Commercial Truck and Bus Safety Synthesis 4 Individual Differences and the ‘High-Risk’ Commercial Driver

  • Published: Commercial Truck and Bus Safety Synthesis Program (CTBSSP)Transportation Research Board, 2004
  • Authors: Commercial Truck and Bus Safety Synthesis Program (CTBSSP)Transportation Research Board
  • Date Added: 05 Mar 2013
  • Last Update: 05 Mar 2013
  • Format: pdf


For each topic, the project objectives are:

  • To locate and assemble documented information;
  • To learn what practices have been used for solving or alleviating problems;
  • To identify relevant, ongoing research;To learn what problems remain largely unsolved; and
  • To organize, evaluate, and document the useful information that is acquired.


Literature reviews formed part of the work in this synthesis but the predominant source of data was from surveys of safety managers and other experts in the industry.

Key Findings:

  • Survey findings strongly support the notion that high-risk drivers are a real and significant problem and that individual differences in safety among drivers are enduring.

  • Large individual differences have been seen in the rate of driver involvement in traffic ‘near-miss’ incidents, and 12 per cent of the drivers in the study were associated with 38 per cent of the incidents.

  • Evidence suggests that individual differences in personality and performance predispose some people to increased RTI risk.

  • Driver errors can be violations of rules, mistakes of judgment, inattention errors, or inexperience errors. Common driver errors resulting in RTIs include recognition errors and decision errors, or poor decision-making in dynamic traffic situations.

  • Fleet safety management approaches to preventing high-risk-driver–related RTIs revolve around the basic management functions of selection and hiring, performance evaluation, and driver safety management practices.

  • The clearest advice to safety managers is, “Don’t hire a problem.”

Once drivers are hired, there are various ways to monitor their driving behaviours and modify their behaviour in ways that reduce risk:

    • Performance evaluation and feedback (perhaps enhanced by on-board safety monitoring of driver behaviour);
    • Training and counselling, performance incentives;
    • Behaviour-based safety; and
    • Driver self-management are among the methods described.
  • Termination may be the ultimate solution when drivers are unmanageable from the safety perspective.


High-risk drivers, Safety management.


High-risk drivers present a problem in all commercial transport operations. Therefore identification and appropriate management are important aspects of safety within bus and coach companies.