Heavy equipment operators use machines to move heavy materials on construction sites. Professional drivers hold a commercial driver's license (CDL) for vehicles such as buses or freight trucks. Special training is needed to safely operate these machines.
To be hired as an equipment operator, most companies require training. To be a professional driver, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires operators of commercial vehicles to pass their state government license test.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are three methods of equipment operator training: formal apprenticeship program, on-the-job training and paid training. Professional drivers can prepare for their license test through private training. Many technical schools offer state-supported driving classes.
The BLS states that on-the-job training is learning from someone who already knows how to operate the equipment, while an apprenticeship program offers at least 3 years, or 6000 hours, of on-site training along with 144 hours of classroom instruction.
Often, experienced operators personally train new operators or drivers. However, institutions such as the California Department of Transportation use simulators to help drivers experience various situations in a controlled environment.
Equipment operators who choose a formal apprenticeship program will benefit from being trained on several different types of machines. Those who choose a private school should verify it is a reputable training facility that offers the necessary certification.