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Do You Need A License To Operate An Excavator?

Matt at Centex Excavation
Author: MattPublished: March 9, 2022 Updated: January 5, 2024 • Filed Under: Business and Career

Key Takeaways

  1. License Requirements Vary: While a specific license for operating an excavator is not always required, operators must demonstrate competence and understanding of safe operation, with responsibilities often falling under the site manager or business owner.
  2. Training and Certification: Formal training and certification, such as a Statement of Attainment or an accredited excavator ticket, are highly recommended for operators to ensure safety and proficiency in handling the machinery.
  3. Physical and Mental Skills: Successful excavator operation requires a combination of physical abilities, such as stamina and coordination, and mental skills, including attention to detail, math skills, and evolving computer skills.

We get this question all the time: do I need a license to operate an excavator? How about a commercial driver’s license to operate heavy construction equipment? The answer isn’t as straightforward as you’d expect.

An excavator operator who knows how to work efficiently and accurately is always in demand on big construction projects. They can set their price for these jobs.

Below, we talk about how to get a license, how to make yourself super-employable, and how to make sure you’re never without a job again.

What Is an Excavator?

Excavators are large pieces of heavy machinery used to dig sand, dirt, and rock holes and put items onto conveyors or trucks for disposal. The “housing” is a rotating platform on which a boom dipper, bucket, and cab are mounted. It may go faster if it has wheels or tracks for its undercarriage. For the most part, an excavator is a machine that digs:

  • Getting rid of snow
  • Demolition
  • Dredging rivers
  • Grading
  • Materials are moved.
  • Landscaping
  • Mining (underground and surface)
  • Digging holes and trenches

What is the job of an excavator operator?

Excavator operators are in charge of large pieces of heavy equipment used to transport soil and other materials. As excavators are used in combination with the work of other construction employees, they are typically used on building sites.

They also do regular maintenance and tell their supervisor when big problems need to be fixed to run this machine. Excavators also follow strict safety measures to ensure that everyone on the building site is safe.

What training do you need?

When it comes to becoming an excavator operator, proper training is essential.

Here are some options to consider—

  • High school diploma. Most employers expect excavator operators to have a high school diploma as a basic educational requirement.
  • Certificate programs: Consider enrolling in a certificate program for heavy equipment operators. These programs provide formal training in various aspects, including operating heavy machinery, adhering to safety regulations, equipment maintenance, and understanding construction terminology.
  • Apprenticeship programs. Apprenticeships offer hands-on experience and classroom learning. The International Union of Operational Engineers (IUOE) provides a notable apprenticeship program. It’s available to anyone over 18 with a high school diploma and typically lasts two to three years.
  • On-the-job training. Many employers offer on-the-job training, regardless of your prior education or experience. This is sometimes called OJT within the industry, for obvious reasons. This training includes safety procedures and job-specific protocols, ensuring you’re well-prepared for the role.

Investing in the right training will equip you with the skills and knowledge needed to excel as an excavator operator.

Credentials you need to operate an excavator.

Because you’ll be dealing with heavy equipment, the first condition is that you be at least 18 years old. According to federal legislation, anyone under eighteen is not permitted to operate heavy equipment. As with other employment, most companies need a high school education or its equivalent. Many students begin high school by enrolling in mechanics, physics, or computer science, among other subjects. They are curious and mechanically inclined.

All excavator operator jobs require a driver’s license, and some employers will also ask for a commercial driver’s license from people who work for them. There are different rules for different states and different jobs.

People who work for some businesses might also want to see that they have industry certifications for the things they work with. The more abilities you have to add to your resume, the more you’ll be able to stand out in an interview.

Getting a good education can also help you get a job before starting your own business.

Do you need a license for an excavator?

It used to be that excavator operations had to be done safely at the time.

However, all businesses and Organizations now have to follow the Workplace Health & Safety Act 2011, which says that excavator licensing is the business owner’s responsibility or the person in charge of the site. It’s called a PCBU, or “a person doing business or undertaking,” in legal terms.

The person who runs the place is called a PCBU. It’s your supervisor’s job to make sure that any heavy earth-moving equipment, such as excavators, is used safely and with care on the job site.

It’s the PCBU’s job to make sure that people like you can handle the equipment and that you know how to use it safely, how to load and carry materials, how to attach attachments, and how to do the essential maintenance.

This means that you do not require a license to work as an excavator operator in Sydney, Melbourne, and other states. However, you must demonstrate that you are qualified and responsible enough to operate an excavator.

What is the cost of an excavator license?

If you only want to get your VOC, this could be done in a few hours and often done on-site. Because there are so many variables (such as the kind of equipment and the location), it’s a good idea to acquire a price from an RTO in your region before proceeding.

A two- or three-day training on operating earth-moving equipment is necessary to learn the safety & operational aspects of the machinery. If you want to get an accredited excavator ticket, it usually costs between $500 and $1000 to take a well-organized course that includes theory and practice. Often, registered training organizations offer payment plans that make the course more affordable.

You will get a Statement of Attainment and a card that fits in your wallet when you finish two or three days of training and pass a test, after which you will get a card.

If you are licensed and can operate an excavator well, this is proof of that. Keep in mind that when you’re at work, you might not be the only one doing the work.

This is true if you plan on using earth-moving equipment such as cranes or high-rise work platforms. Cranes and other equipment that move earth are considered high-risk and must be licensed separately.

Skills and requirements for an excavator operator.

To work as a machine operator, you need to be physically and mentally strong. To be successful in the job, you need to be good at a few things.

Physical Requirements Include:

  • Stamina: You’ll most likely be working long days, unusual hours, and in physically demanding situations. Certain heavy equipment occupations need constant exposure to the outdoors, the movement of large equipment, or the ability to remain on your feet all day.
  • Good Vision: It doesn’t matter whether you have good eyesight or wear corrective lenses. Operators need to be able to see clearly and see in different directions.
  • Coordination: They use hand/eye/foot coordination to run complicated and expensive machines. This is how it works: Good coordination is an essential skill for this job.
  • Quick Reaction Times: You must be able to adapt instantly to changing situations for the sake of everyone’s safety. While some of this may come naturally with practice, you will also need physical capability.

Mental Requirements Include:

  • Attention to Detail & Multitasking: Heavy-equipment operators must keep an eye on and respond to many things at the same time to be safe. Precision is also necessary because you’ll need to follow instructions to the millimeter in many fields.
  • Math Skills: Depending on your profession, you may be required to conduct calculations involving weight or mass, load balance, measurement conversions, ratios, area or even volume, and others.
  • Evolving Computer Skills: Computer systems are becoming more critical in heavy equipment operation, and, likely, you’ll have to keep up with changes in this technology as you work.

Think you’ve got what it takes to be an operator?

So do you need a license to operate an excavator?

Not exactly, but they can be helpful and there are other skills that you should have.

When you run a business, it’s imperative to ensure that all of the workers and drivers on the job site are correctly qualified and knowledgeable about the equipment they’re using.

About the Author

Matt Avatar

Matt

Excavation Expert

Matt is a highly experienced heavy equipment operator with over two decades of experience in the construction industry. His expertise covers a wide range of machinery and project types, and he is known for his focus on safety, efficiency, and problem-solving. Matt's commitment to delivering high-quality work within deadlines and budgets has made him highly respected at Centex Excavation and the excavation industry.

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