Yee-Haa! Formula for a Successful Tractor Rodeo

  • Lehtola, Carol;
  • Brown, Charles

Formula for a Successful Tractor Rodeo

The tractor is involved in a high percentage of agricultural injuries and deaths. A tractor rodeo is a great (and fun) method to communicate the importance of safety. It can be used to teach safety to youth as well as experienced, adult tractor operators.

What is a 'Tractor Rodeo'?

In a tractor rodeo, participants perform common equipment operations, such as driving tractors or hooking and unhooking equipment. The driving will be done on a course laid out by the instructors, and it will test precision, safety awareness, and attention to detail. Likewise, handling equipment will be a test of accurate execution of a task. (There is no time element; needless rushing to accomplish tasks is the source of many injuries.) A score sheet is used by judges to assess the performance of each participant.

The rodeo can last through a morning or afternoon, or it can be an all-day affair and include lunch and an awards ceremony. In addition to the activities, safety information can be built into the introductions, announcements, and event publications so that it is clear that safety is the bottom line of the day's activities. A special award for the safest driver is a good idea, in addition to best overall and best in various categories.

Participants can compete individually or as teams, perhaps based on their group affiliations.

Example of a Successful Tractor Rodeo

The following examples are taken from the materials developed by Lake and Orange County Extension offices over 20 years of conducting tractor rodeos.

The Schedule

The Lake-Orange County Tractor Rodeo is an all-day event which starts at 8 in the morning and ends around 3:30 in the afternoon. The schedule emphasizes education in the morning; the rodeo takes place after lunch.

Here is a sample program:

8:00 - 8:30 am -- Registration and Announcements
8:30 - 9:00 am -- Personal Safety
9:00 - 9:30 am -- Pesticide Safety
9:30 - 10:00 am -- Defensive Driving
10:00 - 10:30 am -- Break
10:30 - 11:00 am -- Safe Tractor Operation
11:00 - 11:30 am -- Be Careful, Hazardous Materials
11:30 - 12:00 pm -- What's for Lunch? (Food safety in the field)
12:00 - 1:00 pm -- Lunch
1:00 - 3:00 pm -- Rodeo
3:00 - 3:30 pm -- Awards Presentation

The Events

The Lake-Orange County rodeo includes three events. Individuals compete in only one event, but organizations have one representative in each event. The events are:

Event #1: Backing -- A trailer must be backed into a 'stall'. Once the tractor is in reverse, it must be kept in reverse.
Event#2: Hooking Up -- Back a supply truck up to a speed sprayer. Each contestant has to back 'blind' to hook up (that is, with no one spotting or assisting).
Event #3: Driving Course -- A course must be traveled at constant speed without knocking down the cones.

The 'stall' is an area of the course marked out with cones for the participant to back the trailer into.

The Scorecard

Judges for the Lake-Orange County rodeo use a scorecard (see Table 1) to evaluate each participant's performance. A perfect score is zero, meaning that points are scored for omissions or errors. Participants are scored in five areas: Pre-Warm-Up Preparation, Engine Starting, Warm-Up and Clutch Operation, Driving, and Safety. A sample scorecard appears at the end of this publication.

Table 1.

