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.
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.
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.