It's a remarkable milestone for the man fellow drivers affectionately call "Big Dog." The 67-year-old Sowder is the most senior safe driver among UPS's 102,000 drivers worldwide. He's logged more than 3 million accident-free miles, enough to circle the equator 120 times or make six round trips to the moon and still have miles left over.
"Forty-five years of accident-free driving is a tremendous achievement," said UPS Chairman and CEO Mike Eskew. "UPS drivers are among the safest and best-trained on the roads and Ron has set the bar extremely high for all of them. I'm very proud of him."
Beyond the mileage, 45 years of accident-free driving is a very rare achievement even at UPS. During the company's 100-year history, only one other driver has equaled the mark.
UPS has more than 4,200 active drivers who have achieved membership in the company's Circle of Honor for steering clear of accidents for 25 years or more. Of those, 107 have gone 35 years or more without an accident and six - including Sowder - have gone 40 years or more. Collectively, UPS's active Circle of Honor drivers have compiled nearly 117,000 years of accident-free driving.
Sowder was fresh out of the Navy when he started working for UPS in Dayton, Ohio. He spent his first 16 years making deliveries as the driver of one of UPS's iconic brown package cars before switching over to "feeders," which is the company's term for tractor trailers.
The secret to his remarkable record?
"I think there are three keys," Sowder says. "Stay alert, keep a positive attitude on the road and exercise your skills. And you have to be a defensive driver; you have to be able to compensate for other people's mistakes and expect the unexpected. You can't drive too close. I don't like to be in a pack."
Sowder also credits UPS's driver training. All UPS drivers are taught safe driving methods from their first day of classroom training, including the company's comprehensive safety course, "Space and Visibility." The training continues throughout their careers.
"The people who run the program really know what they're talking about," Sowder added. "I think that has to do with the promotion-from-within policy at UPS. The trainers know what they're talking about because they've been on the road themselves. They really know what works and what doesn't."
Sowder also says he uses his safety training when he's off the clock. "I use the methods I have learned all the time, no matter what I'm driving," he said. "The idea is to make safe driving a habit. 'Get the big picture.' 'Space and Visibility.' Those are all things that you use every day."
Sowder has seen big changes during his career, including today's emphasis on the consistent use of seatbelts. On the negative side, "there are just a lot more people on the road. A lot of times it seems like people aren't as courteous as they used to be, which probably has something to do with everyone being in such a hurry these days."
All in all, Sowder is proud of his career with UPS. "I'm always proud that UPS trusts me with their equipment," he said. "It's a big responsibility."
UPS's 102,000 drivers worldwide are among the safest on the roads, logging more than 2 billion miles a year while averaging less than one accident per million miles driven. More information on UPS and safety is available at pressroom.ups.com/safety.
UPS is the world's largest package delivery company and a global leader in supply chain services, offering an extensive range of options for synchronizing the movement of goods, information and funds. Headquartered in Atlanta, Ga., UPS serves more than 200 countries and territories worldwide. UPS's stock trades on the New York Stock Exchange (UPS) and the company can be found on the Web at UPS.com. To get UPS news direct, visit pressroom.ups.com/RSS.