Meet the Safest Driver in FedEx History
First Driver in FedEx History to Achieve 40 Years Accident-Free Driving
FedEx Express courier John Cahill recently became the first driver in FedEx history to achieve 40 years of driving without a preventable accident. He also celebrated his 42nd anniversary with FedEx this year. John has spent his entire professional driving career at three FedEx Express stations in the New England area.
It’s not known exactly how many miles John has driven in a FedEx truck, but it’s easily estimated at more than 1.5 million. John has been in a half dozen accidents over the years, none his fault, and those incidents taught him a lot about the driving public and how to be a safer driver.
We caught up with John to find out what it takes to be the safest driver in FedEx history. Here’s what he had to say:
FedEx: The first question that everyone wants to know is how did you become the safest driver in FedEx history?
John: Obviously you have to be very fortunate because even professional drivers can make bad decisions. Fortunately, not all bad decisions result in a preventable accident.
Also, as you get better at the mechanics of the job, the scanning, the loading and sorting of the packages, you make up time, you’re more efficient and the freight leaves the truck quicker. So you’re not pressured to drive aggressively or be a confrontational driver.
FedEx: What do you mean by ‘confrontational driver’?
John: When you’re a confrontational driver, you leave yourself wide open to issues because the people around you are not professional drivers, so you have to be mindful all the time to give people room to make mistakes. For example, if you come to a 4-way stop and you get there first, ahead of another driver by a foot but that person is in a big hurry. You may be right, but don’t be dead right, let them go. You have so many drivers in a big hurry to go nowhere. I’m not out there to challenge somebody else’s driving skills or to be right because I got there first. Just allow that person to go and in a few seconds, you’ll be able to go.
The experience factor says to me, if I lose 10 seconds I’m safe. If I think I’m going to get my last Priority Overnight package delivered on time because I’m going to take a chance with this guy who may be disgruntled, then that’s bad judgment. My experience tells me that in the long run, the 5 or 10 seconds I wait to proceed safely won’t make a lot of difference.
The average driver is a commuter in a hurry. He’s not in his vehicle 10 hours a day like you are, so he’s not going to be as aware of what’s going on around him as you. 99% of the time there’s no reason for them to be in a bigger hurry to go someplace than the FedEx guy, however they think they are. Look, you’re going to find trouble anyway, so don’t go looking for it.
FedEx: What’s your take on the level of distracted driving these days?
John: With today’s technology, people are texting and reading and chatting. There are so many distractions in driving, so sure you have to be aware of that at all times.
I tell the new people, you have to drive like it’s the 70s when there wasn’t any technology in your truck. Obviously you have to ignore the PowerPad (handheld package scanning device) and your phone while you’re driving because it’s against Safety policy and it’s not smart. You are not going to save time pulling out the PowerPad while the truck is running and doing unsafe things. The bottom line is if you let the technology become a safety issue, you neutralize technology as an asset and you make it a liability.
FedEx: What’s your mindset every day when you get on the road?
John: First, people need to remember this is not your private vehicle. You have to function differently in the FedEx vehicle because you have a responsibility to yourself, your family, to the public and to FedEx to get home safe. You have a big responsibility to do things the right way.
You also have to be aware of the equipment that you’re driving. You have to know what the vehicle can and cannot do safely, and you get that from experience, but also from using common sense. If you’re in a tight spot and you think you can squeeze by without snapping the mirror off, don’t try it. Just park on the side and walk the package in.
FedEx: How have you managed to stay safe on the road during the winter?
John: Yeah, 42 New England winters, but that’s not to say that anywhere else people have it easier. Floods, hurricanes, wildfires, all areas of the country have unique weather issues. The winter in New England is interesting because you hit the brake and the truck doesn’t stop a lot of times. And I’ve had people go by me doing 70 in a snow storm, door handle to door handle and just miss me, and then down the road they’re in the ditch.
Potential bad weather is always on your mind and it can be somewhat dangerous. Where are you going to be when this occurs? Is it going to occur when school buses are out? You have all these variables and as an experienced professional driver you automatically start to process that information, where inexperienced drivers might not process it quite as efficiently.
FedEx: What are your thoughts about your career and your safety success?
John: People need to understand that as critical as this business is, as time sensitive as it is, the personal element is still the most important element. You can’t please the customer, your family, you can’t please anybody if you get hurt because you made a bad decision in the vehicle. So you have to have perspective as far as what’s important. You have to be a little selfish in knowing all the time that you’re the most important thing in the vehicle, not the freight, not the people around you, and so you have to drive with that responsibility to yourself to get home to your family, and the responsibility that you’re not going to cause injury to any innocent parties.
I also want to say that I know and work with several drivers with 30, 35 or more years of safe driving; people with phenomenal driving records. We’re professional drivers and we understand we have a responsibility to ourselves and the people around us to be safe. We know we may get into accidents. We just hope that our judgment is good enough so that it’s not our fault that we or somebody else got injured, or the vehicle got damaged or the freight was in jeopardy.
Of course I’m thankful. It’s a cliché but it is one day at a time. You get up, you go to work, you have a family, you have all kinds of other stuff going on in your life over 40 years and the time goes by. You appreciate the fact you’ve never have had a traumatic experience in a FedEx truck; where you or somebody else was injured or there was great damage to a vehicle or the freight, or you were stranded in the woods with a disabled vehicle and it’s 20 below and snowing sideways. I have been fortunate not to have experienced those things.
FedEx: You’ve talked a lot about the challenges that new drivers face. How would you sum up your advice?
John: There’s a whole bunch of things you can do, not backing up, avoiding the clutter at stops, not being afraid to walk packages off instead of parking where you’re surrounded by other vehicles that you don’t want to get involved with.
You should avoid situations where you could have a frustrating experience. I have found over the years that that has kept me in good shape.
I tell everyone, you have to drive the vehicle like it’s your first day on the job. In other words, believe me, the minute you take something for granted, it will bite you, and if you assume that you’ve seen everything, I can assure you, you have not. The first day you take for granted will be your last day as a safe driver.
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October 25, 2017
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