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19 acteristics, such as socioeconomic status and personality, in period. They also tend to be older drivers, an added associa- predicting major life outcomes, such as mortality and occu- tion with safety (Staplin et al. 2002; Knipling 2009a). pational attainment (Roberts et al. 2007). Driving is one of the areas in which intelligence can be associated with safe Turnover is a management problem many firms face, but it performance (Knipling 2009a). is especially difficult in some segments of the trucking indus- try. TL carriers that provide medium- and long-haul service There are a number of reasons to believe that intelligence have a more significant turnover problem than do carriers in might affect driving outcomes. Intelligence may be associ- parcel or less-than-truckload (LTL) operations. Until the deep ated with greater patience, greater consistency in choice, and economic recession that began in 2008, the annualized turn- a more accurate assessment of risk, all of which may contrib- over rate at large TL firms (more than $30 million in revenue ute to safer driving (Burks et al. 2009). Higher intelligence per year) had never dropped below 100% per year. Smaller may also be associated with quicker and more accurate eval- TL firms did slightly better. The annualized turnover rate at uations of hazardous situations, and quicker and more effec- large TL firms hit an all-time low of 39% in the first quarter of tive responses to them. 2010, and began to rise again from that point (Watson 2010). Burks et al. (2009) studied 1,065 truckload (TL) driver- TL drivers are paid by the mile, and the rate is mod- trainees and found that their general cognitive ability level est because the highly competitive nature of the segment was correlated with their patience and the accuracy of their prevents raising prices in order to raise wages. TL drivers evaluation of risks in small-stakes monetary games used often have irregular work schedules, work long hours per to assess risk-taking. This study also found correlations week, and have uncertain and limited time at home. From between general cognitive ability level and consistency in the driver's point of view, the number of miles a TL driver choice tasks, and with social awareness as measured by can complete depends on many factors besides the driver's the willingness to help someone else at a monetary cost. In own effort. This can be frustrating for new drivers. An addition, basic cognitive ability was the strongest single pre- experienced driver can earn substantially more than the U.S. dictor of staying for a full year of service after training in median household income (approximately $50,000 per year a setting in which early exit carried a significant financial in recent years). New drivers normally make significantly penalty. Because inexperienced drivers have higher accident less than this, and many do not stay long enough to become risk (Staplin et al. 2002; Knipling 2009a), this is one way experienced. Jobs at parcel and LTL carriers tend to be bet- in which general cognitive ability indirectly affects safety. ter on all of these dimensions, because of the organization of Nonetheless, there is little evidence of a direct link between the work around fixed company terminals at which freight general cognitive skills and safer driving. Kim and Bishu is handled. Firms in these segments historically have lower (2004) suggest that this is because the real relationships may turnover rates than do TL carriers (Burks et al. 2008). involve specific cognitive abilities rather than broad traits such as IQ. The role of these narrower traits has not been Management can control some aspects of the job in ways studied carefully in hazardous settings, as opposed to nor- that lead to better retention. Some of these aspects include mal driving situations. a clear career path, performance-based promotions, and perceived driver equality. These factors can foster attitudes In summary, as Knipling (2009a) points out, the clear- toward management, dispatchers, and other companies that est relationship is that between very low general intelli- increase job attachment. These are all components of job sat- gence and higher accident risk. Criminality is also higher isfaction that have been shown to be effective predictors of for individuals with very low IQ, which may explain much turnover (Tett and Meyer 1993; Griffeth et al. 2000). How- of the relationship (Evans 2004). Associations with safety ever, for any given level of pay and set of working conditions, may be weak for those above a minimum level of general some drivers are more likely to leave than others. The focus intelligence, for whom persistent traits such as personality here is on the persistent personality characteristics of indi- characteristics matter more. viduals that affect their likelihood of quitting. The "Big Five" Personality Traits MAJOR RETENTION-RELATED PERSONAL TRAITS The "Big Five" personality traits are extraversion, open- Retention has a clear relationship to safety performance. ness to experience, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and New-to-the-industry drivers are likely to have higher acci- emotional stability, and cognitive skills. Zimmerman (2008) dent rates until they acquire experience. Retained drivers are recently conducted a major meta-analysis of the relationship more knowledgeable on safety goals of the company, more of these personality factors to turnover, examining studies stable in their career path, and more likely to follow com- by 86 authors at a large number of different firms in differ- pany safety rules. They have learned from the training they ent industries. Burks et al. (2009) studied the relationship have received and can put that training in use over a longer between cognitive skills and retention among TL drivers.
