A 25-year streak of accident-free driving doesn’t just happen by coincidence. James “Hal” Byrd Jr. knows this.
“When you drive these trucks for this company, they have an expectation of you doing it right,” says Byrd, who started driving for UPS in Charlotte in 1989.
“We have a responsibility as a driver and as an employee to represent the employer. We also have an obligation to the public to not mess their stuff up.”
Byrd kept close tabs on when he’d make it into the “Circle of Honor” – a worldwide organization for UPS drivers who have achieved 25 or more years of safe driving. Last month, UPS announced Byrd is one of 62 drivers from North Carolina to make it in.
“I personally kept up with it,” Byrd said by phone on a recent morning before leaving the Graham Street station to drive his route.
“One day at a time, every year my anniversary came up with the company.”
He’s learned quite a bit over the years about dealing with Charlotte traffic and drivers’ attitudes. His approach to it all could apply to other workers:
“Try to do it right every time. The only thing that I can control is me.”
Here’s more on how Byrd works:
Rise and shine: His day begins around 8 with a drivers’ gathering: “Stretching is the first part of our meeting.” They also talk about major shipment dates, from when iPhones drop to flower deliveries on Valentine’s Day.
Taking weekends in stride: Workdays often include Saturdays, major holidays and “Christmas Eve, to make sure everyone gets the gift that they want. ... Whatever is required.”
Favorite work routes: His current one, in Cornelius. “It’s a great place when you have an outside job to be outside.”
Glad to see you: Customers hold open doors and press elevator buttons for him. “(They’re) bubbly, happy to see us. They’re planning their day around the UPS guy.”
On handling long hours alone: “I spend my day talking to people all day long. Thirty seconds here, 30 seconds there. … ‘How’s it going?’ Every day is different. I don’t see myself working alone because I do see people every day.”
On navigating Charlotte traffic: “It’s difficult at times to stay focused, but along with driving this truck ... I expect this guy coming at me to do something unexpected. He missed his turn, he’s going to whip a really fast U-turn in the middle of the street. I know that’s coming before he does.”
Advice to drivers? “Put their phone down.”
Everybody works differently. Know a savvy Charlotte-area professional with interesting ways of getting things done? Email Celeste Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.