Ensuring the Safety Focus of Train Drivers

May 19, 2020 Henric Bruvik

Driver assessment


There are few jobs for which having the right safety skillset and attributes are more important than those of train, subway or bus drivers. These professional drivers’ safety orientation is non-negotiable. When faced with numerous applicants, how do transport businesses spot the right candidates to become drivers?

For those hiring train drivers help is at hand in the form of the blueprint outlined by the European Federation of Psychologists’ Associations (EFPA). This is the umbrella organization for the 34 European National Psychology Associations and Professional Bodies. The EFPA’s guidelines focus the need for assessment in three areas:

  1. Cognitive capability: attention, reasoning, concentration, memory, perception and communication.
  2. Psychomotor skills: speed of reaction and gestured coordination.
  3. Personality characteristics: self-control, behavioral stability, conscientiousness and autonomy.

The EFPA recognizes that the tasks required by train drivers are psychologically demanding. Drivers need to understand and act upon auditory and visual information from within the cabin and also outside it. They need to adhere to rail traffic rules, use technical safety equipment and effectively manage the train’s safety.

A Real-Life Example

In Sweden, we assess 100% of subway drivers, the majority of train drivers and the vast majority of bus drivers. We act  as an independent assessor of the skills and characteristics outlined in the EFPA’s guidelines and use our online, contemporary and science-based measures to achieve this.  

For one specific train operator, we work with the in-house team in the later stages of the selection process. They manage the initial phase with applicants completing so-called ‘killer’ or ‘filtering’ questions which help eliminate those not meeting basic and essential criteria to become a train driver.

Successful applicants at this stage are then invited to complete our suite of online, unproctored screening tests. These directly assess those skills needed to become a professional driver. These online tests allow applicants to complete the screening process on their phone, tablet or laptop whenever it suits them. While they are not completed in a supervised environment, different versions of these tests are used later on and in person.

Including these screening tests early on in the selection process helps to identify those not likely to perform well in the more resource-intensive, in-person stages of hiring. It means that weaker candidates do not progress further. Correlations between the screening tests and the longer, proctored, in-person assessments help to set a screening test cut-off score and show that the screening tests are good predictors of later success.

The assessments are combined to measure all the areas as defined in the EFPA’s guidelines.

Those achieving scores higher than the cut-off score in this early phase are interviewed, have a background check carried out and also a medical examination.

Only those passing this stage will meet in person with a certified, external psychologist to carry out further supervised assessments. This ensures that the candidate presenting at interview is the same person who completed the initial assessments.

The combined information from the psychologist interview and the assessments help to flag those candidates most suited to the role of train driver.

The Results: Higher-Quality Candidates in the Final Stages - and Strong Performance Once in Post

Strong engagement and innovation

What sets this client’s hiring process apart from its competitors is the use of engaging and contemporary-looking assessments during the early stages. These tests’ results provide reliable and valuable information that can be verified later in the hiring process.

Better candidates progressing through the selection stages

For this particular client, including our science-based assessment early in the process means that higher-quality candidates progress through to the more resource-intensive and costly final stages of the selection activities. It has seen the ‘hit’ rate of success at this proctored assessment stage increase from 50% to above 70%. The company now assesses fewer people to fill their positions.

Performance, incident and retention prediction

We have examined the relationship between the screening assessment scores and the key employee data held by the firm. A study of 180 employees correlated the screening assessment scores with manager ratings of performance-related and safety-related behaviors, the number of driving incidents and retention time.

This study showed that those scoring high on the screening assessments:

  • Performed better in the role.
  • Had significantly fewer incidents.
  • Had a higher retention rate. 

To learn more about Aon’s Drivers Suite, visit the website. 

About the Author

Henric Bruvik

Henric Bruvik is a psychologist and graduated from Lund University, where he combined psychology studies with law and economics. He has many years of experience in both consulting and product development. Henric’s main area of expertise are assessment in various form. His focus is to create business benefits using evidence-based methods.

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