Tom Ravella said road safety starts with putting away phone, staying focused
A Kennewick UPS driver gives thanks every time he safely returns from one of his daily road trips.
Tom Ravella, 55, typically drives 350 miles a day between Hermiston and the Farewell Bend area in Oregon, five days a week. That’s 1,750 miles a week.
He’s been driving for Atlanta-based UPS for 33 years and recently was inducted into the Circle of Honor, an honorary organization for UPS drivers who have achieved 25 or more years of accident-free driving.
“I always wanted to be in the Circle of Honor. It was my goal when I started with UPS and it was a challenge. I want to get home safe every night,” he said.
Ravella said he’s dedicating his 25 years of safe driving with UPS to his father, Thomas Ravella Sr., who passed away in April 2008. His father was a part of the Teamsters union, and although he was not a truck driver, he introduced his son to the right people who pointed him in the direction of UPS.
Ravella’s UPS uniform now features a special 25-year patch. He also received a leather bomber jacket from the company.
Washington boasts 125 active Circle of Honor drivers with a combined 3,529 years of accident-free driving. Others from the Tri-Cities with the honor are Richard Klein, Jack Miller and Tom Peters, all of Kennewick.
There are 2,114 total UPS drivers in Washington.
“My thanks go to all of them for their dedication and focus and for the countless lives they’ve saved,” said Joe Braham, president, UPS Northwest District. “Their attention to detail has kept them safe and has helped improve public safety.”
UPS’s 102,000 drivers log more than 3 billion miles a year, delivering nearly 5 billion packages annually.
It’s a job that requires complete focus, Ravella said.
“Our job is very dangerous. I’ve seen so many bad things happen on the road,” he said.
One of the most frequent driver infractions he sees are distracted drivers. “Ninety percent of drivers are on their cellphone,” he said. “I’ve seen some truckers watching movies. They prop the screen up on their steering wheel.”
Ravella spent 11 years as a package driver, hopping in and out of the UPS delivery trucks and handling hundreds of packages a day in Southern California.
He’s spent the past 22 years as a feeder driver. He drives a tractor trailer that carries UPS packages from the Hermiston package center to points beyond. The facility is centrally located to serve Portland, Seattle, Spokane and Boise.
Farewell Bend is an exchange point with another truck traveling from Twin Falls, Idaho.
He hauls a 105-foot rig made up of three trailers on 26 wheels carrying a maximum load of 105,000 pounds.
“I enjoy driving — the freedom, of being in control and going where you want to go,” he said.
To pass the time on the highway, he listens to satellite radio — classic rock and talk radio — or listens to audiobooks downloaded from Mid-Columbia Libraries.
He also pays attention to the road and other drivers. It’s what’s got him safely from here to there for 25 years.
This past winter’s snowy and icy conditions halted UPS trucks completely for two days.
On other snowy days, he’d chain up daily to get over the three passes on his route.
Ravella said over the years he’s spoken to other experienced drivers who taught him that having a solid pre-trip routine is critical.
Before each trip, Ravella checks his tires, suspension, connections between the trailers, oil, coolant, lights and heater/defroster and makes sure his documents are in order. It’s a five-minute task but he said it puts him in the right frame of mind when he gets behind the wheel.
“Our safety record on the road is fantastic company-wide,” he said.
Globally, 9,349 active UPS drivers are members of the Circle of Honor. Collectively they’ve racked up 266,554 years and nearly 14 billion safe miles during their careers. That’s enough miles to travel to the moon and back almost 29,000 times.
Ravella said another good defensive driving technique is to remember the five seeing habits. The tips start with the letters of the phrase, “All Good Kids Love Milk.”
- Aim high in steering. Look up past your hood and 10 to 12 seconds ahead down the road.
- Get the big picture. Maintain proper following distance.
- Keep eyes moving. Scan, don’t stare.
- Leave yourself an out. Keep space on all four sides of your vehicle, especially in front.
- Make sure others see you. Turn on your headlights. Establish eye contact with other drivers and pedestrians. Use your horn.
Ravella said he always assumes other drivers “are going to cut me off” when passing his truck so he drives accordingly.
His other safe driving tip?
“Stay focused and put your phone away. One wrong move can change your life, or end it.”