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Become A Lift Truck Operator

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Working As A Lift Truck Operator

  • Operating Vehicles, Mechanized Devices, or Equipment
  • Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Material
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Handling and Moving Objects
  • Getting Information
  • Unpleasant/Hazardous Environment

  • Stressful

  • $23,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Lift Truck Operator Do

Material moving machine operators use machinery to transport various objects. Some operators move construction materials around building sites or excavate earth from a mine. Others move goods around a warehouse or onto container ships.


Material moving machine operators typically do the following:

  • Set up and inspect material moving equipment
  • Control equipment with levers, wheels, or foot pedals
  • Move material according to a plan or schedule
  • Keep a record of the material they move and where they move it
  • Make minor repairs to their equipment

In warehouses, most material moving machine operators use forklifts and conveyor belts. Wireless sensors and tags are increasingly used to keep track of merchandise, allowing operators to locate them faster. Some operators also check goods for damage. These operators usually work closely with hand laborers and material movers.

Many operators work for underground and surface mining companies. They help to dig or expose the mine, remove the earth and rock, and extract coal, ore, and other mined materials.

In construction, material moving machine operators remove earth to clear space for buildings. Some work on a building site for the entire length of the construction project. For example, certain material moving machine operators help to construct highrise buildings by transporting materials to workers far above ground level.

All material moving machine operators are responsible for the safe operation of their equipment or vehicle.

Conveyor operators and tenders control conveyor systems that move materials on an automatic belt. They move materials to and from places such as storage areas, vehicles, and building sites. They monitor sensors on the conveyor to regulate the speed with which the conveyor belt moves. Operators may determine the route materials take along a conveyor based on shipping orders.

Crane and tower operators use tower and cable equipment to lift and move materials, machinery, or other heavy objects. From a control station, operators can extend and retract horizontal booms, rotate the superstructure, and lower and raise hooks attached to cables at the end of their crane or tower. Operators are usually guided by other workers on the ground using hand signals or voice signals through a radio. Most crane and tower operators work at construction sites or major ports, where they load and unload cargo. Some operators work in iron and steel mills. 

Dredge operators excavate waterways. They operate equipment on the water to remove sand, gravel, or rock from harbors or lakes. Removing these materials helps to prevent erosion and maintain navigable waterways, and allows larger ships to use more ports. Dredging is also used to help restore wetlands and maintain beaches.

Excavating and loading machine and dragline operators use machines equipped with scoops or shovels. They dig sand, earth, or other materials and load them onto conveyors or into trucks for transport elsewhere. They may also move material within a confined area, such as a construction site. Operators typically receive instructions from workers on the ground through hand signals or radios. Most of these operators work in construction or mining industries.

Hoist and winch operators, also called derrick operators, control the movement of platforms, cables, and cages that transport workers or materials for industrial operations, such as constructing a highrise building. Many of these operators raise platforms far above the ground. Operators regulate the speed of the equipment based on the needs of the workers. Many work in manufacturing, mining, and quarrying industries.

Industrial truck and tractor operators drive trucks and tractors that move materials around warehouses, storage yards, or worksites. These trucks, often called forklifts, have a lifting mechanism and forks, which make them useful for moving heavy and large objects. Some industrial truck and tractor operators drive tractors that pull trailers loaded with material around factories or storage areas.

Underground mining loading machine operators load coal, ore, and other rocks onto shuttles, mine cars, or conveyors for transport from a mine to the surface. They may use power shovels, hoisting engines equipped with scrapers or scoops, and automatic gathering arms that move materials onto a conveyor. Operators also drive their machines farther into the mine in order to gather more material.

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How To Become A Lift Truck Operator

Education and training requirements vary by the occupation. Crane operators and excavating machine operators usually have several years of experience in related occupations, such as construction equipment operators or hoist or winch operators.


Although no formal education is usually required, some companies prefer material moving machine operators to have a high school diploma. For crane operators, excavating machine operators, and dredge operators, however, a high school diploma or equivalent is typically required.


Most material moving machine operators are trained on the job in less than a month. Some machines are more complex than others, such as cranes as compared with industrial trucks such as forklifts. Therefore, the amount of time spent in training will vary with the type of machine the operator is using. Learning to operate a forklift or an industrial truck in warehouses, for example, may take only a few days. Training to operate a crane for port operations may take several months. Most workers are trained by a supervisor or another experienced employee.

The International Union of Operating Engineers offers apprenticeship programs for heavy equipment operators, such as excavating machine operators or crane operators. Apprenticeships combine paid on-the-job training with technical instruction.

During their training, material moving machine operators learn a number of safety rules, many of which are standardized through the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). Employers must certify that each operator has received the proper training. Operators who work with hazardous materials receive further specialized training.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

A number of states and several cities require crane operators to be licensed. To get a license, operators typically must complete a skills test in which they show that they can control a crane. They also must pass a written exam that tests their knowledge of safety rules and procedures. Some crane operators and industrial truck and tractor operators may obtain certification, which includes passing a written exam.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Crane operators and excavating machine operators usually have several years of experience working as construction equipment operators or hoist and winch operators. 

Important Qualities

Alertness. Material moving machine operators must be aware of their surroundings while operating machinery.

