Stop Hiring the Claim!

Special thanks to IPCS and Dr. Thomas Gilliam for providing the below article.  This is great information on best hiring practices for the Trucking Industry and implementing a Physical Capacity Evaluation Program. 


The trucking industry is unique in many ways. For the most part, the trucking industry tends to have a higher number of workers’ compensation claims compared to other industries and claims that tend to cost more especially soft tissue injuries. The trucking industry also tends to have a greater turnover because drivers will “jump” from one trucking company to another for a penny more per mile driven. And finally, today, there is a shortage of CDL drivers which limits the company’s ability to be selective in who they hire.

But in reality by not being selective in who is being hired means that many times the company is hiring a claim – a driver is hired with a pre-existing condition that if not detected at the time of the hire could cost the company up to $500,000 in claims cost.

Being selective at the time of hiring fits the captive model discussed in earlier blogs. When a company is being selective at the time of the hiring process, the company will hire a healthier worker with less risk for injury and disease.  The company is being pro-active and in doing so increases the probability of fewer soft-tissue injury claims with substantially less money being spent per claim.

New Hire Physical Capability Evaluation (PCE) Program

Testing the physical capability of the new hire applicant against a defensible physical demands analysis (PDA) which is normally completed by a certified ergonomist is legal and will dramatically reduce the company’s frequency of claims and the severity of the claims.

A new hire PCE must meet certain criteria:

  • The PCE must be currently validated (usually in the last 3-years).
  • The PCE must be job related.
    • The PCE should evaluate the major muscle groups associated with the essential functions of the job which is determined by the PDA.
  • The PCE should be consistent with business necessity.
    • Concern about the safety of the worker and worker’s ability to safely perform the essential functions of the job is tied into consistency with business necessity.
  • As mentioned earlier, the company should have on file a current (in the last 4 years) defensible physical demands analyses or job task analyses completed by a certified ergonomist.
    • The physical demands analysis needs to be done for each job involved in the PCE screening program.
      • Driver, line-haul driver, delivery driver, yard jockey, mechanic, loader and the like.

What is the purpose of the physical demands analysis?

The physical demands analysis (PDA) should be done by a certified ergonomist, as previously stated, to determine the frequency and duration of critical movement tasks as identified by the Department of Labor such as:

  • Lifting, carrying, climbing, bending, reaching, pushing and pulling and others.
  • A PDA will evaluate each of these tasks in terms of the frequency in which they are done as measured by rarely (less than 10% of the day), occasionally (10-32% of the day), frequently (33-66% of the day) and constant (>66% of the day).
    • Lifting and carrying usually is evaluated using weight categories such as:
      • <10 pounds
      • 10-25 pounds
      • 26-50 pounds
      • 51-75 pounds
      • >75 pounds
    • Based on the analysis, the job can be rated according to the Department of Labor strength definitions as Sedentary, Light, Medium, Heavy and Very Some PCE groups will use half categories such as Medium-Heavy.
  • Usually, the rating for the no-touch freight driver falls into the Medium-Heavy rating and the rating for drivers who load and unload (i.e. touch freight) is Heavy.
  • Dockworkers usually fall into the Heavy category.
  • Yard Jockey usually falls into the Medium-Heavy rating, and,
  • Mechanics usually fall into the Heavy category.

How is a PCE program implemented?

Normally, a PCE new hire screening program is done post-job offer after the DOT exam, drug test and background check. For the most part, the PCE is administered by a physical therapist assistant and is done in a physical therapy facility. In some instances, the PCE is done as part of the medical examination at the occupational medicine clinic.

  • The PCE is done either at a sports medicine clinic, occupational medicine clinic or a via mobile unit.
  • But to insure high standards and quality control of the data interpretation process, all tests are interpreted at their corporate
    • Maintaining a consistent test administration process and data interpretation process is critical in response to any EEO challenge that may occur.
  • Time is critical when trying to hire a driver – loaded trailers have to be moved.
    • The entire PCE process takes about 2 days. This includes setting the PCE testing appointment, data interpretation and sending back the new hire report to the client.
      • Normally, the results are received by the trucking company by the time they receive the results from all of the other selection evaluations.
    • A successful PCE program means not all drivers will meet the standards as established by the physical demands analysis according to the Department of Labor strength definitions.
  • A successful PCE program means that it is bringing savings to your bottom line with fewer injuries and less costly injuries.
  • What can your company expect in terms of pass/fail rates:
  • Driver positions that are rated as Medium-Heavy generally have a 90-94% pass
  • Driver positions that are rated as Heavy generally have an 85- 90% pass rate.
  • The pass rate information is based on IPCS’s database of 400,000 blue collar worker and specifically about 200,000 tests in the trucking


As a member of a captive insurance program, being selective in who is hired fits with the captive model to demonstrate cost-savings.  Do you in fact want to stop hiring the claim? It is a difficult decision to implement a new hire strength screening program since there is a shortage of drivers.  But how many more drivers do you hire each year to offset those lost due to injury? One of the side benefits of a good new hire strength screening program is better driver retention which with time could decrease the demand for drivers within your company.


Author information

Written by Thomas B. Gilliam, Ph.D., president and founder of Industrial Physical Capability Services, Inc. (IPCS),,

Dr. Gilliam has been performing physical capability strength evaluations in industry since 1982.

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