40 Years-4 Million miles-UPS driver retires www.privateofficer.com
Gene’s job as a tractor-trailer driver for UPS amounts to 11 to 13 hour days, which leads to those late-night dinners at home.
“Don’t you think it’s time to retire,” Carolyn said to her beloved husband.
The question, which came more as a statement, surprised Gene.
“We had never even discussed it,” Gene said. “The next morning I said, ‘I’ll tell you what. I’ll fill out the paperwork.’ I held onto it for about 30 days. Finally, I filled it out.”
And so in March, Gene Carrier will officially end his 42-year career with UPS.
On top of that, he recently marked 40 years of safe driving with neither an accident nor a ticket on his remarkable record, despite having driven about 4.1 million miles for UPS.
Carrier’s final driving day on the job comes Dec. 30, one day before his and Carolyn’s wedding anniversary and one month and a day before he turns 65.
“He’s the nicest man you’ve ever seen,” said Charlie Brown, a security guard at UPS. “Man, I’ll tell you, he’s the number-one man at UPS.”
With seven days of work left and on the first half of his daily route from the UPS hub in Bristol, Va., to the hub in Knoxville, Tenn., and back, Carrier spoke of retirement and the job he dearly loves.
“I’ll really miss the people,” Carrier said. “But my wife and I want to go places we’ve only read about while we can.”
APRIL 3, 1967
Carrier’s first day on the job with United Parcel Service was April 3, 1967.
He had attended East Tennessee State University for three years prior. First as a chemistry and mathematics major and then business administration, Carrier had plans other than what became of his working life.
“Then I got the job with UPS,” he said.
His starting pay was $2.25 per hour, about $90 per week.
“I thought, golly, I’m rich now,” Carrier said while rumbling past a Kingsport exit along I-81. “That was a lot of money in 1967.”
Indeed, it was enough to end Carrier’s college career. Since 1983, he’s earned top UPS dollar while wheeling tractor-trailers up and down I-81, but that’s a far cry from his earliest days.
“I started out washing the trucks down on Mary Street,” Carrier said as he waved to another UPS driver who eased his big brown rig by. “The building wasn’t the warmest thing in the world. Had a pot-bellied stove in the middle.”
Carrier didn’t wash trucks for long. By the end of 1967, he was delivering packages.
“I started with a Chevrolet Econoline van, which was sort of like a panel van,” he said. “Then I drove a Hohn, which looked sort of like the trucks that Brinks uses. Cold, you’d freeze to death in that thing.”
You want stories? Talk to a UPS package delivery driver. Take the time that a big boxer dog chased Carrier into the truck, opened wide and took a chomp from his calf.
“I dropped a package on him, he yelped, and took off,” Carrier said.
Oh, they get better.
“I’ve seen women come to the door naked,” Carrier said.
What do you do?
“Stutter a lot,” Carrier said, laughing loud and smiling wide.
That’s Gene Carrier for you. The native of Bristol, Tenn., owns a smile that he’s all too pleased to pass around to anyone who happens to cross his path.
“Gene is the best,” said Bobby Killebrew, his boss at UPS. “He never stops smiling.”
Carrier moved up to driving big rigs for UPS in 1983. Most days, he transports two trailers of packages from Bristol to Knoxville, then back to Bristol and on to Roanoke, Va., then back to Bristol to complete his day.
UPS estimates that Carrier has driven more than 4.1 million miles during his 42 years with the company. Now get this. He has no wrecks and no tickets on his resume.
That earned Carrier special recognition, marked by a patch with the number 40 on his left shoulder. The number signifies that he belongs among UPS’ extremely rare fraternity of drivers who own unblemished driving records for at least 40 years.
“We have about 102,000 drivers at UPS,” said Brian Blackwell, a UPS communications official based in Nashville, Tenn. “Gene ranks in the top 25. He’s a remarkable man.”
No wrecks, but plenty of close calls.
“The other day I was coming out of Roanoke,” Carrier said. “This girl was straddling the middle lane. I kept going over to the shoulder.”
Bear in mind that the girl drove a small car – tiny beside Carrier’s hulking International UPS rig.
“You couldn’t even put a fist between me and her,” he said. “I looked down into her car, and she was texting. I put my hand on the horn, and she realized it. Well, she shot back over into her lane.”
Carrier’s driving record persevered.
Carrier motored onward as quiet overtook the cab of his truck. His hands gently, though firmly maneuvered the truck’s large steering wheel. His eyes moved constantly, from momentary checks of side mirrors to gauge readings and of course to the road that stretched before him.
Then as Carrier eased his big brown truck onto exit 7 and toward UPS’ Bonham Road location, he reflected on what it means for him to retire.
“It’ll be sad. I’ve spent two-thirds of my life here,” Carrier said, making eye contact while tears welled in his eyes. “I started when I was 22, and I’m 64 now.”
Carrier paused as he downshifted and eased into the UPS lot.
Security guard Charlie Brown waved as Carrier drove by.
“I’ll miss him when he retires,” Brown said minutes later. “I love him to death. He’s like a father to me.”
As Carrier stopped his truck, he cleared his throat, thought for a moment and summed up his retirement.
“I’ve made a lot of friends. That’s what I’ll miss,” Carrier said. “I’ve got a lot of good memories.”
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