Hand–eye–foot coordination. Material moving machine operators should have steady hands and feet to guide and control heavy machinery precisely. They use hand controls to maneuver their machines through tight spaces, around large objects, and on uneven surfaces.

Mechanical skills. Material moving machine operators make minor adjustments to their machines and perform basic maintenance.

Visual ability. Material moving machine operators must be able to clearly see where they are driving or what they are moving. They must also watch for nearby workers, who may unknowingly be in their path.

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Lift Truck Operator Career Paths

Lift Truck Operator
Driver Technician Team Leader
Operations Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Driver Technician Field Service Technician
Service Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Driver Foreman Manager
Area Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Lift Operator Forklift Operator Foreman
Warehouse Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Lift Operator Technician Maintenance Supervisor
Maintenance Director
11 Yearsyrs
Lift Operator Delivery Driver Foreman
Plant Manager
11 Yearsyrs
Delivery Driver Specialist Buyer
Supply Chain Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Delivery Driver Coordinator Logistics Coordinator
Logistics Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Operator Electrician Supervisor
Site Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Operator Electrician Maintenance Supervisor
Facilities Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Operator Electrician Owner/Operator
Operator And Truck Driver
5 Yearsyrs
Maintenance Technician Field Service Technician Supervisor
Shipping Supervisor
5 Yearsyrs
Maintenance Technician Field Service Technician Maintenance Supervisor
Facilities Maintenance Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Maintenance Technician Specialist Operation Supervisor
Logistics Supervisor
5 Yearsyrs
Material Handler/Forklift Operator Specialist Operation Supervisor
Distribution Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Material Handler/Forklift Operator Logistics Specialist
Logistics Lead
6 Yearsyrs
Material Handler/Forklift Operator Logistics Specialist Logistics Coordinator
Shipping Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Shipping And Receiving Clerk Buyer Warehouse Manager
Warehouse Operations Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Shipping And Receiving Clerk Buyer Senior Buyer
Supply Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Shipping And Receiving Clerk Truck Driver Tank Driver
Lead Driver
5 Yearsyrs
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Do you work as a Lift Truck Operator?

Help others decide if this is a good career for them

Average Length of Employment
Tow Motor Operator 3.6 years
High Lift Operator 3.5 years
Shipping Operator 3.4 years
Lift Driver 3.2 years
Forklift Operator 2.9 years
Forklift Driver 2.8 years
Lift Operator 2.7 years
Clamp Operator 2.5 years
Pit Operator 1.8 years
Top Careers Before Lift Truck Operator
Cashier 7.7%
Supervisor 4.3%
Driver 3.0%
Operator 2.9%
Cook 2.5%
Stocker 2.4%
Top Careers After Lift Truck Operator
Driver 6.6%
Operator 4.1%
Supervisor 3.2%
Cashier 2.9%
Technician 2.7%

Do you work as a Lift Truck Operator?

Average Yearly Salary
View Detailed Salary Report
Min 10%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Mathis Brothers Furniture
Highest Paying City
Orlando, FL
Highest Paying State
Avg Experience Level
3.4 years
How much does a Lift Truck Operator make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Lift Truck Operator in the United States is $23,509 per year or $11 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $20,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $27,000.

How Would You Rate The Salary Of a Lift Truck Operator?

Have you worked as a Lift Truck Operator? Help other job seekers by rating your experience as a Lift Truck Operator.

Top Skills for A Lift Truck Operator

  1. Safety Procedures
  2. Pallet Jack
  3. RF Scanner
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Adhere to standardized safety procedures when operating forklift within the facility.
  • Performed overstocking and receiving duties using Power equipment like pallet jack, sit down in a temperature controlled setting.
  • Use RF scanner to connect with company computer mainframe for receiving, put away and load function as required.
  • Perform general warehouse functions such as load and unload trucks, inventory audit counts.
  • Backed up Logistics coordinator which consisted of manning computer terminals for inbound and outbound shipments.

Lift Truck Operator Resume Examples And Tips

The average resume reviewer spends between 5 to 7 seconds looking at a single resume, which leaves the average job applier with roughly six seconds to make a killer first impression. Thanks to this, a single typo or error on your resume can disqualify you right out of the gate. At Zippia, we went through over 3,125 Lift Truck Operator resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

Learn How To Create A Top Notch Lift Truck Operator Resume

View Resume Examples

Lift Truck Operator Demographics










Hispanic or Latino


Black or African American





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Foreign Languages Spoken










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Lift Truck Operator Education


Dalton State College


University of Phoenix


Georgia Northwestern Technical College - Floyd County Campus


Waubonsee Community College


Joliet Junior College


Rock Valley College


Kishwaukee College


The Academy


Colorado Technical University


Central Georgia Technical College


Chattanooga State Community College


Northern Illinois University


Sinclair Community College


Strayer University


Kaplan University


Universal Technical Institute


University of Tennessee - Chattanooga


ITT Technical Institute - Indianapolis


Cleveland State Community College


Johnston Community College

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Criminal Justice


General Studies


Automotive Technology


Computer Science


Electrical Engineering


Electrical Engineering Technology


Computer Information Systems




Precision Metal Working




Graphic Design








Health Care Administration


Industrial Technology


General Education, Specific Areas


Liberal Arts


Supply Chain Management

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