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The Importance of a New Driver Road Test

There’s no question about it – the trucking industry is facing a massive driver shortage. Despite competitive pay and generous sign-on bonuses, trucking companies across the country are still having a hard time meeting the current shipping demands created by retailers such as Amazon and Walmart. While desperate times seem to call for desperate measures, skipping a driver road test shouldn’t be one of them.

Safety should always be a top priority in the trucking industry. A valid commercial driver’s license (CDL) and a clean motor vehicle report (MVR) don’t necessarily mean that a driver is reliable and safe. It’s difficult to gauge a driver’s skills from a standard interview, so it’s imperative that you require every applicant to perform a driver road test.driver road test

Here are five reasons why a road test should be a mandatory part of your on-boarding process:

  1. Not all companies have the same standards.
    Relying solely on a new driver’s performance evaluations from a previous employer is risky. Due to thin margins, some trucking companies may be cutting corners to expedite onboarding. They may even turn a blind eye when issues arise with a driver to avoid turnover costs and staffing issues. Every company should require all new hires to complete a thorough safety program, including a driver road test.
  2. Poor drivers don’t always get caught.
    How often do you witness dangerous driving that isn’t caught by law enforcement? Whether it’s speeding or switching lanes without signaling, reckless driving happens all the time and often goes unpunished because police can’t be everywhere. This is true among amateur and professional drivers. Getting out on the road with a new driver in various settings is the best way to see how that driver will perform on the job. Remember, they are representing your company on the road, so your reputation is on the line. While a perfect MVR is great, performing a driver road test will give you better insight into a person’s actual capabilities and safety standards.
  3. A previous employer may not have performed a driver road test.
    This is more common than you think. Sometimes drivers move from company to company and road tests aren’t completed from one employer to the next. Other times drivers are returning to their trucking careers after a long hiatus. Ten years ago, road tests were not performed as often as they are now, so it’s possible an experienced driver hasn’t been road tested. Regardless of a resume or previous employment history, you should always conduct a driver road test.
  4. Road tests set an important safety example.
    Combined with a thorough orientation and defensive driver training, road tests help establish an employer’s commitment to their drivers and their safety, as well as the safety of others on the road. It can effectively communicate the importance of safety within your organization and convey an intolerance for reckless behavior.
  5. Driving skills can diminish with age.
    An unfortunate reality is that some people lose their ability to drive safely as they get older. This is caused by a number of reasons, including a decreased sense of speed, vision issues, impaired hearing and slower motor reflexes. For this reason, road tests should be required for older drivers, especially those who have been off the road for a while.

Big Rig, Big Responsibility
An 18-wheeler can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. That’s 40 tons of metal and cargo powered by a 600-horsepower engine, flying down the highway and maneuvering in heavy traffic. It is your responsibility to ensure you have safe and capable drivers behind the wheel of your trucks. Incorporating a new driver road test needs to be a mandatory step in your onboarding process. For more information on this important safety topic, consult the professionals on our Transportation Risk Services Team.

This article originally appeared in the 2018 | ISSUE TWO of the SilverLink magazine, under the title “TRUCKING SAFETY ALERT: The Importance of a New Driver Road Test.” To receive a complimentary subscription to the SilverLink magazine, sign up here.

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