How to Deliver Packages Safely, for 55 Years

Tom Camp, 77, sorting through packages inside his truck. He started driving for U.P.S. in 1962.

As told to Tanya Mohn

Tom Camp, 77, is a U.P.S. delivery driver in Livonia, Michigan.

How did you become a professional truck driver?

I came out of the service — the Marine Corps — in 1961 and needed a job. There was a kind of recession going on. I had no driving experience, but I found work delivering packages during Christmas. After the holidays, I was unemployed again.

I heard about U.P.S. from a friend. I had a driving test on a Friday, and on Tuesday I was driving. I’ve been doing it since 1962.

Has behavior on the roads changed since the early ’60s?

Driving has gotten worse. The guidelines are basically the same, but there is much more traffic out there. Everyone is in such a hurry. There isn’t courtesy among drivers anymore. It seems to be a lost art. Some drivers are so bad, they don’t even put turn signals on. Where did those people learn how to drive? How did they even get out of driving school?

What are the biggest mistakes that you see motorists make?

There are too many aggressive drivers and a lot have their minds on other things, like reading the paper or doing their makeup. A lot are on cellphones. Distraction is very, very big.

“There isn’t courtesy among drivers anymore,” Mr. Camp said. “It seems to be a lost art.”

Mr. Camp has driven more than a million miles for U.P.S. without a crash.

You were honored recently for having the safest driving record in U.P.S. history — 55 years and more than a million miles behind the wheel of a truck without a crash. What are your strategies for success?

I follow the safe driving methods U.P.S. drills into us everyday. Since I’ve been with the company, they’ve preached safety.

Training includes simple vision rules, like the importance of scanning the big picture and keeping your eyes moving. Other rules stress timing, like when you’re stopped at an intersection behind another vehicle, to count one-two-three after the vehicle ahead has started to move before doing so.

Our delivery routes are arranged so that you’re always going with the flow of traffic, to keep us on one side of the street so we don’t cross over into oncoming traffic — that’s more efficient and safer than going back and forth across the roadway.

Once a year, a supervisor goes out with you to make sure you haven’t picked up any bad habits. You’ve got to be aware of your surroundings all the time: looking down side streets, checking your mirrors to see what’s going on. You just can’t pull out.

If someone’s driving is very erratic, I’d much rather him go by me, have him in front of me, than behind. That way, I can keep my eyes on him.


Mr. Camp said U.P.S. helps keep drivers safe by laying out routes so they do not have to cross oncoming traffic.

Do you have any driving tips?

Avoid left-hand turns. Make sure your mirrors are aligned. Never tailgate — leave enough space between your vehicle and others in front, back and on the sides.

There is a driving culture of weaving in and out, passing other cars too often and too quickly; if you get in a lane, stay there. Don’t cut people off.

In bad weather, adapt to the conditions. If there’s rain, snow or sleet — slow down. Assume other drivers are not as aware as you are; assume the other guy is daydreaming. A lot of good driving is common sense, but there’s a shortage of it.

The most important thing is to keep your mind focused. You’ve got to be observant all the time. I drive the same way in my car.

What do you think about driverless vehicles intended to make roads safer by eliminating human error?

Oh, my god, I’m so much against that. I’m not a good passenger. I’d rather be in command.

Categories: 

Add new comment