UPS Driver Honored For Accident-Free Career

Ron Sowder has driven delivery trucks and tractor trailers for UPS for 50 years. Last week, UPS honored Sowder for driving all that time without an accident.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Let's come closer to home now for the story of a man who's a model of consistency. UPS, the shipping company, has honored one of its drivers. The company says Ron Sowder has driven delivery trucks and tractor trailers at UPS for 50 years without being blamed for an accident. He has managed to stay safe while climbing into the cab more than 12,000 times and traveling more than four million miles.

Lately, he's been driving across Ohio, to Cincinnati and then to Louisville, Kentucky.

How'd you get into this line of work?

RON SOWDER: Well, when I got out of the Navy, they had an ad in the paper about UPS. Well, I got the job. I was one of them. One guy, he had bad feet. He couldn't take this walking around. The other one, he kept forgetting to come to work. So he didn't last. I was the only one out of three that lasted.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

INSKEEP: Well, I'm curious. Were you just looking for a job? Or was this something you knew you wanted to do?

SOWDER: No, I was looking for a job. And I went to work for Hewitt Soap Company then. But I didn't like the factory work. I like being on the outside.

INSKEEP: Well, you've given me one idea of why you would like it: You don't like being inside. You don't like being in a factory, for example, but you like being outside. What else is enjoyable about driving a truck?

SOWDER: Well, it's - no two days are the same. I go through Cincinnati rush hour traffic in the morning, come back rush hour at night. It's always worse coming back. It's like an adventure every day going through Cincinnati.

INSKEEP: UPS says that you have never had an accident in the...

SOWDER: True. Well, that's - I've did some stuff, but it wasn't my fault.

INSKEEP: Somebody had hit you, rather than you hitting them.

SOWDER: Yeah, right. Guy just - he bumped into me.

INSKEEP: How has people's driving changed in the last half century?

SOWDER: Well, the old saying used to be courtesy is contagious - not so much any more. You let people in, and that's that. Only about one out of 50 can bring themselves to throw their hand up, thanks. And they don't use turn signals. You know, if you hit them, you knock them into next week. But I think some of these people need some additional training or something.

INSKEEP: Well, maybe you'd be in a position to give that to them, having had the driving experience you've had.

SOWDER: I wouldn't trade jobs with any driving instructor, believe me.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

INSKEEP: How do you pass those hours driving across Ohio and Kentucky?

SOWDER: Well, we have an AM/FM radio in here and a CB, stuff like that. I don't talk very much on CB. But, you know, I've heard everything they've got to say, anyway. So I just listen to the radio.

INSKEEP: What's your CB handle?

SOWDER: The Big Dog, they call me. I'm not sure who gave me that, but you're going to get a handle one way or the other. Somebody will hang something on you.

INSKEEP: You ever get sick of driving?

SOWDER: Well, not so far, believe it or not. I like to drive, you know, and I'm pretty good at it. And I've got a lot of friends. You been around as long as me, you have a - you know a lot of people.

INSKEEP: Well, Mr. Sowder, congratulations on the honor and on the safe driving. And thanks for spending some time with us.

SOWDER: OK, my pleasure.

INSKEEP: UPS driver Ron Sowder, 50 years without causing an accident.

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

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