UPS drivers Sylvia Ochoa, Sherry Curry and Renee Garcia, each with more than a quarter of a century on the road, wear their Circle of Honor patch with pride. The patch, awarded to UPS drivers who have gone more than 25 years without an avoidable accident, signals they belong to an elite group of professionals.
Accomplishments like this don’t happen without challenges. Here are their thoughts on reaching the Circle of Honor, the challenges of being a woman in a predominantly male profession and advice for staying safe on the road.
Sylvia Ochoa, semi-truck driver, Phoenix to Chicago, 27 years safe driving
Her ability to do the job was challenged on her very first day … and 37 years later, she’s silenced her naysayers. “Don’t let anyone discourage you,” Sylvia says. “Push through and stay positive.”
She chuckles as she remembers her experience being one of only two female drivers at the time. “The men always have more bathrooms than us,” Sylvia says. “I could never get them to separate my uniforms, so they always ended up in the men’s locker room.”
Sherry Curry, package car driver, Mesa, Arizona, 30 years safe driving
As a female truck driver, Sherry says her biggest challenge is maneuvering the heavy and oversized packages. “Use your tools,” Sherry says. “I learned how to maneuver the packages and use my handcart instead of lifting them all the time.”
Renee Garcia, semi-truck driver, Phoenix to Goodyear, Arizona, 26 years safe driving
At 5-feet, 1-inch tall, some might think she’s not up to the job of driving a big rig. Early in her career, she came up against fellow male drivers who would discourage her – telling her this job is not for women. “Put your mind to it; you can do it,” she says.
A safety co-chair for UPS, Renee wanted to help other women. “I want others to feel comfortable that might have been intimidated by the job.”
She says, keep a routine and follow your safety protocols.
Besides learning how to navigate a male-dominated profession, these drivers have some safe driving tips to help the public avoid at-risk behaviors on the road.
- Don’t drive side-by-side next to a semi-truck on the freeway. If you’re going to pass, do so quickly, always using your signals and making sure you can see the driver in your mirror and they can see you. You have to be able to see the entire front of the truck you’re passing in your rearview mirror before you complete the lane change.
- Always pass on the left for maximum visibility. The right side is a merging lane.
- Leave plenty of room if you merge in front of a semi-truck. Trucks can’t stop like cars.
- Never be complacent. Always keep your eyes moving, looking for other drivers.
- Always communicate with lights, signals and eye contact to make sure other people know what you’re doing.
- Stay calm.
- Adjust to weather conditions.
- Before getting into your vehicle, walking around to identify any hazards or safety concerns before you begin driving.