Predicting Truck Crash Involvement

Recently, the American Transportation Research Institute released an updated study onAtri 2011 cover predicting truck crash involvement (their original study was released in October of 2005).  ATRI was asked to “…revisit the research to determine how driver behavior-crash relationships have fared as a result of recent changes to the regulatory environment, industry safety practices and the dissemination of proven enforcement and carrier countermeasures identified in the 2005 report.”

This analysis of data revealed that driving behaviors (measured as violations, convictions and historical crashes linked to specific drivers) are linked to specifically measurable increased risk of becoming involved in a crash.  Perhaps more notable is the conclusion that;

“By becoming aware of problem behaviors, carriers and enforcement agencies are able to address those issues prior to them leading to serious consequences. The converse is also true, however, as lower priority behaviors, if ignored, may begin to play an increasing role in crash involvement.” 

In simpler terms, if you take the time to look for behavioral issues and do something about them, you can directly influence your crash rates.  Similarly, if you ignore behaviors deemed to be “low priority” such as failing to use turn signals, these habits can develop into an increasing role in crash involvement.

Many of our clients get Motorist Observation Reports about failure to use turn signals.  In some cases, it’s one of the Top Five behaviors consistently reported.  Is this critical to crash rates?  The 2011 study states;

“The analysis shows that a failure to use/improper signal conviction was the leading conviction associated with an increased likelihood of a future crash. When a truck driver was convicted of this offense, the driver’s likelihood of a future crash increased 96 percent.”  

Wow – that’s gotta get some supervisors thinking about the relative value of those Motorist Observation Reports (MORs) – after all, it is far less punitive to the driver to get an MOR than to get a ticket from a police officer.

Other issues raised included improper passing – which is another of our “most common” behavior types.  The study states; “In relation to driver violations, an improper passing violation had the strongest association with crash involvement. Drivers with this violation were 88 percent more likely than their peers to be involved in a crash.”

Other Findings?

  • Erratic lane changes (aka “Weaving In Traffic”) = 80% more likely to have a crash
  • Failure to Obey Traffic Sign (aka “running stop sign”) = 68%
  • Speeding More than 15 MPH over Limit (aka “Excessive Speed”) = 67%
  • Reckless/Careless/Inattentive/Negligent Driving (aka “Cell Phone/Text”) = 64%
  • Driving Too Fast for Conditions = 56%
  • Following Too Closely = 41%

If you’re already a client of our Driver Safety Hotline (aka “Safety Is My Goal” program, or the “blue sticker program”) you’ll probably want to revisit your monthly activity reports such as the Rolling 12 Review or any of our latest trending reports. 

Other Considerations

Now, it’s important to look at the relationships between the 2005 data and the 2011 data.  There was a less compelling relationship between the predictive data and the crash results for several reasons.  There were far fewer crashes (especially fatalities) between then and now.  There were (likely) far greater tickets issued over the past three years as states were looking to increase revenues to offset other losses in the down turned economy. 

ATRI also considered “effective enforcement countermeasures” – namely those states that issued more tickets got fewer crashes.  It makes sense to consider that states who are “tough” on enforcement would get fewer crashes.  It’s also tough on those drivers who are being pushed by dispatch or managers to “bend rules” to increase productivity.

ATRI considered how the safety programs within individual motor carriers contribute to this relationship between violations and crash risk.  Anecdotal information was gathered by interviews with “top tier” fleets and suggest that there’s been a shift from 2005 to 2011: 

“Most relevant to the 2011 safety improvements, however, are the elaborate descriptions of company responses to negative driver behaviors and events. Each of the carriers emphasized during the interview process that proactive safety measures, such as initial and “sustainment” training, are the lynchpins to ensuring that negative safety incidents do not occur in the first place. The value of these safety programs, however, must be complemented by remedial safety training programs that mitigate a problem driver behavior after a negative safety incident has occurred.” [Italics added for emphasis] 

Additionally, the report states; “Safety directors indicated that all negative events required interdiction to ‘cut them off at the pass.’”

Clearly, it’s important to have a strong, well rounded safety program, but even the most progressive fleet safety directors recognize that monitoring and managing driver behavior is equally important. 

