CDC: Older drivers face greater risks

With a driver shortage making it more difficult for transportation companies to serve all clients efficiently and make scheduled deliveries and pickups on time, many firms are seeking new, younger professionals to help pick up the slack. Scores of older drivers are retiring, and there aren't enough new workers to replace them. No matter if companies are responsible for long hauls, regional runs or last mile delivery, they're always in need of drivers to ensure all routes are completed on schedule.

While many retirement-aged drivers are putting in their notice and getting ready to leave the workforce, plenty still remain and these workers pose some challenges for transportation companies. Firms seek to ensure their drivers are safe while on the road, but new data suggests the older a worker is, the more risks he or she faces while behind the wheel.

Risks higher for experienced drivers
According to new research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), older drivers have significantly higher traffic death rates than their younger counterparts. Workers 65 and older had an on-road fatality rate of more than three times that of younger drivers. While those older than 65 averaged 3.1 deaths per 100,000 full-time employees, this number fell to a mere 0.9 for younger workers.

The higher fatality rates for older drivers could be due to a change in their abilities. Even if a worker has been driving for decades, worsening vision, slower reaction times and illnesses can make it more difficult for employees to stay safe on the road, meaning they need to take additional precautions and their fleet managers need to be aware of any special requirements or needs they have. Because more older adults are remaining in the workforce longer, thanks to the still struggling economy, companies will need to be especially sensitive to this issue.

Making allowances for drivers at risk
According to the CDC's report, employers "should consider allowing drivers to use their judgment to reschedule travel or stop driving in cases of fatigue, illness, bad weather or darkness." This can help alleviate some of the conditions that make it more difficult for older employees to drive safely and prevent accidents.

Companies can take other steps to make driving easier and safer for employees by implementing policies that stress road safety, encourage seat belt use, limit maximum speed and ban behind-the-wheel cellphone use. By employing software that ensures all workers will be taking the most direct route to their destinations, they will be on the road for shorter periods, and thus be exposed to fewer hazards. These initiatives will ensure drivers of all ages are using best practices, eliminating distractions and remaining as safe as possible.

"Prevention of work-related motor vehicle crashes is a shared responsibility between employers and workers, and both groups should take an active role in developing and implementing prevention strategies," read the CDC's report.