little more and found that the type of load also affected their attitudes toward safety.

In this example, the drivers driving “mixer” trucks which mixes the concrete while the truck is moving were safer than those hauling gravel.   The authors noted that none of the heavy vehicles were tractor trailers, or combination vehicles which are called articulated trucks. The findings are still relevant, as the 97 concrete company employees are all professional drivers.

One interesting finding in the study was that the car and pickup drivers felt that just the presence of the heavy vehicle on the road alongside them created a potentially dangerous situation.  If that is the case, then the researchers wondered why these four wheelers didn’t have a more cautious approach to driving around the bigger vehicles.

Future research was recommended on better understanding the attitude of professional drivers to the non-professional drivers as well as pedestrians.   They felt this would lead to more information about fatal encounters between trucks and smaller vehicles.

While research about reckless driving can help our industry anticipate the reactions of those who share the road with commercial vehicles, the final suggestion in the analysis was something every professional driver has known since the day he or she began their career.  Every motorist should have training in how to avoid causing an accident with a commercial vehicle and should understand the specific characteristics of a tractor trailer.  This means a lesson on stopping distances, blind spots and turning ratios.

It didn’t take a study involving 167 adult males to tell us that!

Source:  Elsevier-Accident Analysis and Prevention.  Approaches of truck drivers and non-truck drivers toward reckless on-road behavior Tova Rosenblooma, Ehud Eldrorb, Amit Shahar