There was a rodeo in the Gaston College parking lot in Lincolnton on Thursday but it didn’t involve four legged animals. Instead, area manufacturing companies sent their most experienced forklift operators to compete in the annual Lincoln County Industrial Managers Association Forklift Rodeo. Each driver had to drive a forklift through a timed, challenging obstacle course.
“It’s based on speed but it’s also on safety,” John Dancoff, LEDA’s existing business manager said. “As they run around the course, they get penalty points, seconds added to their times, if they knock off a tennis ball or basketball or if they don’t get the bucket in the circle. They may run around the course in two seconds, but if they knock things down, they’ll get seconds added on to their time as penalty points.”
The first obstacle of the course was a stack of pallets with a metal trash can on top of the pallets with a basketball on top of the trash can. The driver had to lift the top pallet off the pile, carry it to a location surrounded by plastic traffic cones with tennis balls on top of each cone and drop it off. This had to be done without either the trash can or the basketball falling off the pallet or knocking tennis balls off the traffic cones. From there, the driver drove to a metal rack and had to move one stack of goods from the second shelf to the bottom and another from the bottom to the second shelf.
The driver then had to lift a bucket of water with the tines of the forklift and carry it through a narrow, L-shaped alley made by plastic traffic cones with tennis balls on top and then return the bucket to the same location it came from. From there, the driver picked up the pallet with the trash can and basketball and had to weave through plastic traffic cones with tennis balls on top to another location to leave the pallet.
Adding to the difficulty is that the forklifts that are used in the rodeo may not be the same type of forklift that the drivers are used to driving while at work. The drivers get 15 seconds added to their time for every tennis ball they knock off, 30 seconds for the basketball and one minute for dropping the water bucket.
Having competed in the rodeo for the past 10 years and winning several of them, Ramsey Magness from Tenowo watched the drivers ahead of him with some trepidation. The course was different than it has been in the past and more difficult. Magness has worked for Tenowo for 13 years.
“It’s pretty hard and you get nervous with all the people watching you,” he said. “You’ve got to be slow, steady and safe.”
Safety is an extremely important aspect of a forklift driver’s job. The forklift is a large, heavy piece of machinery and can do a lot of damage to property not to mention a person.
“The course really wasn’t hard,” said Tyler Friday who works at LeeBoy after he finished his run. “It’s just a different setting than we’re used to. We work inside and everything is smooth. You try to use speed but you’ve got to be cautious. Safety is the most important thing. Those forks can be dangerous. Someone could lose their life. You have to be aware of your surroundings all the time.”
Lincoln County manufacturing companies who participated included Cargo Integrated Logistics, Hydac, LeeBoy, American Woodmark, Tenowo, R.W. Garcia, Timken, Blum, Cataler, Spantek, Bosch, Husky Rack and Wire, Steele Rubber Products, Henkel, Active Concepts.
The first place winner was Thomas Lynch who works at Spantek. Robert Setzer, who works for
Cargo Logistics took second place. This is the first time that Cargo Logistics has competed in the rodeo. Taking third place was Joel Retana who works for Husky Rack and Wire.