Bureau of Labor Statistics

Material Moving Machine Operators

material moving machine operators image
Material moving machine operators use machinery to move goods around a warehouse or onto container ships.
Quick Facts: Material Moving Machine Operators
2020 Median Pay $37,450 per year
$18.01 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education See How to Become One
Work Experience in a Related Occupation See How to Become One
On-the-job Training See How to Become One
Number of Jobs, 2020 710,800
Job Outlook, 2020-30 7% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2020-30 53,100

Summary

What Material Moving Machine Operators Do

Material moving machine operators use equipment to transport objects.

Work Environment

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 operators work overnight shifts.

How to Become a Material Moving Machine Operator

Education requirements vary by occupation. Crane and tower operators typically need work experience in a related occupation.

Pay

The median annual wage for material moving machine operators was $37,450 in May 2020.

Job Outlook

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.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for material moving machine operators.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of material moving machine operators with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about material moving machine operators by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Material Moving Machine Operators Do

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

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

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

Material Moving Machine Operators

Median annual wages, May 2020

Total, all occupations

$41,950

Material moving machine operators

$37,450

Material moving workers

$30,720

 

The median annual wage for material moving machine operators was $37,450 in May 2020. 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 $27,070, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $57,620.

Median annual wages for material moving machine operators in May 2020 were as follows:

Hoist and winch operators $62,610
Crane and tower operators 59,710
Dredge operators 49,210
Industrial truck and tractor operators 37,560
Conveyor operators and tenders 35,770

In May 2020, the median annual wages for material moving machine operators in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Construction $58,500
Warehousing and storage 37,570
Food manufacturing 36,770
Wholesale trade 36,680
Temporary help services 31,270

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

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

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

Occupational Title

Material moving machine operators

SOC Code
Employment, 2020710,800
Projected Employment, 2030763,800
Percent Change, 2020-307
Numeric Change, 2020-3053,100
Employment by Industry
Occupational Title

Conveyor operators and tenders

SOC Code53-7011
Employment, 202027,300
Projected Employment, 203029,000
Percent Change, 2020-306
Numeric Change, 2020-301,700
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Crane and tower operators

SOC Code53-7021
Employment, 202044,800
Projected Employment, 203047,200
Percent Change, 2020-305
Numeric Change, 2020-302,400
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Dredge operators

SOC Code53-7031
Employment, 20202,000
Projected Employment, 20302,100
Percent Change, 2020-305
Numeric Change, 2020-30100
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Hoist and winch operators

SOC Code53-7041
Employment, 20205,000
Projected Employment, 20305,200
Percent Change, 2020-303
Numeric Change, 2020-30200
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Industrial truck and tractor operators

SOC Code53-7051
Employment, 2020631,600
Projected Employment, 2030680,300
Percent Change, 2020-308
Numeric Change, 2020-3048,700
Employment by IndustryGet data

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of material moving machine operators.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2020 MEDIAN PAY
Construction equipment operators Construction Equipment Operators

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

High school diploma or equivalent $49,100
Delivery truck drivers and driver/sales workers Delivery Truck Drivers and Driver/Sales Workers

Delivery truck drivers and driver/sales workers pick up, transport, and drop off packages and small shipments within a local region or urban area.

High school diploma or equivalent $34,340
Laborers and material movers Hand Laborers and Material Movers

Hand laborers and material movers manually move freight, stock, or other materials.

See How to Become One $30,010
Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers Heavy and Tractor-trailer Truck Drivers

Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers transport goods from one location to another.

Postsecondary nondegree award $47,130
Train engineers and operators Railroad Workers

Railroad workers ensure that passenger and freight trains operate safely. They may drive trains, coordinate the activities of the trains, or control signals and switches in the rail yard.

High school diploma or equivalent $64,210
Water transportation occupations Water Transportation Workers

Water transportation workers operate and maintain vessels that take cargo and people over water.

See How to Become One $59,250

Contacts for More Info

Last Modified Date: Monday, September 13, 2021

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Material Moving Machine Operators,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/transportation-and-material-moving/material-moving-machine-operators.htm (visited December 26, 2021).

Telephone: 1-202-691-5700 www.bls.gov/ooh Contact OOH

View this page on regular www.bls.gov

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