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Gresham UPS driver moves safely at speed of business

OUTLOOK PHOTO: TERESA CARSON - Dan O'Day, a UPS driver who lives and drives a route in Gresham, has been 25 years without an accident. On any given weekday morning a steady stream of big brown UPS package trucks rumble out of the huge North Portland depot, and guiding one of those trucks is Gresham resident Daniel O’Day, who has driven more than 545,000 miles without an accident.

“You have to make yourself aware of what is going on around you,” O’Day, 57, said about the key to avoiding a wreck. UPS just inducted O’Day into its Circle of Honor for driving 25 years without an accident.

UPS boasts that the company's 102,000 drivers worldwide are “among the safest on the roads,” logging more than 3 billion miles per year, delivering more than 4 billion packages.

Has O’Day had any close calls?

“Oh yes! They are scary. You don't know what other people are going to do.” O’Day said he is always baffled by “people who don't understand driving. I have a 16,000 pound truck. I can't stop on a dime.”

He has plenty of experience in traffic. He's been with the company for 37 years, starting when he was 19 years old.

“I want to hit 50 years,” he said grinning.

O’Day has been driving the brown boxy trucks for 22 years and delivering the same route in southeast Gresham for more than 15 years. He works 12 hours per day, five days a week.

“He's a great guy,” said Pat Moore, the “on-car supervisor” for a big section of the Portland depot.

“Dan is a very humble, honest, hard-working man who wants to do the bright thing for his family, his customers and his company,” Moore said, “Dan takes a lot of pride in himself and his work. If every driver of mine was like Dan, I wouldn't have a job.”

Moore knows O’Day well. He used to load O’Day's truck and said O’Day was welcoming and helpful when Moore was a newbie.

O’Day's route is mostly residential, some of it rural, “a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll,” he said. He prefers it to a route that serves mostly businesses. “It is less manual and more mental,” he said. He's primarily delivering one or two packages at a time and constantly calculating the best places to turn around and progress along his route.

O’Day tries to be mindful of holding up other drivers if there is no place to pull over and he has to stop in the road.

“I have to be like the garbage man. I stop and do the job as quickly as possible and come back. I give them a smile and hand wave. Most people are very patient.”

With all the publicity about the rise in residential package thefts, O’Day is careful about placing packages on a porch. He tries to find a spot that can't be seen from the road and said he'll drag a garbage can around to hide someone's parcel.

In addition to his safe driving record, O’Day is on the safety committee at the Portland UPS station, a position he feels is a service for other drivers.

The committee works with UPS drivers and employees on the proper way to lift and carry heavy packages, reminds them to always use the truck handrail and take other safety precautions.

Moore values O’Day's role on the safety committee.

“There is no better person to be safety co-chair to lead other drivers to be safe, professional, responsible stewards of the community.”

The best part of his job is the people, O’Day said. He enjoys his colleagues, which he sees for a few moments each morning and evening and the interaction with regular customers.

“I bring packages to them and we talk about our families. I've been servicing the same people for years and years. They've become good acquaintances.”

He feels a real part of the community because he both lives and works in Gresham, knows people from his wife’s jobs in the schools and has been a youth leader at church.

When his kids were young, he often drove children home from events and knew right where they lived because he also delivered packages to the family.

“That’s why I love my route,” he said.

O’Day and his wife, Judy, have been married for 36 years. Their three children all graduated from Barlow High School. He likes to hike and backpack, but concedes that after a 60 hour week, he mostly just relaxes with his family. He and his wife enjoy visiting their daughter, who is a farmer in Maui.

He's proud of a son who is a computer game programmer, but confides in a whisper of mock horror that his other son “has gone to the dark side” and works for rival FedEx.

O’Day appreciates his years at UPS. It's exhausting, but satisfying work. “People are always happy to see me. It's just like Santa Claus.”