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May 1, 2019 12:45 PM, EDT

Old Dominion Highlights Safety Through Forklift Rodeos

Old Dominion Freight Line forklift competition The competition consists of a six-stage course with obstacles that simulate scenarios the operators might see on a daily basis. Within the course, one or two trip problems are placed to try and trip up operators. (Old Dominion Freight Line)

Move over truck driving championships, a new rodeo is in town.

Old Dominion Freight Line has been steadily growing its internal forklift rodeo competition. What began as a single event at its Salt Lake City service center in 2016 has grown into ODFL hosting seven or eight a year.

The idea for the forklift rodeo started internally, with a handful of dock employees asking about having a forklift competition after hearing of similar competitions elsewhere.

“It’s a great way to promote forklift safety and highlight our dock employees’ skills on the forklift,” Director of Safety Mark Penley said.

The competition consists of a six-stage course with obstacles that simulate scenarios the operators might see on a daily basis. Within the course, one or two trip problems are placed to try and trip up operators.

ODFL is No. 11 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in North America.

“Bringing out your competitive nature is always a good thing,” Penley said. The rodeos have turned into affairs that draw workers’ families, friends and service center customers.

ODFL employs more than 5,000 dockworkers. While still in its early stages, Penley is sure participation will grow.

“Every year, we see more service centers jumping on the bandwagon,” he said. More than 20 have hosted a forklift rodeo.

Old Dominion Freight Line forklift competition

The idea for a forklift rodeo began internally with ODFL dock employees. (Old Dominion Freight Line)

For ODFL employees, competing is normal. The company has hundreds of truck drivers who compete every year in state championships. According to Penley, ODFL drivers compete in more than 35 states annually.

The company sees the rodeo as an extended opportunity to highlight employees’ forklift skills. Winners receive trophies and an array of prizes.

The forklift rodeos are just one aspect of ODFL’s mission to grow safety awareness. In March 2013, the company rolled out its safety program called Shield, which highlights injury prevention and promotes safe work practices.

This year, rodeos already have been held in Phoenix and Reno, Nev., with events scheduled for Salt Lake City, Greensboro, N.C., and Pittsburgh in the coming months.