Construction equipment operators drive, maneuver, or control the heavy machinery used to construct roads, bridges, buildings, and other structures.
Construction equipment operators typically do the following:
Construction equipment operators use machinery to move construction materials, earth, and other heavy materials at construction sites and mines. They operate equipment that clears and grades land to prepare it for the construction of roads, bridges, and buildings, as well as runways, power generation facilities, dams, levees, and other structures.
Operating engineers and other construction equipment operators work with one or several types of power construction equipment. They may operate excavation and loading machines equipped with scoops, shovels, or buckets that dig sand, gravel, earth, or similar materials. In addition to operating bulldozers, they operate trench excavators, road graders, and similar equipment. Sometimes, they may drive and control industrial trucks or tractors equipped with forklifts or booms for lifting materials. They may also operate and maintain air compressors, pumps, and other power equipment at construction sites.
Paving and surfacing equipment operators control the machines that spread and level asphalt or spread and smooth concrete for roadways or other structures.
Pile-driver operators use large machines mounted on skids, barges, or cranes to hammer piles into the ground. Piles are long, heavy beams of concrete, wood, or steel driven into the ground to support retaining walls, bridges, piers, or building foundations. Some pile-driver operators work on offshore oil rigs.
Many workers learn equipment operation on the job after earning a high school diploma or equivalent, while others learn through an apprenticeship or by attending vocational schools.
A high school diploma or equivalent is required for most jobs. Vocational training and math courses are useful, and a course in auto mechanics can be helpful because workers often perform maintenance on their equipment.
Education at a private vocational school may be beneficial in finding a job, and the variety of construction equipment that is taught varies from school to school. However, people considering this kind of training should check the school’s reputation among employers in the area and find out if the school offers the opportunity to train on actual machines in realistic situations.
Many training facilities incorporate sophisticated simulators into their training, allowing beginners to familiarize themselves with the equipment in a virtual environment before operating real machines.
Many workers learn their jobs by operating light equipment under the guidance of an experienced operator. Later, they may operate heavier equipment, such as bulldozers. Technologically advanced construction equipment with computerized controls requires greater skill to operate. Operators of such equipment may need more training and some understanding of electronics.
Other workers learn their trade through a 3- or 4-year apprenticeship. For each year of the program, apprentices must have at least 144 hours of technical instruction and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training. On the job, apprentices learn to maintain equipment, operate machinery, and use special technology, such as a Global Positioning System (GPS). In the classroom, apprentices learn operating procedures for special equipment, safety practices, and first aid, as well as how to read grading plans. Because apprentices learn to operate a wider variety of machines than do other beginners, they usually have better job opportunities.
A few groups, including unions and contractor associations, sponsor apprenticeship programs. Some apprenticeship programs have preferred entry for veterans. The basic qualifications for entering an apprenticeship program are as follows:
After completing an apprenticeship program, apprentices are considered journey workers and perform tasks with less guidance.
Construction equipment operators often need a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to haul their equipment to various jobsites. State laws governing CDLs vary.
A few states have special licenses for operators of backhoes, loaders, and bulldozers.
Currently, 17 states require pile-driver operators to have a crane license because similar operational concerns apply to both pile-drivers and cranes. In addition, the cities of Chicago, New Orleans, New York, Omaha, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC require special crane licensure.
Hand–eye–foot coordination. Construction equipment operators should have steady hands and feet to guide and control heavy machinery precisely, sometimes in tight spaces.
Mechanical skills. Construction equipment operators often perform basic maintenance on the equipment they operate. As a result, they should be familiar with hand and power tools and standard equipment care.
Physical strength. Construction equipment operators may be required to lift more than 50 pounds as part of their duties.
Unafraid of heights. Construction equipment operators may work at great heights. For example, pile-driver operators may need to service the pulleys located at the top of the pile-driver’s tower, which may be several stories tall.
|Job Title||Company||Location||Start Date||Salary|
|Equipment Operator||Interstate Waste Services Inc.||Garfield, NJ||Sep 01, 2015||$74,818|
|Equipment Operator||Interstate Waste Services Inc.||Garfield, NJ||May 23, 2016||$74,818|
|Equipment Operator||Allied Painting Inc.||Cherry Hill, NJ||Jul 19, 2016||$73,923|
|Chemical Equipment Operator and Tester||Mac Hudson Industries Corp.||Newark, NJ||Nov 21, 2016||$66,000 -
|Chemical Equipment Operator||Optimum Polymer Technologies, Inc.||Memphis, TN||Feb 16, 2016||$56,867|
|Equipment Operator||Serra Stone Corporation||Bethesda, MD||Jan 11, 2016||$44,179|
|Equipment Operator||Serra Stone Corporation||Rockville, MD||Feb 12, 2016||$44,179|
|Excavation Equipment Operator||Sun Valley Service, Inc.||East Hanover, NJ||Jan 13, 2015||$44,013|
|Agcricultural Equipment Operators||J and L Harvestings LLC||Claremont, SD||Jan 12, 2015||$37,566|
|AG Equipment Operator||Mark Peterson (Farm)||Aneta, ND||Mar 01, 2015||$37,566|
Career Choices - Heavy Equipment Operator
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