Tractor Operation Scoring Number of Infractions Total Points Off
1. Failure to Check Water _____ x 7= _____
2. Failure to Check Oil _____ x 7= _____
3. Failure to Check Fuel _____ x 7= _____
Starting Engine
1. Failure to Check Neutral Position _____ x 10= _____
2. Failure to Disengage Clutch while Starting Engine _____ x 10= _____
3. Switch Not Turned On _____ x 3= _____
Warm-Up and Clutch Operation
1. Failure to Warm-up Engine for Period Specified _____ x 7= _____
1. Number of Pull-ups to Improve Position _____ x 2= _____
2. Markers Scraped (number) _____ x 4= _____
3. Marker Moved or Upset (number) _____ x 5= _____
4. Killed Engine (number of times) _____ x 2= _____
5. Grated Gears (number of times) _____ x 1= _____
6. Rough Clutch Engagement (number of times) _____ x 1= _____
7. Failure to Disengage Clutch (number of times) _____ x 2= _____
8. Number of Inches Wheel Off Center _____ x 2= _____
9. Number of Inches Trailer is + or - 4 inches from Rear Boundary _____ x 2= _____
1. Skidding or Spinning Wheels When Starting (number of violations) _____ x 2= _____
2. Turning Too Short and Fouling Implement (number of violations) _____ x 2= _____
3. Operation of Tractor at Unsafe Speed (number of violations) _____ x 4= _____
4. Moving Tractor with Brake Set (number of violations) _____ x 1= _____
5. Failure to Dismount to Insert or Remove Drawbar Pin _____ x 2= _____
6. Failure to Bring Tractor to Complete Stop _____ x 2= _____
7. Failure to Lock Brakes Before Dismounting to Hook-up or Unhook Implement at Finish Line _____ x 5= _____
8. Excessive Use of Brakes (number of violations) _____ x 2= _____
9. Failure to Wear Safety Belts _____ x 10= _____
Figuring Final Score
1. Written Exam (number missed x 4) _____
2. Tractor Operation (number missed) _____
3. Oral Exam and/or Demonstration (number missed) _____


Specific judging areas and their point values are:


    1. Failure to check water (7 points for each infraction)
    2. Failure to check oil (7 points for each infraction)
    3. Failure to check fuel (7 points for each infraction)

Engine Starting
    1. Failure to check neutral position (10 points for each infraction)
    2. Failure to disengage clutch while starting engine (10 points for each infraction)
    3. Switch not turned on (3 points for each infraction)

Warm-Up and Clutch Operation

    1. Failure to warm up engine for period specified (7 points for each infraction)


    1. Number of pull-ups to improve position (While backing into the 'stall' or driving through the course) (2 points for each infraction)
    2. Markers scraped (number) (4 points for each infraction)
    3. Markers moved or upset (number) (5 points for each infraction)
    4. Killed engine (number of times) (2 points for each infraction)
    5. Grated gears (number of times) (1 point for each infraction)
    6. Rough clutch engagement (number of times) (1 point for each infraction)
    7. Failure to disengage clutch (number of times) (2 points for each infraction)
    8. Number of inches wheel off-center (2 points for each infraction)
    9. Number of inches trailer is +/- 4 inches from rear boundary (2 points for each infraction)


    1. Skidding or spinning wheels when starting (number of violations) (2 points for each infraction)
    2. Turning too short and fouling implement (number of violations) (2 points for each infraction)
    3. Operation of tractor at unsafe speed (number of violations) (4 points for each infraction)
    4. Moving tractor with brake set (number violations) (1 point for each infraction)
    5. Failure to dismount to insert or remove drawbar pin (2 points for each infraction)
    6. Failure to bring tractor to complete stop and/or turn tractor off before dismounting points for each infraction)
    7. Failure to lock brakes before dismounting hook up or unhook implement at finish line points for each infraction)
    8. Excessive use of brakes (number of violations) (2 points for each infraction)
    9. Failure to wear safety belts (10 points for each infraction)

The low score wins.

Two-Wheel Course Layout


For More Information

For more information about tractor safety, visit the Florida AgSafe Network Web site:

The following publications are available at your county Extension office and at the EDIS Web site, <>. (IFAS Publication Numbers are in parentheses after the titles. The second set of parentheses contains the Web address at which the publication can be viewed.)

Publication #: AE308

1. This document is AE308 , one of a series of the Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Supported in part by the NIOSH Deep-South Center for Occupational Health and Safety, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida. First published September 2001. Please visit the EDIS Web site at

2. Carol J. Lehtola, assistant professor, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, and Extension Agricultural Safety Specialist, and Charles M. Brown, Assistant Coordinator for Agricultural Safety and Health, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, 32611

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap, or national origin. For information on obtaining other extension publications, contact your county Cooperative Extension Service office. Florida Cooperative Extension Service/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences/University of Florida/Christine Taylor Waddill, Dean.

Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in NASD appears by permission of the author and/or copyright holder. More