The first thing Walter Beasley does in the morning before heading in to work is listen to the traffic report. He takes note of all the delays on the interstates, planning alternate routes as he maps out his day behind the wheel.
“I want to know what’s going on at all times so I can maneuver through the traffic and get the packages where they need to be quickly and safely. We need to know all the ins and outs,” he says.
Walter, a member of Teamsters Local 191 in Bridgeport, Conn., began driving for UPS in 1967.
“I felt like the luckiest man when I got that job,” says Walter, who went from making $2.80 per hour at another shipping company to earning $3.16 per hour when he started at UPS.
Earlier this year Walter reached 45 years of driving without an accident, joining an elite group of just ten UPS drivers– out of 102,000 – who have achieved that milestone. He has logged more than four million miles without even a fender-bender, which is equivalent to driving around the equator 160 times.
As a feeder driver, Walter is responsible for next-day air packages coming out of Stratford, Conn., which he transports to Philadelphia before picking up another load of next-day air packages from Philadelphia to Bradley International Airport in Connecticut.
“Safety is a top priority for me. The company spends billions on safety – equipment and training. We’re driving double trailers and dealing with the public every day. So we have to be very professional and safe at all times,” he says.
Driven By Passion
Over several decades, Walter has perfected his craft down to a science.
“I maintain a certain speed and keep a space cushion between me and other drivers, which saves 20 gallons of fuel per day,” he says, taking pride in the meticulous details of his work. “I love driving. But you can’t get there unless you do it safely.”
At the same time, Walter is motivated by the urgency of what he does for the community.
“I don’t know what’s in these packages, but it must be something important. It could be medicine that could save someone’s life, it could be someone’s wedding gown. People depend on me,” he explains.
Walter takes his inspiration from Marty Peters, a Detroit UPS driver who retired after 63 years on the job. “He’s my idol,” Walter says.
He also remembers meeting UPS founder Jim Casey in the 80s while driving on the New Jersey Turnpike.
“I had stopped for a break and a limousine pulled up to my truck. A man stepped out and said his boss wanted to speak with me. Then I saw Jim Casey and he asked me if I liked my job. I said no. I told him ‘I love my job.’”
For Walter, that passion comes with an understanding of the difficulties he has had to face during his career.
“When I started loading trucks in ‘67, there weren’t too many African Americans working at UPS,” he says. In 1968 he was drafted and spent three years as a military police officer at Fort Hood. After his service, he returned to UPS as a driver.
“There were more African Americans working at UPS when I came back,” Walter remembers.
But there were still challenges. Walter recalls a supervisor who wanted him taken off the road because he believed driving was a white man’s job.
“The Teamsters filed a grievance and got me paid for the work I missed because of that prejudiced manager. I got a lot more respect once the Teamsters came down on them,” Walter says.
“It’s not easy as a black man, but when I wear my UPS uniform I feel respected and honored,” he adds.
‘We’re All Brothers’
A lot has changed since Walter started at the company. The first truck he drove was a two-stick. Now it’s all automatic and he has 15 censors on his truck.
But somethings haven’t changed. Walter still wakes up every day and thanks God for his wife of 46 years, Willery. And he finds himself mentoring the younger generations of Teamsters at UPS.
“I see the young kids working now and I always try to take the time to talk to them, to understand how blessed they are to have this job and how to be successful,” he says.
When Walter reached 45 years of safe driving at UPS, he was honored with a celebration and gifts from coworkers and the company, as well as a letter from Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy.
“Walter is an inspiration to all of us at the local and especially to the nearly 700 other UPS members we represent,” said Ed Rooney, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 191. “Very few people achieve what he has in life and we are proud and humbled to have him in our union.”
Walter credits the Teamsters for having his back and helping him have a strong career at UPS.
“If it wasn’t for the Teamsters, I wouldn’t be at UPS. I always got every penny from every grievance I’ve been a part of with the Teamsters,” he says. “In the union, we’re all in this together – we’re all brothers.”