UPS driver Tom Camp from Livonia, Mich., and his big, brown truck have done something no other UPS driver has accomplished: 51 years without an accident.
That’s after an estimated 800,000 to 900,000 miles on the road in metro Detroit, ringing doorbells in Detroit and western Wayne County since 1962, according to the Detroit Free Press.
“Oh, sure I’ve had close calls,” said Camp, 73, of Livonia, who began working for UPS after graduating from St. Francis de Sales High School in Detroit and serving three years in the Marines. “And 90 percent of it is paying attention. I drive so defensively now – it’s not just in my package truck, it’s in my own car – you can almost anticipate what other drivers are going to do.”
The next-safest UPS driver retired in 2012 in Dayton, Ohio, after 50 years, the only other UPS driver to achieve 50 years accident-free. The company has 6,486 drivers out of 65,000 in the U.S. and 100,000 globally who have 25 years or more without an accident, earning them a plaque and a place in the UPS Circle of Honor. UPS spends $118 million annually on safety training.
“We have a notion of a fair’s day work for a fair’s day pay – he is worth every penny, and so are the other drivers like him,” said UPS spokesman Dan McMackin. “He is one-of-a-kind. He’s the pinnacle.”
Camp’s best driving tips from his route through Livonia, where he has been delivering since the mid-1990s:
“Stay focused,” said the longtime bachelor who loves to watch Notre Dame sports teams. “Stay focused out there and drive defensively. And leave enough space.”
He said he leaves a minimum of 15 or 20 feet between him and the vehicle in front of him, and he gets annoyed when other drivers veer into the space. But he never has waved the one-finger salute or sworn at other drivers behind the wheel, he said.
“I’d like to say no,” he said. “You might say something under your breath. You don’t know who you might be talking to. It might be Mike Tyson or something.”
Camp also tries to avoid switching lanes as much as possible. And he follows UPS’s recommendation of backing up only when necessary, citing that 19 percent of accidents happen when vehicles are in reverse.
He has seen craziness on the road, like drivers putting on makeup and reading the paper behind the wheel. But when you ask him about the craziest antics, he focuses on drivers’ missteps, like swerving across lanes to make an exit on the highway or not stopping when they’re supposed to.
“You need to assume other drivers are not as aware as you are,” Camp said. “If you assume the other guy is daydreaming, that’s a good first step.”
Livonia Holiday Inn daytime front desk supervisor Matt Moultrie said Camp “magically” delivers at about the same time each day, regardless of the number of packages or whether the big brown truck is jammed with deliveries.
“Guests ask me, `What time is my package going to be here?’ ” Moultrie said, adding that Camp is always in a good mood. “I can always give them a ballpark time … no matter if it’s one box or 50 boxes, even during the holidays.”
Camp’s after work rides are a Toyota RAV4 and a black 2006 Corvette.
“That’s my little toy,” he said, adding that he doesn’t remember ever getting into an accident with his personal vehicles, either.
And he has no intention of retiring. “I’d be bored – too much free time,” he said.
“You’re out on the road by yourself. You don’t have someone looking over your shoulder all the time. And you’re more or less your own boss out there. And you have a lot of nice people. They almost become family, you know these people so well.”