Anyone who drives for a living - whether it’s a train, tram, lorry, bus, coach, ferry, motorboat, taxi, limousine, community vehicle or delivery van - has a fundamental responsibility for the safety of their passengers or cargo and their vehicles. Recruiters can now predict whether candidates for driving jobs are likely to be safe and vigilant in the role, says Richard Justenhoven.
In Europe, the biggest cause of death at work is being struck by a moving vehicle, so the same applies to those who drive in factories, warehouses or other sites as part of their role, such as forklift truck drivers. It’s also true for people who operate heavy machinery, such as construction, engineering or hydraulic equipment.
If you recruit drivers, you’ll undoubtedly check whether job candidates have the necessary knowledge, practical driving skills, a responsible attitude and any required licences, certificates or qualifications. You may even conduct medical checks for eyesight, colour vision and hearing. But can you be confident that those individuals will always drive safely?
If any driver or machine operator suffers from inattentiveness, fatigue, stress or aggression, or if they’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they can cause serious or fatal injuries. Even minor accidents can lead to expensive repair bills and - if members of the public are affected and they share details or photographs on social media - these incidents can damage the reputation of your company.
The best ‘risk management’ strategy is to prevent accidents from occurring in the first place, rather than trying to deal with their consequences. It’s now possible to do this when recruiting drivers and machine operators, as new psychometric assessments can predict whether or not an individual has the propensity to cause accidents.
These tests don’t measure the required knowledge or the practical aspects of driving. Instead they assess an individual’s competencies and disposition, and they’ll predict whether that person will be a safe driver who is able to deal effectively with the challenges they’ll face.
Research by Aon's Assessment Solutions shows that good commercial drivers, regardless of what vehicle they drive, share important attributes. For example, they’re observant, they pay attention and they’re able to concentrate; they can multitask and they have quick reactions, spatial orientation and a good memory. As a result, they’ll be vigilant in their role and they’ll strive to achieve safety rather than taking risks.
The importance of each of these aspects may be weighted differently for different roles. But they can all be assessed. For example, you can measure a candidate’s ability to concentrate; their reaction speed; their sense of direction and orientation; their ability to perform several tasks simultaneously under time pressure and their ability to remember information. Their personality and behavioural tendencies can also be examined to check for aspects such as impulse control, ethical awareness, trustworthiness and the likelihood of whether they’ll behave counterproductively at work. An overall score can then be attained for each candidate. Those with a low score will have a greater tendency to cause accidents.
Different versions of these tests are available for different industries, with appropriate signs and symbols included to make them appear relevant to candidates in each role. Many are also optimised for mobile devices, so candidates can complete them when and where it is convenient to do so.
Testing of this nature clearly has a value when recruiting new drivers or machine operators. For some roles, such as pilots, employers will adopt a sophisticated selection process and candidates will be thoroughly tested to assess their suitability. However, candidates for other low-paid driving and machinery-related roles may not have been psychometrically assessed before. Now, they can be - and this has considerable safety implications.
As well as rejecting unsuitable applicants from the hiring process, short three-minute versions of these tests can also be used as ‘pre-shift checks’ to assess whether employees are overtired, stressed or intoxicated when they ‘clock in’. Many companies find that it isn’t possible to safety-check all of their drivers prior to every shift, because they employ so many people. However, a short test can be conducted via a laptop on-site and if an employee is ‘flagged’, they can then be assessed one-to-one by a supervisor who can confirm whether or not they’re fit for work. The individual may have ‘failed’ the test because they were rushing; the supervisor would be able to tell if this was the case or whether there was a deeper problem. Checking occasional flagged individuals is a manageable task for supervisors - and it helps companies to ensure that their drivers and machine operators are clear-headed and attentive when they start every shift.
As technology develops, commercial drivers will inevitably become like pilots, who fly with the support of a computer. Already we have self-parking cars and adaptive cruise control systems which use radars and cameras to calculate the proximity of other vehicles and hazards. However, drivers still need to be vigilant and able to react in the event of an emergency. For this reason, the core competencies and characteristics required for safe driving are unlikely to change in the future.
Reducing the annual rate of accidents and injuries, even by five percent, will bring significant benefits to any organisation. With today’s assessments, you can now determine within a few minutes whether a person has the disposition and the attributes to drive, or operate machinery, safely and attentively. Recruiting only these individuals will help you to lower the risk of accidents, save unnecessary costs, protect expensive vehicles and machinery, and safeguard your reputation.
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