Excavator Operator Guide | How to Become an Excavator Operator (2022)

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Construction is booming all across America, and heavy equipment operators are needed to clear ground, hoist beams and transport critical materials. An excavator operator plays an essential role in many construction projects.

What is an excavator?

An excavator is a piece of heavy equipment that is used to dig holes in sand, earth and rock and load materials onto conveyors or into trucks for removal. It is comprised of a boom dipper, a bucket and a cab that that sits on a rotating platform known as the “house.” Its undercarriage may be on tracks or wheels. In a nutshell, an excavator is a mechanical shovel that is used for:

• Digging holes and trenches
• Moving materials
• Demolition
• Grading
• Landscaping
• Mining (underground and surface)
• Dredging rivers
• Removing snow

Excavator Operator Guide | How to Become an Excavator Operator (4)

What skills or traits do you need to run an excavator?

Proper training is essential, and safety and competency are priorities. Otherwise, you could make a mistake that could cause serious injury, damage and OSHA fines. In addition to knowing how to operate an excavator safely, you must meet other requirements:

• Be at least 18 years old
• Have a high school diploma or GED
• Be in good physical condition
• Have good vision
• Have a driver’s license and, in some cases, a CDL (commercial driver’s license)
• Have mechanical aptitude
• Have good eye, hand and foot coordination

Excavator Operator Guide | How to Become an Excavator Operator (5)

(Video) Papanu maging isang Heavy Equipment Operator dito sa Canada....

What tasks do you perform when you are an excavator operator?

Excavator operators are expected to perform a variety of duties. They need to:

• Move levers, dials and foot pedals to operate machinery
• Set up and inspect the equipment before operating it
• Maintain load counts
• Understand digging plans, machine capabilities and limitations and follow safe digging procedures
• Perform routine equipment maintenance, troubleshooting and repairs
• Use equipment properly to backfill excavations, vibrate or break rock and concrete and make winter roads

Excavator Operator Guide | How to Become an Excavator Operator (6)

Is it hard to operate an excavator?

As long as you’re properly trained and pay careful attention to what you’re doing, it isn’t hard to operate an excavator. However, like anything else, it takes practice to do a good job.

How do you operate an excavator (for beginners)?

It’s possible to rent an excavator for DIY projects. If you’ve never used an excavator, there are some basic things you need to know about its controls, what they do and how to run an excavator: (note: Operating an excavator can be dangerous. You should read and understand the directions and cautions in the manufacturer’s operation manual before operating any piece of heavy equipment.)

• Lower the left-hand controls, put on the safety belt and move the control to the right to operate the dozer blade.
• Pull back to move the blade up and push forward to move it downward. Remember to set the blade hard into the ground to keep it stable before you begin excavating.
• Locate the left joystick and tilt it to the left to rotate the bucket and cab to the left. Tilt to the right to go to the right. This joystick also raises and lowers the boom.
• Find the right joystick. To scoop, tilt the joystick toward you, and the bucket curls in; turn it away and the bucket curls away.
• Practice using the controls to dig holes.
• Refill holes with the bucket but remember to contact the power company first in case there are underground wires or cables in your way.
• Turn off the power before you get out of the cab.

How do I become an excavator operator?

The best track to becoming an excavator operator is by attending a reputable heavy equipment operator school. You can get hands-on excavator operating training at Heavy Equipment Colleges of America (HEC). The Certificate of Heavy Equipment Operations – Level I gives you practical understanding of basic heavy equipment operation. During the three-week program, you’ll learn about earthmoving, digging, trenching, loading and unloading, as well as heavy equipment safety and preventive maintenance. You’ll also gain knowledge in grades and elevations, soil properties and blueprint reading.

Excavator Operator Guide | How to Become an Excavator Operator (7)

How long does it take to learn to operate an excavator?

You can learn to operate an excavator in three weeks at an excavator school like HEC. You’ll get to practice on excavators and other equipment like backhoes, skid steers and wheel loaders. Enroll in the Certificate of Heavy Equipment Operations – Level II course (also three weeks), and you can build on the skills you learned in Level I. You’ll learn to operate a bulldozer as well as a hydraulic excavator.

How do I get certified to operate heavy equipment? Do you need a license to operate an excavator?

Attending a school like Heavy Equipment Colleges of America can give you the hands-on training and the heavy machinery license employers across the country value. You need a driver’s license and/or a CDL (commercial driver’s license) to operate an excavator. Although you don’t need a special excavator license, most employers prefer that you are trained and certified. After you complete Level I of your training program at HEC, you’ll be qualified to take the ADEPT (Adaptable Equipment Proficiency Testing) exam, a nationally recognized heavy equipment operations certification valued by employers. You’ll have earned a Certificate of Heavy Equipment Operations and will get your operator’s card (license).

Where can I find excavator training near me?

