Material moving machine operators use machinery to transport various objects.
What they do
Material moving machine operators move construction materials around building sites or excavate earth from a mine. Others move goods around a warehouse or onto container ships.
They 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
- Signal and direct workers to load, unload, and position materials
- Keep a record of the material they move and where they move it to
- Make minor repairs to their equipment
In warehouses, most material moving machine operators use forklifts and conveyor belts. Wireless sensors and tags are increasingly being 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 high rise buildings by transporting materials to workers who are far above ground level.
All material moving machine operators are responsible for the safe operation of their equipment or vehicle.
The following are examples of types of material moving machine operators:
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 also may check the shipping order and determine the route that materials take along a conveyor.
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 usually are guided by workers on the ground who use hand signals or who transmit 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 ports. Dredging also is 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 through voice signals transmitted by radio. 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 in industrial operations, such as constructing a high-rise building. Many of these operators raise platforms far above the ground. Operators regulate the speed of the equipment on the basis of 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.
Material moving machine operators work indoors and outdoors in a variety of industries.
How to become a Material Moving Machine Operator
Education and training requirements vary by 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 educational credential is usually required, some companies prefer to hire material moving machine operators who have a high school diploma. For crane and tower operators, excavating machine operators, and dredge operators, however, a high school diploma or equivalent typically is required.
Although most material moving machine operators are trained on the job in less than a month, the amount of time spent in training will vary with the type of machine. Some machines, such as cranes and towers, are more complex than others, such as industrial trucks and forklifts. 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.
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.
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.
The median annual wage for material moving machine operators was $36,770 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $26,040, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $58,240.
Overall employment of material moving machine operators is projected to grow 2 percent from 2019 to 2029, slower than the average for all occupations. Employment growth will vary by occupation.
Employment of industrial truck and tractor operators is concentrated in warehouses. The demand for warehousing will continue to grow as more consumers choose to purchase products online. However, employment growth for these workers may be tempered as more warehouses begin using automated machinery to improve their operations. This equipment increases the efficiency of operators, allowing warehouses to employ fewer of them.
Similar Job Titles
Backhoe Operator, Dragline Oiler, Dragline Operator, Equipment Operator, Excavator Operator, Heavy Equipment Operator, Loader Operator, Operator, Pit Operator, Track Hoe Operator
Paving, Surfacing and Tamping Equipment Operator; Pipelayer; Highway Maintenance Worker; Rail-Track Laying and Maintenance Equipment Operator; Dredge Operator
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- The Associated General Contractors of America - This association is far reaching with over 27,000 firms, including more than 7,000 of America’s leading general contractors, nearly 9,000 specialty-contracting firms and almost 11,000 service providers and suppliers belong to the association through its nationwide network of chapters. A number of educational programs designed to enhance career development opportunities for individuals and improve the performance of construction companies and the industry are offered. As well, 170 student chapters across the country provide young professionals with an opportunity to observe and develop their skills with current industry leaders.
- American Subcontractors Association - The ASA promotes the rights and interests of subcontractors, specialty contractors and suppliers by building strength in community through education, advocacy, networking and professional growth. Members have access to a plethora of on-demand videos, manuals, technical papers, and more.
- Associated Builders and Contractors - ABC's membership represents all specialties within the U.S. construction industry and is comprised primarily of firms that perform work in the industrial and commercial sectors. Students and those wishing a career in construction will find an abundance of education and craft training information and resources.
Magazines and Publications Magazines and Publications
Moving mountains may sound impossible, but material moving machine operators do it all the time, one load of earth at a time. They use machinery to move heavy materials around building sites, warehouses, ships and mines. Material moving machine operators use a variety of equipment in different settings. Most of these operators drive forklifts moving materials around warehouses, storage yards, or worksites. They may operate conveyor belts to pick up merchandise, and move it to and from large warehouses, building sites and vehicles. Many operators work for underground and surface mining companies digging mines to extract coal, ore and other materials. They load material onto shuttles or conveyors running from a mine to the surface. Some operate platforms and cages that raise workers and materials up to elevated construction sites or lower them down into mines and quarries. In construction, these machine operators clear space for buildings with excavators, and operate cranes to load and unload building materials. Cranes are also used at ports to move cargo, and at iron and steel mills. Dredge operators shift large quantities of sand and gravel from the bottom of rivers, lakes and other waterways so that ships and boats can move freely. Safe equipment operation is a top priority in this field; injury and illness rates are higher than most occupations. Workers wear gloves, hardhats, or respirators as needed. Most material moving machine operators work full time— sometimes with overnight shifts— and overtime is common. Although there are typically no formal education requirements, a high school education may be preferred for some positions, and is often required for crane operators, excavating machine operators, and dredge operators. Some states and cities require licensure for crane operators.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org