Methods for Selecting Drivers

In this excerpt from our ‘How to Select Safe Drivers’ white paper, Dr Lisa Dorn explores the different methods used to recruit and select drivers:

Given the evidence reviewed so far, many studies have shown then that when driving for work, some drivers are more likely to be involved in crashes than others (Wahlberg and Dorn, 2007; Dorn and Wahlberg, 2019). Therefore, if a company selects a high risk driver, it can be extremely costly in many different ways. Unsafe drivers can be involved in repeated incidents and cause huge financial costs for a company, yet despite these risks, companies typically rely on quite basic methods for selecting drivers.

One of the standard methods for selection is the requirement for a clean driving licence. Whilst this may appear to be a useful way of discriminating between safe and unsafe drivers, studies have shown that number of penalty points or offences is a poor means of estimating unsafe driver behaviour. The link between offences and crash involvement is actually quite weak (Barraclough et al, 2016) and even frequent offenders receive few penalties due to low levels of enforcement. For commercial vehicles, applicants might be required to take part in an in-vehicle assessment driving the type of vehicle they are expected to drive for the job.

However, assessments are a subjective method for judging whether a driver will go on to be safe behind the wheel because different assessors may look for different things and each assessment will take place under varying traffic conditions. Demonstrating good driving skills on an assessment drive has little to do with whether those skills will be used appropriately when driving at work under high workload and demanding traffic conditions. Research has shown little evidence for the validity and reliability of on-road assessments as a way of predicting safe driving (Withaar et al, 2000). One of the reasons for this may be because applicant drivers are motivated to give their ‘best’ drive whilst being observed by the assessor.

The Driver Risk Index for Driver Selection


Selecting a driver with the behavioural characteristics that are associated with safe and responsible driving is of critical importance for fleet risk management. Not only will this approach lead to lower vehicle damage and insurance costs and a number of other benefits, the human costs of being involved in a crash as a driver, a passenger or road user must be reduced. By introducing an evidence-based assessment of the risks of driving for work, a company will adopt a more objective method for selecting its workforce.

The Cranfield studies were used to develop the Driver Risk Index based on a long track record from over 80 academic papers validating its scales. The Driver Risk Index is used to assess personality and emotional reactions to various demands when driving for work. Analysis has shown that responses to the instrument within the same individual is stable over time and not variable depending on the situation, time of day or mood of the driver (Glendon and Dorn et al, 1991; Dorn et al, 2010).

The Driver Risk Index is currently being used for selecting drivers based on key competences including staying calm and relaxed when held up in traffic; looking out for potential hazards and staying alert even when under stress; avoiding the need to take risks when under time pressure; employing safer driver coping strategies and demonstrating low levels of vulnerability to driving fatigue. Companies employing this approach can be confident that they have a robust system at the selection and recruiting stage to filter out high risk drivers from the outset.