For many UPS Teamsters, driving a truck is more than a job. And for those like Ralph Lendi, it’s even better.
“It sure beats working,” says Ralph, who has driven for UPS since 1968. Forty-eight years, five million miles, and zero accidents later, he still drives about 500 miles per day as a feeder driver based out of the company’s Hodgkins, Ill. facility in the suburbs of Chicago.
In 2015, Ralph was awarded the National Safety Council (NSC) Joseph M. Kaplan Safe Drivers of the Year Award. The award recognizes drivers throughout the country who have driven a substantial number of miles over their career without a preventable accident.
“You don’t ever want to hurt anyone, so you can’t be in a big rush. You have to be aware of everything that’s going on around you at all times,” Ralph says. That’s what has kept him accident-free for almost five decades, driving a total distance the equivalent of going to the moon and back ten times.
When he started working at UPS back in ’68, Ralph never thought he’d be driving for this long.
“My wife and I just had our first baby and I needed a stable job. My dad was a Teamster who drove for the Interstate System. He recommended that I should try to work for UPS, which was an up-and-coming company at the time,” Ralph remembers.
Having grown up around trucks, he knew very early on that he wanted to make a living behind the wheel.
“It was a much smaller operation back then,” Ralph says, describing UPS’s small downtown Chicago office he visited to interview for the job. “They hired me right there after the interview.”
In many ways, UPS was a different company when he started.
“The trailers were different and we had just one big terminal downtown. When I started it was really like a family workplace. Everyone knew everyone – birthdays and nicknames,” Ralph chuckles.
Since then, UPS has grown into a global giant and package industry leader. But some things haven’t changed, like Ralph’s dedication to the company and to his union, Teamsters Local 710.
“The union has been fantastic and has meant a lot to me over the years. Without the Teamsters we wouldn’t have what we have,” says Ralph, who served for 16 years as a shop steward.
“We’re proud to have longtime UPS drivers like Ralph in our ranks. He is an inspiration to younger generations of Teamsters and a source of wisdom for so many UPS members in our local,” says Ron Dillon, a UPS business agent with Teamsters Local 710 in Mokena, Ill.
Ralph’s sunny outlook on life makes him a source of positivity and good humor for his coworkers, too.
“I always try to look at the bright side of things. I tell the younger guys to walk in to work every day with a smile because you never know when it’s gonna be your last. It’s a good job and it provides a good life for our families,” he says.
Ralph’s advice on being a safe driver is pretty simple: “Never exceed your comfort zone.”
“Every generation is a bit different, but I always try to help along the younger guys the same way I was guided when I started out. They showed us how to handle bad weather on the road and a lot of other things,” he says.
When it comes to retiring, Ralph says he’s not ready yet. He is still in good health and, besides, he has nine grandkids that he has to spoil.
“You always want your kids and grandkids to do better then you, go to college and be successful,” Ralph says. “I want to leave everyone in good hands, including all the folks I work with.”