There are only so many ways you can tell your fleet to be safe, says Chris Kelly, CEO and president of KELMAR Safety Inc., of Greenfield, Indiana. That, she says, is where a truck rodeo comes in.
Trucking competitions are hot, and it’s no wonder: it’s a chance for a driver to earn bragging rights against fellow truckers, and an opportunity to say to the world, “I know my job, and I know it well.” But these rodeos are about more than the thrill of friendly competition. They’re also a venue for building teamwork skills and highlighting safety as a No. 1 priority. That focus on safety is one reason that companies from across the country have called in Kelly and her team to help organize company rodeos.
Since 2003, KELMAR Safety has helped companies host truck rodeos and forklift competitions. No matter the size of truck, KELMAR Safety is able to help create a custom course and obstacles that address the unique safety challenges a company might be facing. “For example, if they are having backing accidents, there will be more than one backing obstacle,” Kelly explains.
Each obstacle has an objective, and points are awarded for executing a maneuver correctly. The event is also timed, a factor that is only used in the event of a tie since, as Kelly points out, there is no time limit on safety.
While KELMAR is generally brought in to provide innovation and expert organization for an event, an added benefit to bringing in a third-party organizer is that they provide an unbiased judge. As Kelly notes, “We deal with very competitive and often sales-oriented companies.”
Company owners find these local rodeos beneficial since it’s a fresh, fun way of emphasizing safety. In some cases, it can lengthen the time a driver must focus on safety: Competitors must be accident-free for one year prior to competing, and a company event might be the first step before a national competition six months further out. “So it lengthens the time for a driver to focus on safety, and with our several avenues of putting safety in front — through the written and pre-trip tests — it extends the discussions,” Kelly says.
Beyond that, however, drivers find the local course a positive venue for getting needed feedback.
“After each driver competes, they get a private discussion about what went well or perhaps what they need to watch out for in their daily driving. For example, if their depth perception is fading and they cannot judge distance. Drivers have commented that they were glad they found that out on our course instead of on the roadway,” Kelly says.
Safety is the priority, but when you get right down to it, truck rodeos are good, plain fun. For companies that struggle to find ways to tell drivers they are appreciated, this event can be combined with a company picnic or driver appreciation event.
Want to explore the possibility of your own event but not ready to call in the pros? KELMAR has a kit for that: This year the company launched a “Do It Yourself Rodeo Kit” that walks organizers through each phase and lays out ground rules for the competition.