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Become A Tractor Operator

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Working As A Tractor 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

  • $27,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Tractor 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.

Duties

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 Tractor 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.

Education

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.

Training

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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Tractor Operator Career Paths

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Tractor Operator Demographics

Gender

Male

92.0%

Female

6.9%

Unknown

1.0%
Ethnicity

White

58.4%

Hispanic or Latino

20.5%

Black or African American

11.4%

Asian

6.2%

Unknown

3.4%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

83.3%

Thai

5.6%

Samoan

5.6%

Carrier

5.6%
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Tractor Operator Education

Schools

Gadsden State Community College

10.2%

Cambridge Junior College - Yuba City

6.1%

Sierra College

6.1%

Monroe County Community College

6.1%

Hawkeye Community College

6.1%

College of Southern Idaho

6.1%

Modesto Junior College

6.1%

Arizona State University

4.1%

Central Texas College

4.1%

San Juan College

4.1%

Ogeechee Technical College

4.1%

Trinity Valley Community College

4.1%

Tyler Junior College

4.1%

Oregon State University

4.1%

Florence-Darlington Technical College

4.1%

Blue Mountain Community College

4.1%

Brigham Young University

4.1%

Albany Technical College

4.1%

Paris Junior College

4.1%

Northwestern Oklahoma State University

4.1%
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Majors

Business

15.2%

Automotive Technology

9.5%

Precision Metal Working

8.2%

Industrial Technology

7.0%

General Studies

7.0%

Criminal Justice

7.0%

Electrical Engineering Technology

5.1%

Computer Science

5.1%

Electrical And Power Transmission Installers

3.8%

Environmental Control Technologies/Technicians

3.8%

Drafting And Design

3.2%

Music

3.2%

Engineering

3.2%

Heavy/Industrial Equipment Maintenance Technologies

3.2%

Computer Networking

3.2%

Electrical Engineering

2.5%

Agriculture

2.5%

Biology

2.5%

Education

2.5%

Forestry

2.5%
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Degrees

Other

49.2%

Bachelors

16.3%

Associate

15.0%

Certificate

12.0%

Masters

3.7%

Diploma

3.7%

License

0.3%
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Real Tractor Operator Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Industrial, Truck, and Tractor Operators Kloss Company NJ Dec 08, 2010 $38,776
Landscape Tractor Operator Growers Custom Spreading Thermal, CA Mar 24, 2010 $37,357
Industrial Truck and Tractor Operators Bronx River Haulage, Inc. Vernon, NY Jan 25, 2012 $35,922
Industrial Truck and Tractor Operators Connecticut Precast Corporation Monroe, CT Mar 20, 2014 $35,818
Industrial Truck and Tractor Operator M. A. Patout & Son, Ltd. Jeanerette, LA Oct 01, 2015 $35,625
Industrial Truck and Tractor Operator County Concrete Corp Kenvil, NJ May 14, 2009 $33,538
Industrial Truck and Tractor Operator M.A. Patout & Son, Ltd. LA Oct 01, 2014 $33,204
Industrial Truck and Tractor Operators Milford Tile, Inc. New York, NY May 27, 2008 $32,223
Industrial Truck and Tractor Operators Park Avenue Building and Roofing Suplies, LLC New York, NY Sep 14, 2009 $32,223
Logging Tractor Operator, Grapple Skidder Pepin Lumber Inc. ME Jun 06, 2016 $31,305
Logging Tractor Operators Margarita's Construction Tucson, AZ Apr 29, 2009 $29,218
Logging Tractor Operator, Grapple Skidder Pepin Lumber Inc. ME Jun 01, 2015 $28,175
Industrial Truck and Tractor Operators Ernest Maier, Inc. Bladensburg, MD Feb 19, 2010 $27,319
Logging Tractor Operator, Grapple Skidder Pepin Lumber Inc. ME Jun 02, 2014 $27,131
Industrial Truck & Tractor Operator S.P. Equipment Inc. Cold Spring, NY Jun 25, 2009 $26,818
Industrial Truck and Tractor Operator M. A. Patout & Son, Ltd. Jeanerette, LA Sep 01, 2016 $26,234
Industrial Truck and Tractor Operator M. A. Patout & Son, Ltd. Jeanerette, LA Oct 01, 2016 $26,234
Tractor Operator Salazar Contracting, LLC TN May 16, 2013 $25,921
Industrial Truck and Tractor Operators New England Flooring Supply, Company North Haven, CT Jan 19, 2010 $25,399
Industrial Truck and Tractor Operator New England Flooring Supply, Company North Haven, CT Dec 03, 2008 $25,002
Industrial Truck and Tractor Operators GDK Alcantara Corporation Greenwood, DE Apr 15, 2011 $24,940
Industrial Truck or Tractor Operator Alejandrino Castrejon Chicken Catching Seaford, DE Apr 15, 2011 $24,940
Industrial Truck and Tractor Operator Ernest Maier, Inc. Bladensburg, MD Mar 15, 2010 $23,207
Industrial Truck and Tractor Operator Ernest Maier, Inc. Bladensburg, MD Jul 11, 2008 $21,747
Industrial Truck and Tractor Operators Ernest Maier, Inc. Bladensburg, MD Jul 11, 2008 $21,747
Industrial Truck and Tractor Operators Ernest Maier, Inc. Bladensburg, MD Jul 07, 2008 $21,747

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AVERAGE SALARY FOR A Tractor Operator

Average Yearly Salary
$27,000
View Detailed Salary Report
$16,000
Min 10%
$27,000
Median 50%
$27,000
Median 50%
$27,000
Median 50%
$27,000
Median 50%
$27,000
Median 50%
$27,000
Median 50%
$27,000
Median 50%
$44,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Archer Daniels Midland
Highest Paying City
Roswell, NM
Highest Paying State
Hawaii
Avg Experience Level
2.1 years
How much does a Tractor Operator make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Tractor Operator in the United States is $27,120 per year or $13 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $16,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $44,000.

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Top Skills for A Tractor Operator

  1. Tractor Trailers
  2. Safety Procedures
  3. Heavy Machinery
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Developed, implemented and conducted cross-training, ensuring all safety procedures were maintained.
  • Performed various maintenance tasks on property which included servicing heavy machinery and standard property grounds maintenance.
  • Moved controls to drive gasoline or electric-powered forklifts and transport pallets between loading, processing, and storage areas.
  • Provide operational support for all ranges to include preventative maintenance of all automated targeting systems.
  • Work also involves lifting heavy equipment attachments when connecting them to the tractor.

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Top 10 Best States for Tractor Operators

  1. Iowa
  2. New Hampshire
  3. Minnesota
  4. Rhode Island
  5. Wisconsin
  6. North Dakota
  7. Alaska
  8. Delaware
  9. Pennsylvania
  10. District of Columbia
  • (181 jobs)
  • (43 jobs)
  • (182 jobs)
  • (39 jobs)
  • (211 jobs)
  • (21 jobs)
  • (6 jobs)
  • (21 jobs)
  • (530 jobs)
  • (11 jobs)

Top Tractor Operator Employers

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