Heavy Equipment Operator RequirementsHere, I’ve compiled the essential heavy equipment operator requirements for you to break into this profession and these are what the general market requires.

These qualifications are deemed by the hiring manager to be essential in the performance of your job. The requirements revolve around your education, certification, and experience the employer looks for before a candidate can be offered a job.

And if you are just also planning to take a heavy equipment operator training course, this article could help you prepare for the prerequisites to break into this rewarding career.

The requirements you must have/obtain are these:



Basic Education and Competency Requirements

There will always be a connection between your education and finding a job.

Employers lay down sets of educational requirements when posting job advertisements. Without meeting these educational requirements, applicants won’t be able to receive an interview invitation or even to receive a call.

Here are the minimum educational requirements that you must have:

#1 High School Diploma or its educational equivalent or GED certificate

Attainment of high school is a qualification to join a trade occupation and heavy equipment operation is one of those occupations. Though, there is no standard that regulates the education of heavy equipment operator. However, the minimum education required for someone who wants to go into heavy equipment operation is to be a high school graduate or in possession of GED certificate as its equivalent.

If you did not attend high school or you are no longer in the right age to enroll in for a high school education, well, taking the General Equivalency Diploma (GED) is an alternate route for you to get. To take the GED certification, you must be at least16 years old and a resident of the state where you will be taking it. The requirement for GED certification test varies from state to state.

To take the GED certification, here is what you need to do:

  1. Prepare the requirements – as already mentioned above, GED test-takers must be over 16 years old and above and must show proof of residency.

  2. Look for a training center and enroll in – the center will help you study and pass the series of tests. Enrolling in will cost you some amount but it increases your chance of passing the exams. Some community colleges and technical schools also offer the same program. Find one near your area.

  3. Make a Schedule for the exam – to make a schedule, register in www.ged.com, and by registering, you need to input your personal information. When registered, choose the subject you want to take, the date and time. The exam schedule may be different in your state, others simply don’t have such schedules. To take the GED test, you need to go to the neighboring state where it is offered.

  4. Take the GED test – in this year, 2018, the GED test is composed of four subjects, namely, mathematics, social studies, science and reasoning through language arts. You can take one subject at a time or you can take two subjects in one exam schedule. In order to pass, you need to have at least 145 scores in each subject and a total score of 580 in four subjects. When you’re successful, you will receive your credentials and GED certificate.

The cost of taking the GED test depends on the state where you will be taking the exam. Normally, it costs around $90 to $160 for the four subjects or around $23-$40 per subject.

Taking the online exam offered by some training centres could be a scam. You might encounter some though. Taking the online test provided by these centres will turn out to be useless. The certificate issued by them will be rejected by heavy equipment operator school or by your prospective employer.



You need to submit copies of your diploma and transcript or your GED certificate as proofs of attendance and completion of the required education when enrolling in for a heavy equipment operator training course.

#2 Mathematical Ability

Heavy equipment operators do computations in their everyday jobs, therefore, math skill is required in this occupation.

You’re not just moving earth or transporting equipment and materials, you will also find yourself doing other duties such as the reading of job instructions and plans, record keeping, performing daily reports, keeping of computer database, maintain equipment supplies, recording of construction materials, documenting maintenance repairs, and many others. ALL of these tasks require math ability to perform.

If you want to be an operator, having math knowledge is a big advantage. Your prospective employer may require you this.

#3 Verbal Comprehension and Communication Skill

Communication is important to perform your job and to be productive and work effectively. In the workplace, communication can either by verbal or by signalling.

For heavy equipment operators, the office is their cab and they spend a lot of time there isolated from the rest of the team. If you’ve been in a construction site, you know that there are a lot of activities going on; people and other equipment moves in all direction, it is, therefore, a must to communicate well with your team to prevent an accident.

Communicating with other operators and to your supervisor is a chain reaction. In today’s technology two-way radios and mobile phones are the convenient way of communication. Like for example if you are doing lifting work with a crane, riggers and operators must communicate well if proper tie-up of materials is done only then the materials can be safely lifted.

Operators and other workers need communication tools to allow them to do their work safely. Well, everyone has to end their work shift with their limbs still intact. Proper communication will always be a key to accomplishing any heavy equipment operation project.

As an operator, you must have the verbal comprehension and communication skill.



Licenses, Identification and Health Requirements

A license is a document proving you meeting up the standard. Getting licensed and certified sets you apart from the other job candidates. As a heavy equipment operator, you must have these two licenses: driver’s license and commercial driver’s license (CDL). It broadens your career potentials.

Age is also a requirement. It is illegal to hire job candidates below the minimum legal age. Well, as we all know, 18 is the legal working age.