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20 Conscientiousness involves self-discipline, planning, and Agreeableness had the strongest correlation with turnover: dutifulness. Zimmerman (2008) hypothesized that those high -0.25. Conscientiousness had a -0.20 correlation, and emo- in conscientiousness are less likely to quit because they are more tional stability a -0.18 correlation. Openness (the trait most likely to perceive a contractual or moral duty to stay. Another directly connected to cognitive skills) was positively related, connection is that those high in conscientiousness are more with a correlation of 0.10. However, to the extent that open- likely achieve success at the job and therefore have higher job ness is associated with cognitive skill, this relationship is satisfaction. A third linkage is to the traits of impulsivity and likely to be reversed for truck drivers. Extraversion showed risk-taking owing to their higher accident risk. Impulsivity and a small but inconsistent relationship to turnover. risk-taking are likely to be low in those with high conscientious- ness, who are better able to control short-term impulses to leave. Predicted self-reported intentions to quit versus predicted actual quits varied with the personality trait levels. Low Extraversion is the trait of seeking social relationships. emotional stability was most closely connected to employ- Extraverts may experience more positive emotions and ees' intentions to quit, whereas low conscientiousness and perceive their surroundings positively. Zimmerman (2008) agreeableness best predicted actual turnover decisions. Zim- hypothesized that high extraversion would lead to lower merman (2008) developed a path model that showed impor- voluntary turnover because it would be associated with a tant direct effects from personality to intentions to quit and greater level of job satisfaction and more social ties within turnover behaviors that were not captured through job satis- the firm. This is not as clearly relevant to drivers, however, faction or job performance. Employees with low emotional as drivers often do most of their work alone. Many of their stability may intend to quit for reasons other than dissatisfac- interactions are with customers who may change from day tion with their jobs or poor job performance. Employees who to day, not with a stable group of coworkers. are low on agreeableness or high on openness may engage in unplanned quitting. The data also showed that personal- Openness to experience is the trait of seeking variety, ity traits had stronger relationships with outcomes than did new experiences, and being curious and imaginative. Zim- other measures of job complexity and job characteristics. merman (2008) hypothesized that those high in this trait are more likely to quit in order to try out new job opportunities. These five personality factors are not completely inde- This is also the trait most closely connected with cognitive pendent of each other, so it makes sense that they may have skill and intelligence, which can be thought of as the capac- a systematic relationship. Several authors (Digman 1997; ity to analyze and make use of new experiences. However, DeYoung 2006) have identified a higher order structure: cognitive skill is strongly associated with job success and job Emotional stability, conscientiousness, and agreeableness attachment among truckers. have a common predictive power, and the "meta-factor" this identifies has been labeled stability. This is sensible when Agreeableness is the trait of being compassionate and thinking about turnover, because Zimmerman (2008) found caring toward others, as well as optimistic about human all three factors in this meta-factor to be moderately strongly nature. Zimmerman (2008) hypothesized that those high in negatively correlated with quitting. In addition, openness agreeableness are less likely to leave because they will be and extraversion share a common predictive power, and the more understanding of the negative aspects of a job, have meta-factor of these two factors has been labeled plasticity. more successful relationships with coworkers, and be more This appears to be less important for the behavior of quitting, likely to see a contractual obligation to stay. In addition, according to these results, and may be reversed in truckers people high in agreeableness are less likely to be impulsive to the extent that plasticity is associated with cognitive skill, and therefore less likely to quit on an impulse. according to the results of Burks et al. (2009). Emotional stability (known in its negative form as neu- Cognitive Ability roticism) is the trait of having positive emotions and being calm. Those low in this trait frequently experience anger, Burks et al. (2009) studied 1,065 new-to-the-industry TL anxiety, or depression. Zimmerman (2008) hypothesized driver trainees, measuring their personality traits, demo- that those low in emotional stability (that is, high in neu- graphic characteristics, past job experience and job attach- roticism) are more likely to quit because they have more ment history, and risk aversion and time preferences. These negative views of their job, and have higher doubts and more drivers received training at no upfront cost, but they all signed stress about being able to do it. They would be more likely to a credit contract that made them liable for the commercial avoid stressful situations, including stressful jobs. The trait cost of the training if they did not stay for 1 year of service. A of aggressiveness/anger/hostility is also likely to be associ- major finding was that out of all the characteristics measured ated with low emotional stability (i.e., high neuroticism). at study intake, the level of basic cognitive (mental) skills was the strongest single predictor of staying on the job for 1 year. Zimmerman (2008) found the following relationships Those in the top quarter of cognitive skill were almost twice between the Big Five personality factors and voluntary exits. as likely to complete a year as those in the bottom quarter.
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21 The authors argued that the main reason for this find- many factors besides the driver's own effort. This gen- ing was the need for on-the-job self-management by TL erates stress and frustration, especially for new drivers. drivers. The runs that drivers are assigned typically vary When drivers are paid by the mile but cannot make enough over time, with many details of scheduling, routing, and miles, they are likely to quit. Burks summed up this find- deliveries. The ability to schedule oneself to meet the ing by saying that "doing well financially requires a driver needs of shippers and consignees, while taking account who is not only willing to work hard but also is able to of HOS rules and changing traffic and weather conditions, work `smart' in a competitive environment" (2009). Thus, requires cognitive skill. From the driver's point of view, higher mental skills are associated with stable employ- the number of miles a TL driver can complete depends on ment among truckers.