What You Need To Know About Heavy Equipment Training

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If you are the kind who loves physically working with your hands, the thriving construction industry can offer you plenty of opportunities. Masonry, carpentry, civil engineering, electrical & plumbing, architecture/design, landscaping, and interior decoration services are just some of the avenues open to you. One great career opportunity in this field is the operation of heavy mechanical equipment. Heavy equipment training is easy to get, and there are many opportunities to advance once you do.

If you are the kind of person who loves giant robots, this is a field you absolutely must explore. Experts estimate the global market in this field will grow to a massive $193 billion by the year 2022. You may be surprised to know this is not your average, unskilled, boring, blue-collared job. So if you wish to get a foot into this growing industry, you will first need to equip yourself with the right education, through a heavy equipment training program.

What Is Heavy Equipment Training?

Heavy equipment training is a series of educative programs that provide you with the knowledge and skills required to operate and maintain heavy equipment and machinery. A typical college program can span years and potentially break the bank without guaranteeing you a job. On the other hand, a heavy equipment training program (offered both by universities and independent training institutes), can be:

  • Inexpensive
  • Specialized/ industry-specific
  • Accelerated

This means that you can be job-ready for the construction industry in as little as 2-4 months. For eager-beavers ready to get started at the earliest opportunity, this kind of training is a boon!

Beginner’s Introduction Program

We will tell you upfront that there is a lot you need to learn about the operation and maintenance of heavy equipment. But if you are new to the industry and hence hesitant to invest in a full program, most education institutes offer a beginner’s program to introduce you to the basics of the industry. Here, you will learn about the different types of cranes and other heavy equipment used in the industry, the in-built safety and operations’ features, and the frequent maintenance required for these pieces of equipment. Such programs can span 1-3 weeks and still equip you with the skills required to get your first construction job; albeit at an entry level.

Mid-Level Heavy Equipment Training Program

The entry-level programs empower you to be a safe worker. But to be highly effective (and hence irreplaceable) at your job, you will need knowledge beyond the equipment itself. This includes learning the skills necessary to understand and implement site blueprints, study soil conditions (especially important in mining and excavation sites), and compute algorithms required to maintain various elements of the construction site.

A mid to advanced level heavy equipment training program will also cover the procedures required to prepare a fresh site or refresh an existing construction site, the extra care required for special sites (like mining and excavation), preparation for landscaping, usage of transport equipment, etc.

Industry-Wide Coverage through an Advanced Syllabus

A comprehensive heavy equipment training program will go well beyond the obvious. Here, you don’t just learn about the what, but also about the why, why-not, when, and where of different related elements in the construction industry. For instance, if you are operating heavy equipment during excavation at a construction site, you will also need to understand the site’s grading to maintain the elevation levels across the site.

This kind of advanced program is more suitable if you are clear about your intention to be part of this industry. If you pursue this type of training, ensure that your syllabus is thorough and includes topics such as construction site layouts (reading and managing them for smooth, accident-free operations), site grading, key site measurements (like laser levels to measure elevation), and the different types of soils that can affect the operation of your heavy equipment. These are normally exhaustive programs spanning 2-4 months, but they do make you ready to take on jobs in multiple construction-related industries.

Different Types of Equipment

If you think, “heavy equipment equals cranes plus bull-dozers”, you are going to be surprised! There are a host of distinct types of equipment for different deeds and needs. We cover the most commonly used ones here.

Articulated Trucks

articulated trucks

This is not the kind of truck you drive to work or on a vacation. These belong in a large construction site and are used to transport materials across the site. For easy usage, they came as two separate parts. The front includes a tractor used for navigation. The back includes a trailer for carrying soil and other construction materials. This also makes it easy to attach or detach trailers so the same truck can be used to haul multiple loads without having to stop for unloading. You can think of them as glorified dump trucks; but in a construction site they are worth their weight in gold!

Backhoe Loaders

backhoe loaders

Like the trucks, these are common in large construction sites and are navigated by a front tractor-part. They also have the ability to turn up to 200 degrees on either side, making them versatile machines. They are fitted with a backhoe to dig up the construction site and a (optional) loader to carry material across the site.



These are the most commonly seen kind of heavy equipment. They are not only used for demolition purposes, but also for mining and digging activities (like in trenches). They come in two kinds. Track dozers are useful on wet construction sites where the risk of the vehicle sinking into the ground is high. Wheel dozers are faster but more useful on even ground.



You can think of these as backhoe loaders with the big guns. Same job; higher intensity; bigger sites. They also have the ability to turn a full 360 degrees, making them crucial on any large construction site.

The machines mentioned above are merely the tip of the iceberg. There are also asphalt pavers, cranes, cold planers, compactors, feller benchers, forklifts, forwarders, harvesters, loaders (skid-steer, multi-terrain, crawler and kuckleboom), motor graders,  rollers, telehandlers, trenchers, scrapers and plenty more. As you can imagine, there is quite a lot to cover in heavy equipment training!

Everything You Need to Know

Once you have zeroed in on the heavy equipment training you wish to pursue, there are other things to consider before you choose the right school.

Need for Hands-On Training Experience

This is not a training program you can learn online. If you’ve never worked hands-on with any of these machines in the past, all the theoretical information you digest will prove useless once you’re standing in front of your giant piece of equipment. So when you choose a school, ensure that they also offer practical sessions which let you get up close and personal with different kinds of heavy equipment.

Certifications Offered

Don’t be fooled into thinking these are useless in the blue-collar world of construction. Imagine that you walk up as a newbie to a construction site supervisor and ask about an equipment-operator job. When he or she asks about your non-existent experience, you smile goofily and come up empty. Or, you could whip out your impressive certificate from an elite institute–which proves that you have passed the all-important ADEPT exam for equipment operators – and effortlessly land the job. Certifications are that important: so ensure that the school you pick supports you in getting the certifications you need.

Accelerated Training Programs

A heavy equipment training program does not need to stretch across a whole college semester. This is great news, so look out for accelerated programs that can get you fully job-ready for multiple industries in a couple of months. This is especially useful if you are clear about joining the industry.

Extra Services

Gone are the days when all a school had on offer was education. Now the education itself is backed up by a range of career services. A heavy equipment training program is specialized in nature, so ensure that your school recognizes its own worth by supporting you with opportunities for an apprenticeship, internship, and even job interviews and placements across industries.

Financial Assistance

As an education pre-requisite, a typical heavy equipment training program will ask for just the basics (like high school graduation or GED). But did you know that many adults still miss out on this kind of vocation-specific training because they are unaware of the financial help available for it? Don’t hesitate to reach out to the school’s counselor to understand your options when it comes to things like student loans, industry-specific scholarships, military benefits, etc.


We will close by re-iterating that this is very much a burgeoning industry. Once you have completed a program in heavy equipment training you become eligible for jobs in multiple industries. Residential and commercial construction, airport construction, road construction, excavation and mining, trenching, and even underground construction: you can work anywhere. An advanced program can also get you ready for multiple roles and even set you up for eventually reaching a site management position. The possibilities are endless, so what are you waiting for?

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