In reviewing the study’s Appendix H (which provided a list of carrier-identified countermeasures mapped to each problematic driver behavior from the analysis) I found several common comments/themes that would be ideal to consider in the event that a driver received a Motorist Observation Report through our hotline program:

  • “The driver is required to participate in a 15-45 minute road test.”
  • “The instructor typically provides a significant amount of feedback during the road test to keep the driver’s mind focused on “cause-and-effect.”
  • “The driver is required to attend the company’s remedial training program”
  • For almost every category of violation, several carriers mentioned that these events would “…trigger an entire driver review which would result in a one-on-one discussion with the safety director.” (kind of like the coaching sessions we encourage through our training program).
  • In fewer cases, some stated that “This event would also count as a strike on the “three strikes you’re out” policy.”

Study Relevance to FMCSA’s CSA Program?

From the study; “CSA uses an advanced Safety Measurement System (SMS) to assign normative scores to both carrier and driver performance in seven safety-related categories, or Behavioral Analysis Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs). If BASIC scores are found to be higher (worse) than a specified threshold, FMCSA is prepared to respond in a variety of ways, ranging from the issuance of preliminary warning letters to conducting comprehensive compliance reviews. In the middle of these two extremes, there are also other interventions that allow enforcement officials to tailor interventions to the specific BASIC(s) of concern (unsafe driving, fatigued driving, driver fitness, controlled substances/alcohol, vehicle maintenance, cargo-related and crash indicator). Given the importance of FMCSA’s CSA initiative to assessing carrier safety and crash risk, ATRI mapped the behavior-crash relationships from this study to their respective risk-weighted values in CSA’s SMS methodology…”

In several cases, the instance of a violation or conviction would influence both the driver’s crash risk and the BASIC score of the carrier.  Being able to identify the behavior without the incidence of a violation/conviction would be a benefit to both the driver and the carrier – use of telemetry and How’s My Driving data in a blended approach would provide that opportunity with few data gaps.


The study concludes with recommendations.  In section 2.5, it states;

“Conclusions that can be drawn as a result of these two studies are that measurable relationships exist between driver behaviors and future crash risk and those relationships are neither static nor unchangeable. That is, interventions and industry progress are capable of altering the magnitude and even the presence of the linkage between behaviors and future exposure to crashes. By becoming aware of problem behaviors, carriers and enforcement agencies are able to address those issues prior to them leading to serious consequences. The converse is also true, however, as lower priority behaviors, if ignored, may begin to play an increasing role in crash involvement. [Bold added for emphasis]  It is important that these documented relationships find their way into the public domain in order to influence action.”

If you’d like to get a copy of the study, it’s free.  We can send you a copy or you can get it from ATRI by filling out a request form at their web site.

If you work with a fleet of drivers, whether they drive big trucks, pickups, vans, ambulettes, paratransit shuttles or something else, you really ought to consider the adoption of a driver safety hotline like the one provided by SafetyFirst.  Admittedly, I’m biased, but 3800 other fleets and 70+ insurance providers have selected us as their preferred provider.  We’re not focused on glitz, and underwhelming bells and whistles which come at the expense of hidden nickles, dimes and dollars – instead we’re focused on helping you spot good drivers who need help to get rid of bad habits before something bad happens.  Our program works and is in tune with the findings of the ATRI study, the ANSI Z15 standard and industry best practices.  Give us a call at 1-888-603-6987 to enhance your existing safety program!


8 thoughts on “Predicting Truck Crash Involvement

  1. Pingback: Deciphering MVR Profiling | Safety Is My Goal's Blog

  2. Pingback: Do You Know If Your Drivers Are Properly Licensed? | Safety Is My Goal's Blog

  3. Pingback: Signaling: Simple Traffic Courtesy or Indispensable Safety Practice? | Safety Is My Goal's Blog

  4. Pingback: The Dangers of Turn Signal Neglect | Safety Is My Goal's Blog

  5. Pingback: Digging into the MVR – For Stronger Results | Safety Is My Goal's Blog

  6. Pingback: Benchmarking Violation Data | Safety Is My Goal's Blog

  7. Pingback: CSA Enforcement Up in 2014 | Safety Is My Goal's Blog

  8. Pingback: The Increasing Urgency of Driver Safety | Safety Is My Goal's Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s