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A different kind of rodeo: Dot Foods employees put their skills to the test

April 19, 2019 GMT

BULLHEAD CITY — It’s not often that one witnesses a rodeo that features a basketball but no bulls, buckin’ broncos or cowboy hats.

Such an event was on display Thursday afternoon at the Dot Foods distribution center in Bullhead City.

The livestock was replaced by powered industrial trucks — one known as a mule — for the company’s annual Warehouse Rodeo.

Like that other kind of rodeo, it featured riders showing off their skills in the hopes of winning prizes. Also on exhibition was their attention to safety rules.

The event consisted of Dot Foods employees traversing an obstacle course on the warehouse floor on four different machines, trying to finish in the fastest time.

Speed wasn’t the only consideration, said Scott Lawton, a warehouse trainer for Dot Foods. Time penalties were assessed for safety violations, which included failure to come to a complete stop and honk at the intersections on the figure-eight course.

A rider also got dinged for not properly mounting or dismounting the equipment.

A rider who could pick up a pallet, drive it through a maze of other pallets and return it to the starting point was said to have made a “clean run.”

Most of the riders were able to do so.

“That means we have a great safety culture,” Lawton said.

The basketball was placed on the load pulled by an order picker. Lawton said that vehicle has a high center of gravity, meaning it’s important that the rider pay close attention to his speed during turns, which could be a turnover risk.

The basketball falling off, he said, would mean a rider was going too fast through a turn.

Every clean run got the rider’s name entered in a drawing for a $200 prize. Those with the top scores on the mule, order picker, stand-up forklift and reach forklift (“narrow-aisle” in Dot Foods parlance), earned the right to compete with the best from other distribution centers at company headquarters in Mount Sterling, Illinois.

Winners of the nationals receive a $2,500 vacation.

Many participants had family members on hand to cheer them on.

Lawton said the camaraderie among employees is another goal of the company.

“It’s a great time to bond with your co-workers,” he said. “And have a little fun with the skills you use day in and day out.”

Michael Shocklee may have had the most fun. He journeyed through the course resplendent in a giraffe-pattered onesie, complete with a tail — but the hood was left to hang over his back.

“You can’t have it on during the run, because of safety,” Shocklee explained.

Nelson Sanchez said he’d been on the job just a couple of week’s at the time of last year’s rodeo. He said his performance this year showed how much better he’s gotten on the equipment.

“It’s nice of (Dot Foods) to actually do things like this for us,” Sanchez said. “Other companies don’t do things like this. They’re a great company all around.”