Career Facts

Investigate MORE INFO on all professions that sound interesting. Take your time. Don't skip a step.

Job Outlook: 4% (As fast as average)

  1. Is WHAT YOU DO enjoyable?
  2. Does the WORK ENVIRONMENT feel comfortable?
  3. Are you ok with THE REQUIREMENTS?
  4. Is the PAY ENOUGH?
  5. Is the JOB OUTLOOK positive- more than 7%?
  6. Still interested? WATCH THE VIDEO
  7. RELATED OCCUPATIONS Click here to view similar jobs.
FIND A JOB and more.

What Material Moving Machine Operators Do About this section

Material moving machine operators
Crane and tower operators are commonly employed in construction and water transportation.

Material moving machine operators use equipment to transport objects. For example, some operators move goods around factories and storage areas or onto container ships. Others move construction materials around building sites.

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
  • Signal and direct workers to load and unload materials
  • Keep a record of the material they move and where they move it to
  • Make minor repairs to their equipment

In warehouses and factories, most material moving machine operators use forklifts and conveyor belts. Wireless sensors and tags keep track of merchandise, allowing operators to locate it faster. Some operators also check goods for damage. These operators usually work closely with hand laborers and material movers.

In construction, material moving machine operators transport objects around building sites. 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 who are far above ground level. (For information about workers who operate heavy machinery for building, road, and other construction sites, see the profile on construction equipment operators.)

All material moving machine operators are responsible for safely controlling 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 monitor sensors to regulate the speed with which the system’s conveyor belt moves. They move materials to and from places such as storage areas, vehicles, and building sites. Operators also may check the shipping order and determine the route that materials take along a conveyor.

Crane and tower operators use cable and tower equipment to lift and move materials, machinery, or other heavy objects. From a control station, operators 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 transmit voice signals through a radio. Crane and tower operators usually work at construction sites or major ports, where they load and unload cargo. Operators also may 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 to maintain navigable waterways, allowing larger ships to use ports. Dredging also is used to help restore wetlands and maintain beaches.

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 highrise building. Operators regulate the speed of the equipment on the based on the needs of the workers.

Industrial truck and tractor operators drive trucks and tractors that move materials around storage yards, warehouses, or other 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.

Work Environment About this section

Material moving machine operators
Industrial truck and tractor operators use forklifts in warehousing and storage facilities.

Material moving machine operators held about 710,800 jobs in 2020. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up material moving machine operators was distributed as follows:

Industrial truck and tractor operators 631,600
Crane and tower operators 44,800
Conveyor operators and tenders 27,300
Hoist and winch operators 5,000
Dredge operators 2,000

The largest employers of material moving machine operators were as follows:

Warehousing and storage 29%
Wholesale trade 12
Temporary help services 8
Food manufacturing 6
Construction 4

Material moving machine operators work indoors and outdoors in a variety of industries.

Injuries and Illnesses

Hoist and winch operators have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations.

Many workers wear personal protective equipment—including gloves, hardhats, and harnesses—to guard against injury.

Work Schedules

Most material moving machine operators work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week. Because materials are shipped around the clock, some work overnight shifts.

How to Become a Material Moving Machine Operator About this section

Material moving machine operators
Material moving machine operators are trained on the job.

Education and training requirements vary by occupation. Crane operators typically have several years of experience in a related occupation.

Education

Although no formal educational credential is typically required, companies may prefer to hire material moving machine operators who have a high school diploma. For crane and tower operators and dredge operators, a high school diploma or equivalent is typically required.

Training

Material moving machine operators typically are trained on the job in less than a month, but the amount of time spent in training varies with the type of machine. Some machines, such as cranes and towers, are complex and may require several months of training. Others, such as industrial trucks and forklifts, may take only a few days to learn how to operate. New workers usually are trained by an experienced employee.

During their training, material moving machine operators learn safety rules, many of which are standardized through the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). Employers must certify that each operator has received the proper training. Operators who work with hazardous materials receive additional training.

The International Union of Operating Engineers offers training programs for heavy-equipment operators, such as crane operators.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Some states and cities require crane operators to be licensed. 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. Check with your state or city licensing agency for specific requirements.

Employers may require or prefer that workers become certified. For example, the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) offers several certifications for crane operators and related workers.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Crane and tower operators typically have several years of experience working as construction equipment operators, hoist and winch operators, or riggers and signalers.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Material moving machine operators signal and direct workers to load and unload material. They also receive direction from workers on the ground when moving material.

Coordination. Material moving machine operators must 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 on them.

Visual ability. Material moving machine operators must be able to see clearly where they are driving or what they are moving. They must also watch for nearby workers, who may unknowingly be in their path.

Pay About this section

Material Moving Machine Operators

Median annual wages, May 2021

Total, all occupations

$45,760

Material moving machine operators

$38,380

Material moving workers

$31,010

 

The median annual wage for material moving machine operators was $38,380 in May 2021. 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 $29,810, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $58,220.

Median annual wages for material moving machine operators in May 2021 were as follows:

Crane and tower operators $62,240
Hoist and winch operators 52,300
Dredge operators 46,210
Industrial truck and tractor operators 38,380
Conveyor operators and tenders 36,420

In May 2021, the median annual wages for material moving machine operators in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Construction $62,600
Warehousing and storage 38,810
Food manufacturing 38,080
Wholesale trade 38,010
Temporary help services 31,250

Most material moving machine operators work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week. Because materials are shipped around the clock, some work overnight shifts.

Job Outlook About this section

Material Moving Machine Operators

Percent change in employment, projected 2020-30

Total, all occupations

8%

Material moving machine operators

7%

Material moving workers

7%

 

Overall employment of material moving machine operators is projected to grow 7 percent from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 84,300 openings for material moving machine operators are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Employment growth will vary by occupation.

Some warehouses are using automated machinery to improve their operations and increase efficiency. However, industrial truck and tractor operators will be needed in warehouses as more consumers choose to purchase products online. Conveyor operators and tenders will be needed to control or maintain systems that move materials or products to and from stockpiles, processing stations, departments, or vehicles.

Employment projections data for material moving machine operators, 2020-30
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2020 Projected Employment, 2030 Change, 2020-30 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Material moving machine operators

710,800 763,800 7 53,100

Conveyor operators and tenders

53-7011 27,300 29,000 6 1,700 Get data

Crane and tower operators

53-7021 44,800 47,200 5 2,400 Get data

Dredge operators

53-7031 2,000 2,100 5 100 Get data

Hoist and winch operators

53-7041 5,000 5,200 3 200 Get data

Industrial truck and tractor operators

53-7051 631,600 680,300 8 48,700 Get data

Video