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 $37,790 per year
$18.17 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, 2019 761,400
Job Outlook, 2019-29 2% (Slower than average)
Employment Change, 2019-29 19,000

Summary

What Material Moving Machine Operators Do

Material moving machine operators use machinery to transport various objects.

Work Environment

Most material moving machine operators work full time, and overtime for them is common. Because materials are shipped around the clock, some operators—especially those in warehousing—work overnight shifts.

How to Become a Material Moving Machine Operator

Education and training requirements vary by occupation. Crane operators and excavating machine operators usually have several years of experience in related occupations.

Pay

The median annual wage for material moving machine operators was $37,790 in May 2020.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of material moving machine operators is projected to grow 2 percent from 2019 to 2029, slower than the average for all occupations. Employment growth will vary by occupation.

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 machinery to transport various objects. Some operators move construction materials around building sites or excavate earth from a mine. Others move goods around a warehouse or onto container ships.

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, unload, and position materials
  • Keep a record of the material they move and where they move it to
  • Make minor repairs to their equipment

In warehouses, most material moving machine operators use forklifts and conveyor belts. Wireless sensors and tags are increasingly being used to keep track of merchandise, allowing operators to locate them faster. Some operators also check goods for damage. These operators usually work closely with hand laborers and material movers.

Many operators work for underground and surface mining companies. They help to dig or expose the mine, remove the earth and rock, and extract coal, ore, and other mined materials.

In construction, material moving machine operators remove earth to clear space for buildings. 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.

All material moving machine operators are responsible for the safe operation of 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 move materials to and from places such as storage areas, vehicles, and building sites. They monitor sensors on the conveyor to regulate the speed with which the conveyor belt moves. Operators also may check the shipping order and determine the route that materials take along a conveyor.

Crane and tower operators use tower and cable equipment to lift and move materials, machinery, or other heavy objects. From a control station, operators can 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 who transmit voice signals through a radio. Most crane and tower operators work at construction sites or major ports, where they load and unload cargo. Some operators 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 maintain navigable waterways, and allows larger ships to use ports. Dredging also is used to help restore wetlands and maintain beaches.

Excavating and loading machine and dragline operators use machines equipped with scoops or shovels. They dig sand, earth, or other materials and load them onto conveyors or into trucks for transport elsewhere. They may also move material within a confined area, such as a construction site. Operators typically receive instructions from workers on the ground through hand signals or through voice signals transmitted by radio. Most of these operators work in construction or mining industries.

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. Many of these operators raise platforms far above the ground. Operators regulate the speed of the equipment on the basis of the needs of the workers. Many work in manufacturing, mining, and quarrying industries.

Industrial truck and tractor operators drive trucks and tractors that move materials around warehouses, storage yards, or 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.

Underground mining loading machine operators load coal, ore, and other rocks onto shuttles, mine cars, or conveyors for transport from a mine to the surface. They may use power shovels, hoisting engines equipped with scrapers or scoops, and automatic gathering arms that move materials onto a conveyor. Operators also drive their machines farther into the mine in order to gather more material.

Work Environment

Material moving machine operators
Industrial truck and tractor operators use forklifts in warehousing and storage facilities.

Material moving machine operators held about 761,400 jobs in 2019. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up material moving machine operators was distributed as follows:

Industrial truck and tractor operators 634,700
Excavating and loading machine and dragline operators, surface mining 46,100
Crane and tower operators 45,700
Conveyor operators and tenders 23,900
Hoist and winch operators 4,900
Loading and moving machine operators, underground mining 4,500
Dredge operators 1,600

The largest employers of material moving machine operators were as follows:

Warehousing and storage 25%
Wholesale trade 12
Temporary help services 8
Construction 7
Food manufacturing 6

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, harnesses, and respirators to guard against injury.

Work Schedules

Most material moving machine operators work full time, and overtime for them is common. Because materials are shipped around the clock, some operators—especially those in warehousing—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 and excavating machine operators usually have several years of experience in related occupations, such as construction equipment operators or hoist or winch operators.

Education

Although no formal educational credential is usually required, some companies prefer to hire material moving machine operators who have a high school diploma. For crane and tower operators, excavating machine operators, and dredge operators, however, a high school diploma or equivalent typically is required.

Training

Although most material moving machine operators are trained on the job in less than a month, the amount of time spent in training will vary with the type of machine. Some machines, such as cranes and towers, are more complex than others, such as industrial trucks and forklifts. Learning to operate a forklift or an industrial truck in warehouses, for example, may take only a few days; training to operate a crane for port operations may take several months. Most workers are trained by a supervisor or another experienced employee.

During their training, material moving machine operators learn a number of safety rules, many of which are standardized through the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). Employers must certify that each operator has received the proper training. Operators who work with hazardous materials receive further specialized training.