HEC offers programs in several locations throughout the United States:

• North Carolina – Fayetteville
• Georgia – Conyers
• Tennessee – Clarksville
• Oklahoma – Oklahoma City
• California – San Bernardino
• California – Ft. Irwin*
• Washington – Lakewood*

How much does an excavator operator make a year?

According to O*NET OnLine, the 2019 median wage for excavating and loading machine and dragline operators was $21.54 an hour or $44,800 a year.

What is the job outlook for excavator operators?

O*NET OnLine reports that the projected job growth for excavator operators in the United States through 2028 is 7-10 percent, which is faster than average for other jobs.

Would you like to become an excavator operator? Contact HEC to get the training you need to succeed.

*Located on a military base and eligible to veterans only through the Career Skills Program (CSP). VA Education Benefits can be used in Washington.



(Video) How to become an equipment operator | Part 1


CA – San Bernardino: 1955 W. 9th Street | San Bernardino, CA 92411

Georgia: 3120 Stonecrest Blvd, Suite 220 | Stonecrest, GA 30038

Oklahoma: 6101 W. Reno Avenue, Suite 1000 | Oklahoma City, OK 73127

Washington: 4701 McChord Drive SW | Lakewood, WA 98499

(*Location is Veteran Only – DoD SkillBridge and VA Education Benefits)

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Excavator Operator Guide | How to Become an Excavator Operator (8)

Excavator Operator Guide | How to Become an Excavator Operator (9)

Excavator Operator Guide | How to Become an Excavator Operator (10)

Excavator Operator Guide | How to Become an Excavator Operator (11)


What important skill is needed by an excavator? ›

Below we've compiled a list of the most important skills for an excavator. We ranked the top skills based on the percentage of excavator resumes they appeared on.
Most Common Skills For Excavators.
RankExcavator SkillPercentage
2Hand Tools19.9%
3Heavy Equipment15.2%
4Safety Procedures11.7%
4 more rows
Aug 18, 2021

How do I get better at an excavator? ›


How hard is it to learn to use an excavator? ›

Is it hard to operate an excavator? As long as you're properly trained and pay careful attention to what you're doing, it isn't hard to operate an excavator. However, like anything else, it takes practice to do a good job.

What is excavator operator? ›

Excavator Operators are responsible for operating heavy machinery (including backhoes, bulldozers, rollers and graders) in order to dig, transfer and load soil, rock, debris and rubble from one place to another.

How long can bones last? ›

By 50 years in, your tissues will have liquefied and disappeared, leaving behind mummified skin and tendons. Eventually these too will disintegrate, and after 80 years in that coffin, your bones will crack as the soft collagen inside them deteriorates, leaving nothing but the brittle mineral frame behind.

What should you not do in an excavator? ›

What NOT to do in an Excavator | Heavy Equipment Operator Training

How do I learn to use an excavator? ›

Most employers require a high school diploma for excavator operators. You may wish to get formal training through a certificate program for heavy equipment operators, which offers training in operating various heavy equipment, safety procedures and regulations, equipment maintenance and construction terminology.

How do you grade a excavator? ›

How To Grade With An Excavator-Tips and Tricks - YouTube

How many types of excavators are there? ›

The most common excavator types are crawler, dragline, suction, skid steer and long reach excavators. We'll go over each type of excavator and the work each one is best used for.

How much does an excavator cost? ›

The majority of new excavators range from $100,000 to $500,000; so used ones will cost between $50,000 and $250,000. The number of hours worked also influences the cost of used excavators. With 2,500 hours and five years of use, a medium-sized excavator would cost around $50,000 and $100,000.

How do I learn to use heavy equipment? ›

There are apprenticeship programs for heavy equipment operators, often sponsored by unions like the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE). Apprenticeships typically take 3-4 years to complete, The advantage of an apprenticeship is that you "earn while you learn" with field training and classroom time.

How do I become an operator? ›

How To Be An Operator. - YouTube

How do you interview an excavator operator? ›

Excavator Operator Interview Questions

What kind of experience do you have operating machinery to perform activities such as backfilling excavations, vibrating or breaking rock or concrete, or making winter roads? Share an experience in which you've successfully learned how to handle a new piece of equipment?

What skills do you need to be a heavy equipment operator? ›

Knowledge, Skills and Abilities Required

Ability to operate heavy equipment. Knowledge of light and heavy equipment operation and maintenance. Ability to use hand and power tools applicable to trade. Knowledge of basic vehicle inspection and maintenance including tire pressure, checking oil and water levels.

How do you climb a steep hill with an excavator? ›

How to Operate an Excavator - Hill Climb | #Shorts - YouTube

How do you dig a straight trench with an excavator? ›

Trenching - YouTube

Can you grade with a backhoe? ›

Ferguson says that backhoe loaders are a top choice for grading and excavation contractors because operators can use these machines to tackle the majority of tasks on a job site. “From digging to reaching, lifting, or loading, backhoe loaders are designed with the specific purpose of being adaptable,” says Ferguson.

How do you use laser level in excavator? ›

Dig Assist - How to work with laser - YouTube


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