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Crash Course: Startling results from ATRI driver training study
ARLINGTON, Va. -- There's no connection between how much time a student driver actually spends behind the wheel training and the likelihood of having an accident once he gets a CDL. Ditto a link between how many hours a student spends in a truck-school classroom and the chances of having an accident. That is the surprising outcome of a study just released by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI). This study, according to ATRI, is perhaps the first ever to examine the overall duration of new entrant driver training, the instructional environment and curriculum topic areas covered vis-a-vis the relative safety impact of each on new entrant driver-safety performance. "I think a lot of people in the industry are going to be taken by surprise with these results," ATRI's Rebecca Brewster told in an interview. She also said it's important to keep in mind that the study looked at very specific parameters; i.e., the lab rats were all new drivers who had between 30 and 152 hours behind-the-wheel training and between 88 and 272 hours of total contact time with instructors. Also, ATRI measured the accident likelihood based on property-accident-only (PDO) incidents. These are yard collisions, backing incidents and the like. ATRI used those incidents, she said, because mostly, new recruits don't get into bigger accidents. Ironically, of all the aspects of drivers-ed that ATRI looked at, only one had a measurable effect on the likelihood of accidents and that was the amount of training students received in "accident procedures." The more students learned about how to handle accidents, the less likely they were to have them.

The more students learn about how to handle accidents,
the less likely they were to have them, study shows.
ATRI's research examined the statistical relationship between training regimens and safety performance for over 16,500 new commercial drivers, a sample representing nearly 30 percent of the annual new entrant population in the U.S. According to at least one fleet, the news is anything but surprising. Chad England, is vice president of recruiting, training and safe driving for Utah-based C.R. England, which not only offers for hire trucking but also a truck-driving school. "As a fleet," England said, "we have long believed that the litmus test for commercial driver training should be performance-based and not a derivative of hours spent in training; this research bears out our hypothesis." Brewster also added that the study only applies to very specific driver-school curricula. "It cannot be concluded that a statistical effect does not exist for more or fewer hours than those tested in this assessment," she said. To read the full ATRI report, click on the link below, move your mouse to "current research" and look for Safety and Human Factors.
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