Since equipment operation is physical undertaking the operator must be in good health condition and free any illegal substance. The DOT has set forth the standard for this. See all of these below.

#4 Must Be At Least 18 Years Old – Proof Identity Is Needed Showing Your Age

There is no age limit when taking the certification program as long you can pass the DOT physical requirement, see below.

If you are 17 years old, a parental consent may be required by the vocational school where you plan to take the heavy equipment training from before you get accepted. However, you cannot be employed if you’re at that age. Verify with the training school if they accept applicant 17 years old and below.

The training may require you to show proof of age. To verify your age, you can submit your driver’s license or any government-issued ID indicating your date of birth.

It is a federal law that young workers under the age of 18 are prohibited from working in some industries such as in construction, mining or in civil work projects - the places where heavy equipment operators work.

#5 Valid Driver’s License

Driver’s license may not be required when taking the initial certification and training. However, it is required when doing the actual job as a heavy equipment operator. Your prospective employer will prefer you to have it.

Here are the usual requirements you must attain when applying for a driver’s license:

  • Your social security number – it may not be required in some states, so better check with your state’s DMV or the issuing office if you need this. While in other states, if you don’t have social security number, your Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) can be accepted as a requirement.

  • Proof of ID and residency of the state in which you are applying for – US passport or Passport card, birth certificate, registration of birth if you were born in the US; US Passport, foreign passport, residency card, certificate of citizenship, if you’re non-US born.

  • Learner’s Permit – before you can apply for a full license, typically, you need to have a learner’s permit first. You can apply for learner’s permit at DMV office by taking a written test.

  • Corresponding Fee – the fee will depend on the license category you are applying for, your age at the time of the application and state where you live. For more information about application fee, visit this webpage.

The requirements will vary depending on the state where you are applying for.



Here’s what you need to do to get a full driver’s license:

  1. Take the 5-hour pre-licensing training – these are lectures inside the classroom where you can learn the knowledge you need to become a good driver. The pre-licensing training is also composed of supervised driving practice. You can take the pre-licensing training by enrolling in a vocation school or college that provides such training. When you completed the training, you will be issued with a course certificate (MV-278).

  2. Schedule an appointment and take the road test - Submit your learner’s permit, pre-licensing course MV-278 certificate, driver education certificate MV-285 and the ZIP code for the test site where you plan to take the test at. After passing the road test, the instructor will issue you a temporary license that you can use until the photo driver’s license arrives in your mail in about 14 days. If you failed the road test, you can retake it by paying another corresponding fee.

Again, the license application process may vary depending on the issuing office of the state where you are applying.

Downloading the driver’s handbook from DMV website will greatly improve your chance of getting a driver’s license.

#6 Commercial Driver’s License

Hiring managers oblige their heavy equipment operators and applicants to possess commercial driver’s license (CDL) before getting accepted for employment. The license will enable them to drive the large trucks and tractor-trailers that transport pieces of heavy equipment and other materials to and from the workplace.

CDL application varies from state to state.

The basic requirements to apply for CDL are: valid US driver’s license, no DUI conviction for the last five years, you must be able to pass the Department of Transportation’s screening for substance abuse, no derogatory record such as felony, physical test, and proof of residency.

Again, the application requirements vary, check with your state’s DMV office.

The CDL application process usually composed of classroom instructions and practical driving demonstration on the road. Applicant must pass the knowledge and road skill tests in order for them to receive their CDL. Applicant must be18 years old at the time of application, 21 years old and below CDL holders can only drive the trucks in intrastate.



Steps in Getting CDL License

  1. Complete the requirements – before anything else, you must ensure that you have the complete CDL application requirements. The basic requirements are already mentioned above. Check with your local DMV office if there are other supplementary prerequisites.

  2. Enroll in a Training School – Many starters and beginners try the –do-it-yourself method only to find out that it is much more complicated. By enrolling in a school, you are guaranteed to receive the necessary education and skills in taking and passing the CDL exams. Enrolling in a training school greatly improves your likelihood of passing the exams and getting the CDL.

  3. Obtaining CDL Permit or Commercial Learner’s Permit – the permit is very much the same as the student’s license. It is prerequisite in obtaining a full CDL license. To get a permit, you need to pass the written tests. Take the practice driving in a commercial vehicle with the driver holding a CDL. The requirements to get CDL permit are: your driver’s license, your 10-year driver history, medical examination certification form, appropriate fee (vary depending on your state).

  4. Apply for full CDL – you need to hold your learner’s permit for at least 14 days before you can apply for a full CDL. Take the skill test by bringing a commercial vehicle of the same type you want to drive professionally, to pass the skill test, you must know the vehicle inspection, basic driving controls, and pass the actual road test.

If you want to apply for CDL in your state, click here for the application process.

