How to Become a Backhoe Operator

A backhoe operator is a professionally trained person who operates and controls the backhoe at construction sites. A backhoe is a piece of heavy industrial equipment with a bucket-like arrangement to carry the excavated earth. The arm close to the vehicle is the boom, and the section which has the bucket is the dipper or dipper stick. The boom connects to the tractor through a pivot called the king post. With the help of this pivot, the arm can move left to right with a possibility of moving up to 200 degrees.

The backhoe operator must prepare the machine for excavation, fill up trenches, change or add special attachments to the loaders and drive the loader machines to and from the work place. A backhoe operator invariably works in a dusty and dirty environment; hence if you are allergic to dust, this job is not for you. Operating a backhoe creates a lot of noise. Therefore this isn't your job if constant loud noises easily disturb you.

Obtaining Education or Training

If you want to become a backhoe operator, you should first obtain the necessary education. You can follow several different paths to the education and training you will need. Here are several options:

  • Join a graduation program in heavy equipment operations conducted by the National Heavy Equipment Operator School. This program also gives you an opportunity to work with all kinds of heavy equipment.
  • Enroll in a driving school and acquire a Commercial Driving License (CDL). Though this CDL is not mandatory, most of the employers prefer professionals who possess a CDL.
  • Intern for a company dealing with excavation. You can develop some practical knowledge of operating the backhoe in real-life situations before you join larger organizations.

Receiving Your License

In a few states, backhoe operators should have a license for practicing their profession. Select a heavy equipment training program which teaches the operation of various heavy equipment like wheel loaders, bulldozers, excavators, skid loaders and more. Find out the licensing formalities with the state's Department of Labor or Department of Workforce. Attend the examination as specified by them (either written paper alone or written & practical test) and pass to become a licensed backhoe operator. In a few states, to work as a landfill operator, you also have to obtain another special license. Again, you can learn the details from the Department of Labor or Department of Workforce.

Always carry your license and update your knowledge about the latest technological advances. You may face periodical auditing and checks by the officers of the Public Safety department at your work sites.

Important Tips

There are many prominent backhoes in the industry. Some of the more popular ones include Bobcat, Caterpillar, New Holland, Ingersoll Rand and Komatsu. A backhoe operator should know how to operate various types of backhoe loaders. The backhoe operator should at least know the differences in the operator stations in each of these loaders.