What is a Forklift Rodeo?

Texas is a state known for its cowboys, but is a forklift rodeo taking it a little too far?  The Longview Economic Development Corporation announced a forklift rodeo to kick off Industry Appreciation Week this year, but they weren’t the ones to come up with the idea.  While they may not be as big as, say, the Calgary Stampede, forklift rodeos are staged fairly regularly.  What is a forklift rodeo, anyway?

One thing a forklift rodeo is not is a bucking bronco ride!  In fact, the whole purpose of the rodeo is to give top forklift operators an opportunity to display their handling and safety skills on a specially designed obstacle course.  The prize money isn’t big, but enthusiasm for these rodeos more than makes up for that, and lift truck drivers take the competition seriously.

Are You and Your Used Forklift Ready to Compete?

Just as in any sport, there are rules and regulations that forklift operators have to adhere to in forklift rodeos.  In the early rounds of competition, the operators must prove their ability to handle their forklifts, and the used forklifts they drive in the competition are given thorough safety and performance inspections.  If both operator and forklift pass inspection, they are invited to enter the event.  After checking to make sure the driver’s seat belt is fastened, the starter/timer says, “Are you ready?” When the operator indicates he is, the show begins.

Typically, the forklift operator has to perform a number of tasks.  These may include:

1. Moving the length of the PVC pipe from one location to another. Scored on both time and precision, this is in part a demonstration of skill using a side shifter.

2. A demonstration of skill in stacking pallets loaded with appliances.

3. Another demonstration of pallet moving skills involves moving pallet loads from one location to another.

4. “Dumpster Driver” is a tricky part of the course in which the driver must pick up a dumpster and drive it in reverse through a slalom course.  After successfully negotiating the course, he then has to drive forward through a chute, deposit the dumpster precisely on its marks and then drive back through the chute in reverse.

5. In “Return Merchandise”, the forklift driver has to move a pallet loaded with an appliance from the bottom shelf of a pallet rack to the top shelf.


Course designers note that safety must be built into the course and the judging criteria or forklift operators may get carried away in the spirit of competition.  If the operator does not check behind him before reversing, he will be penalized or disqualified and all pallets must be moved at safe operating heights.

So, do you have what it takes to enter a forklift rodeo? It’s all in fun, but the necessary qualifications are:

• Experience
• An understanding of and appreciation for safe forklift handling
• Pride in your ability to safely and competently handle a forklift

If you are a manager or supervisor in charge of a fleet of reconditioned forklifts, entering your best forklift operator in one of these competitions is a great way to boost workplace morale and show your crew that you appreciate their skills.  It’s also a great way to get your business noticed by others in the materials handling industry.  While there’s not much prize money involved, you never know what other benefits getting involved in community events like these may have.

For more information about forklift rodeos, check out How to Put on a Forklift Rodeo on the Washington State Governor’s Industrial Safety & Health pages.

About Marie Q.

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