Al Reinken is now part of an elite circle of UPS drivers. He became a member of the Circle of Honor this year for 25 years of accident-free driving, making him one of about 300 UPS drivers in Illinois.
Reinken, 47, started with UPS when he was 17, working part-time inside the office. When he was 21 he was promoted to a driving position and spent the next 10 years going door-to-door delivering packages to residences and small businesses.
Now the Elgin man has the cush job, driving a semi making deliveries to bigger companies -- a position with plenty of perks.
"When I was a package car driver, I was making 150 stops a day," Reinken said. "Now I make about four."
The semi also has heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer -- amenities that don't make sense in the smaller vehicles where drivers get in and out so often.
But driving the big semi at higher speeds takes more mental concentration, Reinken said.
"You really have to pay attention," Reinken said.
UPS has a corporate philosophy grounded in driver safety. An initial driving course is followed up with continuing training. Reinken said there are daily safety tips, routine road safety tests and annual ride-alongs by supervisors critiquing driver performance.
Driving a UPS vehicle without a seat belt is grounds for automatic termination.
"UPS pushes safety more than any company I've ever heard of," Reinken said.
And it pays off.
Reinken said not only has he never caused an accident on the job, he also has never been hurt on the job. The company takes precautions to protect the community from potential danger and also safeguards its employees.
Reinken thinks that's worth all the extra time spent on training and safety.
"I don't want to get hurt and I don't want to hurt anyone else," Reinken said. "I'm glad the company is like that."
Reinken's shift starts shortly after 3:30 a.m. and goes until 1 p.m. Drivers are on the roads around the clock and schedules are set based on seniority, so although Reinken has almost three decades with UPS he still misses out on the day shifts.
When he's not working he spends time lifting weights -- two hours a day, six days a week -- or relaxing with friends and family. And outside of his UPS semi, Reinken prefers not to drive.
"I am not a fan of long trips in a car anymore because I do spend plenty of time in a vehicle," Reinken said.