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Accident-free UPS driver: How to avoid distractions behind the wheel

Lori Johnston

When your profession is driving, being safe is a job essential.

UPS driver Tom Camp of Livonia, Mich., has been driving a UPS truck and delivering packages – without any accidents – for 50 years.

Camp, 72, is the most senior safe driver in the shipping company’s Circle of Honor, an honorary organization for UPS drivers who’ve achieved at least 25 or years of accident-free driving.

UPS’ 102,000 drivers log about 3 billion miles a year and average less than one accident for every 1 million miles, the company says. UPS says 6,486 active drivers worldwide are in the Circle of Honor, and they’ve logged 5.3 billion safe miles.

Camp chatted with about his perfect driving record and provided tips for steering clear of accidents.

When did you start working for UPS?

I went from high school in 1958 right into the Marines. I spent three years there. When I came out of the service, there were no jobs. My buddy got into UPS, which I had never heard of at that time. I put in my application. A week later I was hired, in May 1962. I was 22 years old. I had never driven a truck in my life. I had never dreamed I would be driving a truck. They trained me when I started with the company.

What is a key safety rule you learned early on as a driver?

To always watch out for the other drivers. You’ve got to drive defensively. You don’t know what the other drivers are going to do.

Do you have any distractions in the truck while driving?

No. We’re not ever allowed to talk on our cellphone while the truck is moving. You are not able to do anything to distract you while you’re driving.

In your time with UPS, have you seen other drivers become more distracted?

They’ve gotten much worse – the cellphones, those navigation systems built into the dash. A couple of years ago, I glanced over and said, “My God, that guy is watching basketball.” A TV was built into his dash. You’ve got to avoid the distractions. Even turn your radio off if you have to.

Have you had any close calls?

I’ve had some close calls. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. With winter weather, especially, you’ve got to pay attention. You better slow down at an intersection. You might be coming up on a stop sign. If you put your brakes on, you can find yourself sliding. It’s always slick around those stop signs.

Have the weather conditions ever been so bad that you couldn’t work?

UPS says if you can’t get down a residential street, don’t try it. There have only been a couple of times where I can remember UPS calling us off the road.

Can you give us an idea of your typical workday and route?

My day usually starts around 9:30 a.m. I usually work about 10 and a half hours a day. My driving is mostly residential.

In residential areas, what does it take to watch out for children?

When school gets out about 3:30 p.m., you have to watch for kids. They’re walking across the street and not paying attention at all. If you see a bouncing ball on a residential street in the summertime, you’ve got to watch out for kids.

What is the worst driving condition for you?

Freezing rain. I usually leave a least five car lengths’ distance in front of me. In the wintertime, it’s seven, eight, nine lengths. I don’t want to be anywhere near that car in front of me (in case of an accident on the ice).

What bad habits do you see young drivers doing?

I notice a lot of these young kids really, really tailgate. They’re so close to the car in front of them. If the car in front of them has to stop, they’re going to hit them in the rear end. You have to leave the safety cushion.

How else do drivers rush on the roads?

People slow down at a stop sign, but they don’t stop. They take a quick look and don’t see anybody coming, so they just shoot across (the street). The same thing for traffic lights. People just run them. When the light turns green for you, always look and make sure the guy that should be stopped is stopped.

What’s your final tip for drivers?

Watch your surroundings. You’ve got to pretend like everybody out there has been drinking.



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