The International Union of Operating Engineers offers apprenticeship programs for heavy-equipment operators, such as excavating machine operators or crane operators. Apprenticeships combine paid on-the-job training with technical instruction.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

A number of states and several cities require crane operators to be licensed. To get a license, 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. Some crane operators and industrial truck and tractor operators may obtain certification, which includes passing a written exam.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Crane operators and excavating machine operators usually have several years of experience working as construction equipment operators, hoist and winch operators, or riggers and signalers.

Important Qualities

Alertness. Material moving machine operators must be aware of their surroundings while operating machinery.

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 should 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

$37,790

Material moving workers

$30,720

 

The median annual wage for material moving machine operators was $37,790 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 $27,130, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $58,950.

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
Loading and moving machine operators, underground mining 56,640
Dredge operators 49,210
Excavating and loading machine and dragline operators, surface mining 45,150
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 $51,140
Warehousing and storage 37,570
Food manufacturing 36,770
Wholesale trade 36,750
Temporary help services 31,290

Most material moving machine operators work full time, and overtime for them is common. Because materials are shipped around the clock, some operators—especially those in warehousing—work overnight shifts.

Job Outlook

Material Moving Machine Operators

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Total, all occupations

4%

Material moving machine operators

2%

Material moving workers

2%

 

Overall employment of material moving machine operators is projected to grow 2 percent from 2019 to 2029, slower than the average for all occupations. Employment growth will vary by occupation.

Employment of industrial truck and tractor operators is concentrated in warehouses. The demand for warehousing will continue to grow as more consumers choose to purchase products online. However, employment growth for these workers may be tempered as more warehouses begin using automated machinery to improve their operations. This equipment increases the efficiency of operators, allowing warehouses to employ fewer of them.

Projected employment growth of conveyor operators and tenders will be limited as equipment such as high-speed conveyors and sorting systems, autonomous vehicles, and robotic pickers increase these workers’ productivity.

In addition, employment of underground mining loading and moving machine operators is projected to decline. Most of the decline is in the coal mining industry, as increased use of autonomous vehicles reduces demand for these operators.

Job Prospects

Job prospects are expected to be favorable. Many job openings should be created by the need to replace workers who leave these occupations.

Employment projections data for material moving machine operators, 2019-29

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

Occupational Title

Material moving machine operators

SOC Code
Employment, 2019761,400
Projected Employment, 2029780,400
Percent Change, 2019-292
Numeric Change, 2019-2919,000
Employment by Industry
Occupational Title

Excavating and loading machine and dragline operators, surface mining

SOC Code47-5022
Employment, 201946,100
Projected Employment, 202947,400
Percent Change, 2019-293
Numeric Change, 2019-291,300
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Loading and moving machine operators, underground mining

SOC Code47-5044
Employment, 20194,500
Projected Employment, 20293,900
Percent Change, 2019-29-13
Numeric Change, 2019-29-600
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Conveyor operators and tenders

SOC Code53-7011
Employment, 201923,900
Projected Employment, 202924,000
Percent Change, 2019-290
Numeric Change, 2019-29100
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Crane and tower operators

SOC Code53-7021
Employment, 201945,700
Projected Employment, 202946,500
Percent Change, 2019-292
Numeric Change, 2019-29800
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Dredge operators

SOC Code53-7031
Employment, 20191,600
Projected Employment, 20291,700
Percent Change, 2019-294
Numeric Change, 2019-29100
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Hoist and winch operators

SOC Code53-7041
Employment, 20194,900
Projected Employment, 20294,600
Percent Change, 2019-29-5
Numeric Change, 2019-29-200
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Industrial truck and tractor operators

SOC Code53-7051
Employment, 2019634,700
Projected Employment, 2029652,300
Percent Change, 2019-293
Numeric Change, 2019-2917,500
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
Construction laborers and helpers Construction Laborers and Helpers

Construction laborers and helpers perform many tasks that require physical labor on construction sites.

See How to Become One $37,080
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.

No formal educational credential $30,490
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

Workers in railroad occupations ensure that passenger and freight trains safely run on time. They may drive trains, coordinate the activities of the trains, or operate 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

For more information about careers as a material moving machine operator, visit

MHI

Warehousing Education and Research Council

International Union of Operating Engineers

National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators

O*NET

Conveyor Operators and Tenders

Crane and Tower Operators

Dredge Operators

Excavating and Loading Machine and Dragline Operators, Surface Mining

Hoist and Winch Operators

Industrial Truck and Tractor Operators

Loading and Moving Machine Operators, Underground Mining

Material Moving Workers, All Other

Last Modified Date: Friday, April 9, 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 July 08, 2021).

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

View this page on regular www.bls.gov

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