On Saturday

Forklift finesse on display in Cloverdale

Annual competition comes to the Agriplex on Saturday.

On Saturday, June 25, Surrey’s Cloverdale Agriplex will host the 14th annual B.C. Championship Forklift Rally, a family-friendly event designed to encourage safety and best practices in the industry, presented by the Canadian Materials Handling and Distribution Society (CMHDS).

The rally is comprised of three divisions: Narrow Aisle Reach Truck, Power Pallet Jack, and Sit-Down Counterbalanced.

Competitors manoeuvre their forklifts through obstacle courses designed to test their skill and dexterity in handling the equipment safely. They are judged on time and course accuracy, and are penalized for improper or unsafe handling practices.

They are also required to complete a 20-question multiple choice test based on WorkSafeBC regulations, and complete tasks such as Forklift Basketball and Forklift Bowling.

“It promotes safety and professionalism in a fun way,” says Dan Beer, chairman of the event and one of its original founders. Beer is also a long-time employee of Johnston Equipment, Canada’s largest material handling company.

Johnston has been a sponsor of the rally from the very beginning.

“We believe you have to give back to the community,” says Beer. “I’m very proud of the way Johnston has supported this event from the first year to the present.”

John Gilder, general manager of both CMHDS and the Forklift Rally, says sponsors contribute above and beyond their financial commitment.

“The sponsors are the life blood of the event,” Gilder says.

For example, Adecco Employment Services arranges a bouncy castle for the kids, while Johnston Equipment provides forklifts and racking for the competition.

Johnston employees can also be found behind the barbecue, serving up free lunch to the families, friends, and co-workers who come to cheer on the contestants. Admission is free for spectators, and last year’s rally had approximately 500 people in attendance, and nearly 90 forklift operators competing for a total of $2,800 in prize money.

John Jepsen, a customs and traffic coordinator at Kodak who lives and works in Burnaby, is one of the returning competitors this year. The 2010 champion of the Counterbalanced division, Jepsen was a first-time attendee and competitor last year after stumbling upon the event while online and entering on a whim.

This year he’s back to defend his title.

“A few co-workers joined me last year. They even made posters to hold up – ‘Go John Go’,” says Jepsen. “This year will be a little more pressure with both my fiancé and in-laws watching.”

Jepsen believes that competence and precision are the skills that define a top-notch forklift operator.

“Some people believe safe equals slow,” he explains, and though he admits that in some situations this can be true, Jepsen would like to think the rally proves that safety doesn’t have to come at the cost of efficiency.

In addition to the competition itself, the rally features a trade show put on by the sponsors.

Jepsen’s favourite part of the rally is checking out the latest equipment from the different manufacturers.

“There are some sweet machines coming out lately,” he says.

Among them are Raymond’s Counterbalanced trucks, voted one of the leading products of 2010 by Plant Engineering magazine subscribers.

Ultimately, says Gilder, the goal of the forklift rally is “to recognize and reward the operators who keep the country moving.”

It’s a day for working men and women to get together, have some fun, and celebrate their skills.

The annual B.C. Championship Forklift Rally is presented by the Canadian Material Handling and Distribution Society (www.CMHDS.org), a registered non-profit industry association representing the warehousing and distribution community in British Columbia.

The event is held in partnership with WorkSafeBC, and sponsors include Johnston Equipment, East Penn Manufacturing, Harding Forklift Services Ltd., Williams Machinery, NIS Training, Pivot Industrial Training Services, and Adecco Employment Services.

For more information, or for contest entry details, visit http://forkliftrally.com

Photos from previous year’s events are available for download from http://www.flickr.com/photos/forkliftrally

Surrey North Delta Leader

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