Livonia — As one UPS employee sees it, driver Tom Camp has a lot in common with some sports legends.
“Let’s put it this way — John Wooden is the standard in his industry for college basketball, Vince Lombardi is the standard in his industry for football,” said Mike Wheeler, a UPS driver. “Tom Camp is the standard and the example which all of us drivers should strive to be.”
Camp, 77, of Livonia, has been driving and delivering packages for UPS for 55 years. And in more than five decades of working, he’s delivered more than five million packages, driven more than a million miles — and all without a single accident, a company safety record.
“This has never happened before,” UPS CEO David Abney said Wednesday. “We’ve never had anyone reach this kind of accomplishment.”
Abney and other company executives, co-workers and elected officials gathered Wednesday at the UPS Customer Center on Schoolcraft Road near Middlebelt Road in Livonia to honor Camp for his accomplishments.
“It’s not because of luck,” said Abney, who flew from the company’s headquarters in Atlanta to join the celebration and praised Camp’s achievement. “It’s because of following good methods, being aware, just doing all of those things that we know are so important.”
Camp said the secret to his success behind the wheel is pretty simple.
“I drive defensively,” he said. “Just do the speed limit and keep your eyes on traffic. Keep your eyes moving all the time and checking your mirrors. That’s how they teach you here.”
Abney announced Wednesday the company was giving the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute a $25,000 grant on Camp’s behalf to help improve traffic safety.
Representatives of Gov. Rick Snyder, who couldn’t attend Wednesday’s ceremony, said he declared Oct. 18, 2017, as Safe Driving Awareness Day in Camp’s honor.
And Major League Baseball Hall of Famer and Detroit Tigers legend Al Kaline was at the event, too, because Camp played baseball as a youth and even tried out for the Pittsburgh Pirates as a pitcher.
“While I was stealing bases and hitting home runs, Tom, you were protecting lives by staying safe on the road,” Kaline said. “While I was earning my 10 gold gloves, you were earning the respect the respect of all of your customers and the communities your serve right here in the Detroit area.
Some people call me ‘Mr. Tiger.’ Maybe they should call you ‘Mr. UPS,’” he said. “From one all-star to another, congratulations! I hope you keep doing what you’re doing for as long as you enjoy it.”
The Tiger’s right-fielder also presented Camp with a couple of baseball jerseys, one with Kaline’s familiar No. 6 on the back and another that had Camp’s name above the number 55.
The company ended the event by unveiling a vintage UPS delivery truck that was restored to commemorate Camp’s accomplishment. The company is putting the truck, called the Tom Camp Special, on display in UPS Great Lakes District until the spring.
Camp was left nearly speechless.
“I never expected all of this,” he said. “I’m all choked up a little bit.”
He regained his composure and asked his co-workers to keep one of their colleagues who’s ill in their thoughts.
“If you could email him, I know he’d look forward to reading them,” Camp said. “Let’s hope he gets back here soon.”
Founded in Seattle in 1907, UPS is a $61 billion company that delivers packages and freight in more than 220 countries and territories worldwide. It boasts being the world’s largest package delivery company and it transported 5 billion packages and documents across the world.
The company employs more than 434,000 people around the world. It has about 102,000 drivers and of those, 9,349 have been on the road for 25 years or more without an avoidable accident. Officials said 91 UPS drivers have driven 40 years or more without an accident and 10 have passed the 45-year mark. The driver with the next best record to Camp’s is a Ronnie McKnight, who works in New York City and has 48 years of safe driving on the job.
Camp, a retired U.S. Marine, started work at UPS on May 15, 1962, at the company’s customer center on Cicotte Street in Detroit.
A lot has changed over the years, from the trucks workers like him drive to people’s driving habits to the speed limit, he said.
Camp also said he has no plans to retire and continues to drive a route that keeps him in the Six Mile and Newburgh Road area in Livonia.
“I enjoy my job and my customers,” he said. “As long as I can do it well, I’ll keep going.”