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Construction Equipment Operators

Construction equipment operators drive, maneuver, or control the heavy machinery used to construct roads, bridges, buildings, and other structures. Show Details

Duties

Construction equipment operators typically do the following:

  • Check to make sure that equipment functions properly
  • Clean, maintain, and make basic repairs to equipment
  • Report malfunctions to supervisors
  • Move levers, push pedals, or turn valves to activate power equipment
  • Drive and maneuver equipment
  • Coordinate machine actions with crew members in response to hand or audio signals
  • Ensure that safety standards are met

Construction equipment operators use machinery to move construction materials, earth, and other heavy materials at construction sites and mines. They operate equipment that clears and grades land to prepare it for construction of roads, bridges, and buildings, as well as airport runways, power generation facilities, dams, levees, and other structures.

The following are types of construction equipment operators:

Operating engineers and other construction equipment operators work with one or several types of power construction equipment. They may operate excavation and loading machines equipped with scoops, shovels, or buckets that dig sand, gravel, earth, or similar materials. In addition to operating the familiar bulldozer, they operate trench excavators, road graders, and similar equipment. Sometimes, they may drive and control industrial trucks or tractors equipped with forklifts or booms for lifting materials. They also may operate and maintain air compressors, pumps, and other power equipment at construction sites.

Paving and surfacing equipment operators control the machines that spread and level asphalt or spread and smooth concrete for roadways or other structures. Paving and surfacing equipment operators may specialize further:

  • Asphalt spreader operators turn valves to regulate the temperature of asphalt and the flow of asphalt onto the roadbed. They must ensure that the machine distributes the paving material evenly, and they also must ensure that there is a constant flow of asphalt into the hopper.
  • Concrete paving machine operators control levers and turn handwheels to move attachments that spread, vibrate, and level wet concrete. They must watch the surface of the concrete carefully to identify low spots into which workers must add concrete.
  • Tamping equipment operators use machines that compact earth and other fill materials for roadbeds or other construction sites. They also may operate machines with interchangeable hammers to cut or break up old pavement and drive guardrail posts into the ground.

Piledriver operators use large machines mounted on skids, barges, or cranes to hammer piles into the ground. Piles are long, heavy beams of wood or steel driven into the ground to support retaining walls, bridges, piers, or building foundations. Some piledriver operators work on offshore oil rigs.

Some workers operate cranes to move construction materials. For more information on these workers, see the profile on material moving machine operators.

Heavy and Tractor-trailer Truck Drivers

Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers transport goods from one location to another. Most tractor-trailer drivers are long-haul drivers and operate trucks with a capacity of at least 26,001 pounds per gross vehicle weight (GVW). They deliver goods over intercity routes, sometimes spanning several states. Show Details

Duties

Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers typically do the following:

  • Load and unload cargo
  • Drive long distances
  • Report to a dispatcher any incidents encountered on the road
  • Follow all applicable traffic laws
  • Inspect their trailer before and after the trip, and record any defects they find
  • Keep a log of their activities
  • Report serious mechanical problems to the appropriate personnel
  • Keep their truck, and associated equipment, clean and in good working order

Most heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers plan their own routes. They may use satellite tracking to help them plan.

Before leaving, a driver usually is told a delivery location and time; but it is up to the driver to find a way to get the cargo there.

A driver has to know which roads allow trucks and which do not. Drivers also must plan legally required rest periods into their trip. Some have one or two routes that they drive regularly and others drivers take many different routes throughout the country. Some also drive to Mexico or Canada.

Companies sometimes use two drivers on long runs to minimize downtime. On these "sleeper" runs, one driver sleeps in a berth behind the cab while the other drives.

Some heavy truck drivers transport hazardous materials, such as chemical waste, and so have to take special precautions when driving. Also, these drivers normally carry specialized safety equipment in case of an accident. Other specialized drivers, such as those carrying liquids, oversized loads, or cars, have to follow rules that apply specifically to them.

Some long-haul truck drivers, called owner-operators, buy or lease trucks and go into business for themselves. They then have business tasks, including finding and keeping clients and doing business work such as accounting, in addition to their driving tasks.

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