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Personality & Competence of ”Driver’s”

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There are a large number of psychological tests, especially behaviour identification tests that can be done before a person is employed in a specific job. The key is to identify the man/job specification as part of the competency profile.  In certain jobs, like a ship captain, airplane pilot or a train driver the people in charge of such equipment has had many, many years of experience and many competency tests along the way.  In the case of an airplane pilot or ship captain many mathematical calculations must be conducted to ensure stability, safety, sufficient fuel, engine efficiencies etc.  Unfortunately in the case of a truck driver, in certain countries, he can be as young as 18y, with a very low skills and experience level, never having driven that specific combination before, with an illegal license, un-roadworthy vehicle, overloaded with an improperly secured load of steel or poles etc.  The result is a young inexperienced driver failing to stop at an intersection, killing 24 because the vehicle was not 100% roadworthy or in another case the driver lost some of his poles because he did not secure the load properly, impaling the people in the car behind him.  In many cases the vehicle owner is the root cause of the accident/incident because of financial greed resulting in lack of maintenance but the driver takes responsibility for that vehicle when he drives it.  However, for financial reasons, he/she will drive a very un-roadworthy vehicle for very long hours, just to feed his/her family.

Having said that about a truck driver, it is a lonely job, especially when he/she is a long distance driver and the company rules are ‘no passengers’.  The driver has to cope with other people and their road rage, yet be friendly when arriving at the offloading site because he/she is representing the transport company and its customer.  They have to cope with loneliness, stress, have good concentration and be able to manage their own sleeping and eating patterns to prevent fatigue.  The driver must be competent in defensive driving as he/she is not alone on the road and other road users can do amazing things due to the lack of understanding that it takes a distance to stop a loaded combination and it takes two lanes to turn etc.   He/she must also be very capable to maneuver the combination he/she is driving in and out of peculiar places as it is just part of a day’s job.  Checking the vehicle for visible road worthiness and reporting any defect before it becomes a safety issue is important, but as mentioned above, in many cases the driver will be told; ‘drive this truck or I will find someone who is willing’.  While driving, the driver must keep a keen eye on the speedometer and road conditions, temperature gauges and all the other gadgets the vehicle might be fitted with, to ensure the engine is performing optimal and safely.

A ship’s crew is different.  These people are living and working in confined space with other people for three months at a time (or longer), although there is space to ‘hide’ you cannot hide for long because each person has a job to do!  Let’s start with the Ship’s Captain; many exams and many years of experience later and still only authorized on certain routes and certain types of vessels.  He/she takes full responsibility for the vessel, its load and its crew, a rather daunting task in rough seas for extended periods of time.   There are many pieces of equipment onboard ranging from engine output optimizers to radar screens and many more depending on the type of vessel, to ensure the safe navigation of a ship and although the Captain has assistants, he/she is ultimately the responsible person when it comes to decision making such as going through or around a storm or current.   You must definitely have good foresight because a decision you make now, will only show its effectiveness in a half hour or so when the ship has turned or slowed down, and if it was the wrong decision it is too late to correct it, or to navigate through instead of around etc.  Every person on that ship performs a specific task but more important must be able to ‘fix it’ when something goes wrong and not throw their hands in the air and ‘dial a plumber / electrician’ etc.  No one will arrive until the ship docks and because of additional docking fees, highly unlikely that it will dock in the nearest harbour if there is not a load to be dropped off or collected. Radar is one of the most important pieces of equipment as the sea can be rather big and unforgiving if you do not know where you are, although modern ship captains are still taught how to navigate using the stars and a map, but like most modern people, they rely rather heavily on technology to do the navigation for them.  The ship captain also keeps a log book indicating weather, sea and engine decisions amongst other.

Cargo planes normally have a pilot and co-pilot and in some cases a chief flight engineer.  Many passenger pilots started their careers as cargo plane pilots so again, many formal exams, many hours under supervision and many years of practical experience before you can move across from co-pilot to pilot.  Again as a pilot you are responsible for all those gauges indicating your altitude, wind speed, wind direction, your speed, your fuel consumption, the engine’s efficiencies and many more.  You complete the pilots log per flight, indicating the time flying in hours, this in turn will trigger the maintenance of tyres and other mechanical parts as every bit of a plane has a maintenance schedule based on flying hours.  Again, like the ship’s captain, the pilot is the ultimate decision maker and he/she has to make decisions within the blink of an eye because at 900km/h time and distance is not in your favour.  Again radar communication is of critical importance and pilots communicate with traffic control to verify their position on a regular basis, especially in relation to other planes.  The number of planes disappearing or crashing, where after a detailed root cause analysis, it was found that the pilot had a suicide wish for whatever reason and the airline did not pick it up, is increasing.  It certainly should be seen as a red flag by all airlines, regardless if they are passenger or cargo pilots and more time must be dedicated in the psychological wellbeing of pilots.

A locomotive driver normally has an assistant, they train for years and write many exams before they are given a route as a driver.  Again it is a lonely job and if you do not like your assistant it could be a real challenge as the two of you are stuck in a very small space for up to 12 hours at a time.  Interesting is a loco’s has a ‘dead man’ switch that will cut the power from the engines to ensure the train cannot run out of control should something happen to both the driver and his/her assistant.  Although a locomotive is not complicated to drive or maneuver as it is rail bound, it can derail due to excessive speed around bends or points not set properly, even poor wagon wheel maintenance could force open points and result in the derailment of some wagons, but major accidents happen because danger signals are ignored, so again it has a psychological root cause.  It has very powerful engines and its speed must be correctly controlled otherwise someone will get killed, especially at level crossings and around bends because it is not possible to stop or slow down quickly, it is a slow process.  During coupling and uncoupling excellent communication between shunter and driver is a matter of live and death and they use two way radios, hand signals, flags or flash lights depending on the situation.  Mainline locomotive drivers communicate with CTC (central train control) to ensure signals are set correctly to indicate right of way otherwise head-on collisions will occur daily.

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