Dr Lisa Dorn is an Associate Professor of Driver Behaviour at Cranfield University and Research Director for DriverMetrics®. She is the author of a new white paper on how companies can recruit safer drivers using an existing tool called The Driver Risk Index™. Today Dr Dorn speaks to TNB about her research.
TNB: What was the reasoning behind the White Paper?
LD: With the current crisis, there’s going to be a lot of pressure to recruit given the massive upturn in the need for delivery drivers. Currently, companies would not be able to do in-vehicle driving assessments and, even then, there is insufficient evidence of its ability to predict whether someone is a safe driver. Under normal circumstances potential recruits have an examiner next to them and they will always give their ‘best drive’. However, there is a real distinction between the skills the driver has and what their behaviours are like are behind the wheel.
Other methods of recruitment where a driver is assessed on the number of penalty points is also not valid because, in many cases, it’s just a matter of luck that people don’t get caught speeding.
So you need drivers with the right behaviours, not just the skills. The characteristics of what might be deemed an unsafe driver include aggressiveness, impulsiveness, thrill seeking tendencies, projection of blame and poor coping strategies.
The best way to assess driver behaviour is to use an instrument called the Driver Risk Index, which is widely used as a method for driver coaching. It is simply a questionnaire asking them how they are likely to behave in certain situations.
Obviously, that’s not to say that there aren’t some issues with self-report bias: people can report that they are safe driver but they may not be. This technique is such that the questions are asked from lots of different perspectives and you can look at people’s consistency in how they respond. It’s also not always obvious what the right answer should be. We also incorporate a ‘lie scale’ so we can see whether or not they have a tendency towards faking ‘good driver’ behaviour.
The Driver Risk Index is similar to a personality test then?
Yes, one of the scales assesses vulnerability to driver fatigue. A number of questions ask about how a driver feels after they have been driving for long periods
It’s hard to cheat the system then?
You can try cheat the system, but we’ll know.
Do many companies use the Driver Risk Index?
Yes, not so much for recruitment currently, but mostly as a driver risk assessment. Companies use the profile to identify driver behaviour, leveraging improvement through coaching and training over a period time.
So, the message is to companies is that there is already a recruitment resource to recruit safe drivers and it can be used right now?
Yes. It’s a classic case of ‘here’s something we made earlier’ and it’s currently being used by several companies to help identify safe drivers during recruitment and selection.
Is there currently a danger that companies will just recruit whoever they can in order to meet demand?
Yes. Ultimately, you could recruit somebody who could cause mayhem, endangering the public, themselves or their vehicle. My worry would be that in this rush to recruit that you end up making things a lot worse for your company and fleet safety.
How many companies are using the Driver Risk Index for recruitment?
A few thousand drivers are going through the instrument every year but that’s not enough. It should be more widely available because it’s a validated instrument that is so much better than looking at someone’s age, gender, points on their licence or giving them a test drive. It digs down into their predispositions towards responding in certain ways when they are behind the wheel.
What is the most surprising bit of this?
It’s that distinction between the skill of the driver and behaviour, which is the take-home message, and companies need to be aware of that. With this resource they can look at the profile of a potential recruit and identify someone who has characteristic aggressive tendencies that point to an unsafe driver. Companies can still recruit that person but if they do, they can, at least, manage that risk.