Traditionally, and rightly or wrongly, fork lift operating has always been a role largely associated with men, which is why RTITB is excited to confirm that for the first time a female instructor will take one of the judging spots at this year’s Operator of the Year Competition Grand Final.
Jody Titley qualified as an examiner in 2013, following 7 years’ experience as an industry instructor. "I was really flattered to be asked," she says when asked about her reaction to being picked as a judge and goes on to suggest that it’s a good thing for the industry. "Maybe the first female judge might eventually lead to the first female competitor?" It’s a fair observation in an industry where women are beginning to get more of a foothold but disappointingly are very much still seen as the exception and not the rule. Tellingly, the Operator of the Year Competition is still awaiting its first female finalist – across all three competitions just three female operators have qualified for the heats and have failed to progress further.
Surprisingly, it’s not issues of equality that occupy Jody’s mind while we’re talking about the final in September. She turns the conversation to the eleven years she spent driving HGVs. "Lift truck operators really used to annoy me when I was a driver," she admits with a wry grin. "It always seemed like they were in the way, and they never seemed to want to help us drivers out."
Since learning to operate a lift truck herself and then qualifying as an instructor, her inner-driver has come to realise that possibly her criticisms and impatience were unfair. Her dual insight into both worlds has given her a much different perspective.
"As a driver it was easy to sit there and get steamed up about how long things took to do, and I probably wasn’t the only one to think it looked easy and that anyone could do it quicker." She looks thoughtful. "But from the outside looking in things always look easier – especially when the truck is being operated by some veteran who’s been doing it for years. I know different now; it’s a challenging occupation and there’s a lot to consider even with very basic manoeuvring."
Returning to the subject of the Grand Final itself, Jody says, "this is a great chance to see what these guys can do, to showcase the skills that are behind the scenes and put the spotlight on safety in this fast moving, dynamic industry. It’s very easy for any of us to take for granted the risks involved in this sort of work. Events like this help focus attention back where it needs to be."
The Operator of the Year Competition grand final will be held on September 20th at RTITB’s headquarters in Telford. Following on from its popularity and success at the IMHX in March, RTITB will once again be running a lift truck experience zone at the Grand Final, giving men and women alike the opportunity to experience operating a Toyota lift truck under the supervision of a qualified RTITB instructor.
To find out more or to register to attend, visit www.opofyear.com. Follow news and developments on our competition Facebook page (facebook.com/opofyear) or our Twitter feed (@opofyear).