COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - From his perch in a UPS tractor-trailer cab, Roosevelt Green of Richland County has seen it all in more than 40 years of driving: thunderstorms, fog, blizzards, and road rage.
He’s driven 4 million miles without an accident, the distance of eight trips to the moon and back.
And he has some advice for South Carolina drivers.
“If people would just obey the laws, and not talk on the cell phone,” he told The Greenville News. “These people are on their telephones and some of them are smoking a cigarette and it’s scary. I always watch before I pass, if they are touching the lines. If they just obey the laws we have, I think we will be all right.”
Green, 71, a native of Columbia, began his work with vehicles in the Army, where he cared for track vehicles like armored personnel carriers.
He joined UPS in 1971 and after two years driving package trucks, decided to learn how to drive one of the package company’s big rigs, what they describe as “feeder trucks.”
He’s been driving them ever since, in more recent years to Jacksonville, Fl. from Columbia and back, all without an accident.
Green wears a 40 patch on his uniform, which represents his induction into the company’s Circle of Honor for driving 40 years without a mishap.
His UPS manager, Kenny Richardson, says Green is the safest UPS driver in South Carolina.
“He’s in a circle by himself,” he said.
According to UPS, Green is one of more than 60 UPS drivers worldwide who have driven accident-free for at least 40 years. He’s also among the top 50 safe drivers in the company, which employs 102,000 drivers worldwide.
More than 500 drivers have gone 35 years without an accident, according to the company.
UPS began recognizing its safe drivers in 1923. Founder Jim Casey honored the company’s first 5-year safe driver in 1928. The company’s drivers worldwide are among the safest on the roads, according to UPS, logging more than 3 billion miles per year and delivering more than 4 billion packages safely.
“Our drivers’ expertise behind the wheel has helped many avoid the life-changing impact of accidents,” said Teri McClure, chief human resources officer and senior vice president for UPS. “I salute their efforts and hope they serve as an example for all of us as to the importance of dedication and focus behind the wheel.”
Green points to his training and his discipline in following procedures that have kept him safe.
But he also had some pride in being safe and a desire to always return home to his family.
“I wanted to make it back,” he said. “I never wanted my supervisor to come get me on the road.”
Like all UPS drivers, Green has been taught the “Five Seeing Habits” which they memorize through the saying All Good Kids Love Milk.
Those include aim high in steering, get the big picture, keep your eyes moving, leave yourself an out and make sure they see you.
To those he adds staying rested, keeping focused and following procedures.
“I applied what they trained me to do,” he said. “Because I didn’t want to fail. I put my heart into what I’m doing. I have a wife and a family. I like to be successful.”
Green also believes South Carolina’s roads have never been this bad.
“I-95 right now is in deplorable condition,” he said.
He remembers the damage to the ground after an earthquake in Alaska. He said that is what the interstate looks like in some areas.
“Sometime I have to drive in the left lane to avoid the bumps in the road,” he said.
Although he used other routes before the interstates were fully developed in the state, he tries to stay on interstates now, especially for safety reasons.
“I’m afraid to use a secondary road because I don’t know if all the bridges have been fixed after the flood in October,” he said. “We’re not maintaining our roads in South Carolina. We’re in bad shape.”
Green has driven through all types of weather, including blinding snowstorms, dense fog and heavy thunderstorms.
He recalled the time he was driving in the North Carolina mountains through snow so heavy it was difficult to see the edge of the road, even though he was on I-26. He thought he was alone, he said, until he glanced in his mirror and saw all the traffic following him, hoping he would blaze the way.
One of the changes he has seen over the years has been in the trucks he drives. He now drives a tractor with push button automatic transmission.
“I really didn’t want one until I got one,” he said chuckling. “It spoils you.”
He’s also seen a change in drivers, with less patience, quicker tempers and increasing situations in which cars cut him off.
Through it all, though, Green says he tries to maintain a friendly attitude.
“I’ll apply my brakes to let people in,” he said. “Just be friendly on the road. Instead of ramming on your horn just tap your horn a couple times. Hopefully, somewhere down the road, someone is going to be friendly to you. I end up smiling a lot when I should be angry. You don’t think positively when you are angry.”
Information from: The Greenville News, https://www.greenvillenews.com
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