Having a CDL proves that you are competent to handle large trucks. You have the advanced level of education and skills to perform extra jobs that no one else can. With CDL you can drive many commercial vehicles other than the equipment you typically operate. Do you what that means? You can receive better pay compared to others that don’t have it.

CDL is not a compulsory requirement for becoming a heavy equipment operator but it will definitely give you a competitive edge for employment.

#7 Department of Transport (DOT) Physical Examination

Operating heavy equipment is a risky undertaking and it creates dangerous a situation for both the operator and the people around. The operator has to be in good physical shape before he can be permitted to operate such equipment. The operator must take regular DOT physical exam in order to be compliant. Therefore, the DOT Physical exam is required when you are a heavy equipment operator.

The physical exam must be performed by a medical examiner which includes doctor of medicine or osteopathy, physician assistant, or by any other medical professionals listed in the registry of FMCSA.

The DOT physical exam also covers your mental and emotional problems. See the list of physical coverage here. The physical exam also covers the alcohol drug tests.

The operator who is under medication must bring a list of medicines he is taking with its corresponding doses and the name and address of the doctor who prescribed them.

Bringing what’s required can save you effort in taking the DOT physical exam.

  • If you have high sugar level or diabetes, bring your latest HgA1C result and the blood glucose record.
  • If you have an issue with your hearing or vision, bring your correction eyeglasses or contact lenses or hearing aids. They require vision is 20/40 in each eye while in your hearing, you must be able to perceive a whisper 5 feet away in at least in one of your ears.
  • If you know you have cardiac issues, bring a certificate from your cardiologist indicating your medical history and the medication you are taking. You may also be required to undertake an annual stress test and have a release from the doctor.
  • If you are suffering from sleep apnea, bring your annual sleep study within the last 12 month and a release from the doctor. You must show the sleep apnea is being treated and receiving attention to manage it.

When you are cleared by the examiner, you will receive your copy of the result and a medical certificate. The certificate is valid for 2 years (24 months), however, if the medical examiner found an issue such as high blood pressure, high glucose level, or other health concern that slow you down operating the heavy equipment, he may issue a certificate with validity of less than 24 months, when it is needed to observe the health condition. When you demonstrate recovery in that condition, you will be qualified to receive the 2-year certificate.

Failing the DOT physical exam doesn’t prohibit you from becoming a heavy equipment operator. Discuss with your doctor about the issue, he will recommend immediate treatment. If you improve in that condition, you can retake the DOT physical exam.



Initial Training and On-the-Job Training Requirements

The most important requirements in becoming a heavy equipment operator are the completion of certification course and on-the-job (OJT) training. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned individual, completing a certification course plus OJT provide various benefits for your career such as employment desirability, better pay and benefits, and job satisfaction.

# 8 Initial Certification Training

Enrolling in a heavy equipment operator school is the best way to acquire professional competency whether you’re a rookie or seasoned pro. The schools offer a wide variety of courses in different pieces of equipment. The school will issue you the certificate that you can show to your prospective employer or manager for employment or job promotion.

To get a heavy equipment operator certification, follow these steps:

  1. Obtain the requirements – the requirements you must obtain are already listed above. Accomplish everything so that you will have a smooth process in taking the course.

  2. Find a heavy equipment operator school – Enrolling in for a certification can definitely help you attain the education required. You can find the list of school here on this website, such click the state where you are, there you can find the schools you can enroll in.

  3. Attend the Classroom lectures and practical training – heavy equipment training course is composed of classroom instruction and hands-on demonstration. Typically, to complete such course, you will spend up to 6 to 8 weeks to finish the training.

  4. Pass the exams – school administers series of exams to gauge the knowledge you’ve attained from the training. Passing the tests will qualify you to receive your heavy equipment operator certificate.

#9 On-The-Job Training and Apprenticeship Program

If you don’t have on-the-job training experience, taking an apprenticeship program can be a substitute. Typically, to complete an apprenticeship program, you must spend 3,000 hours of practical experience in the field and 200 hours of classroom instruction. The International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) provides such training. Visit their site and find a local in your area.

Your completion of on-the-job training or apprenticeship, as well as the certification you’ve earned in taking the heavy equipment operator training program, makes you more desirable to an employer. It will definitely boost your employability.



To Close This

Becoming a heavy equipment operator, just like any other profession, requires you to attain some credentials and qualifications before you get entry into this vocation

I’ve just browsed through many job advertisements online in the newspaper if you landed on this article is because you just searched the same terms – what are the requirements to become a heavy equipment operator.

Just like I’ve said, I gathered all these information from online and offline sources to give you what the general market requires. Remember, the closer you are what the hiring manager requires, the more likely of being chosen for the job.

Good luck and more power!

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